UK's Largest Aircraft Carrier to Be Unveiled Next Month

Illustration of Queen Elizabeth-Class Aircraft Carrier
Artist's conception of a Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier (bottom) beside a Type 45 destroyer. (Image credit: Aircraft Carrier Alliance)

A new aircraft carrier — the largest warship ever constructed for the United Kingdom's Royal Navy — will be officially named in a special ceremony on July 4.

Queen Elizabeth II will be on hand to christen the aircraft carrier, which will be named in her honor, according to the U.K.'s Ministry of Defence.

HMS Queen Elizabeth ushers in a new class of aircraft carrier for the Royal Navy, according to the Ministry of Defence.

"The carriers will be versatile enough to be used across the full spectrum of military activity from war fighting to providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief," defense officials said in a statement.

The new Queen Elizabeth-class (QE-class) warships will each weigh 71,650 tons and will be capable of deploying the next-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II jets, which are designed to take off from short runways and land vertically. To date, the British Ministry of Defence has committed to purchasing 138 F-35 jets, according to Lockheed Martin Corp., the plane's lead contractor.

This summer, the stealth F-35s will be showcased at two separate air shows in the U.K.: the Royal International Air Tattoo in Gloucestershire and the Farnborough International Airshow in Hampshire.

HMS Queen Elizabeth under construction in a shipyard in Rosyth, in the United Kingdom. (Image credit: Aircraft Carrier Alliance)

Assembly of the HMS Queen Elizabeth started about three years ago at Rosyth, a major dockyard about half an hour's drive north from Edinburgh, Scotland. Construction of the next QE-class ship, the Prince of Wales, is expected to begin at Rosyth later this year.

"Combined with the Lightning II aircraft, the QE class will bolster the Royal Navy’s ability to project power across the world and there is a lot of excitement about the ship nearing completion after years of hard work by thousands of highly skilled workers," U.K. defence secretary Philip Hammond said in a statement.

HMS Queen Elizabeth will be ready for military service in 2017, reported the Independent. Once deployed, the ship will carry 1,600 people, 40 jets or helicopters and have a range of 10,000 miles (16,100 kilometers).

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Elizabeth Howell
Live Science Contributor
Elizabeth Howell is a regular contributor to Live Science and, along with several other science publications. She is one of a handful of Canadian reporters who specializes in space reporting. Elizabeth has a Bachelor of Journalism, Science Concentration at Carleton University (Canada) and an M.Sc. Space Studies (distance) at the University of North Dakota. Elizabeth became a full-time freelancer after earning her M.Sc. in 2012. She reported on three space shuttle launches in person and once spent two weeks in an isolated Utah facility pretending to be a Martian.