On the 24 August 2011 A&P Group celebrated the completion of its part in Britain’s new aircraft carrier ahead of schedule. The Group’s yard in Tyne is the only shipyard in the region involved in the construction of the Royal Navy’s two carriers.
The shipyard opened its gates to show off its section of the biggest warship ever built in the UK.
The section – Centre Block 03, which forms part of the flight deck and hangar – was finished five weeks ahead of schedule and will soon be transported to Rosyth, where the ship is being assembled.
A&P Group won a £55 million order to build part of HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, which brought shipbuilding back to the river where the last aircraft carrier, HMS Ark Royal, was built more than 30 years ago.
Among the workforce are some of the same men who helped build the Ark Royal in the late 1970s and early 80s.
A&P Tyne Project Director, Darren Brown, responsible for over-seeing the new carrier section, was a teenage apprentice in the drawing office at the Swan Hunter Palmers Yard in Hebburn, when the Ark Royal was built.
He said: “I never thought I’d be involved in another aircraft carrier, particularly the size of this one.
“It’s much bigger than the Ark Royal, it’s the biggest warship ever built in the UK and it’s brought shipbuilding back to the Tyne.
“It’s been great for the yard, the workforce and the community. The yard has been buzzing.”
The project, which went into production in 2009, and is due to last up to five years, has provided job security for hundreds of workers.
Mr Brown, 47, added: “To know you’ve been part of building something this impressive fills everyone at the yard with a sense of pride. It’s been a real boost to morale. “
The section built at the Hebburn yard measures a massive 63 metres long, 40 metres wide and six metres deep and the total weight of the modules, when moved to Rosyth by barge on September 12, will be a hefty 3000 tons.
Mr Brown said: “In some ways it will be a sad occasion when it leaves. You eat, sleep and breathe the project for so long, then suddenly it’s taken away from you.
“We’re really pleased with how it’s gone and getting it finished ahead of schedule, especially since it’s the first of its class. We are now looking forward to repeating this success on HMS Prince of Wales.”
Deputy Commander in Chief Fleet, Vice Admiral George Zambellas, who is guest of honour at the ceremony today said: “This marks another important milestone in the assembly phase of the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier. A&P have done all that has been asked of them – and more – producing Centre Block 3 to time and cost and to an exemplary technical specification. This project is an impressive feat of engineering and hard work which has involved many skilled people from across the maritime environment and will form part of the UKs next generation of Carrier Strike capability.”
Managing Director at A&P Tyne, Stewart Boak, extended his thanks to everyone involved in producing a “magnificent example of UK manufacturing.”
He said: “We have constructed what is a significant section of what will be the largest naval surface vessel ever built in the UK, the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carrier.
“A total build time of 18 months and when completed over half a million man hours will have been invested in this part of the project.”
He added the yard was looking forward to starting on the second half of the contract to construct Lower Block 02 Double Bottom Units and Centre Block 03 for HMS Prince of Wales.
He said: “The building blocks for the future are now firmly in place to move on to further success.”