A team from Ainscough Crane Hire have returned to the flight deck of the Royal Navy’s largest ever warship the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.
In the summer of 2017, a team helped prepare the vessel for her maiden sea trials while it was being built at Babcock’s Rosyth facility on the Firth of Forth, Scotland.
Rendezvousing with the ship while she was docked in Portsmouth, the home of the Royal Navy, the Ainscough team were this time charged with helping to install a state-of-the-art armament system which is capable of automatically tracking and destroying threats.
The first of three Phalanx 1B computer-controlled guns, which can fire 4,500 rounds-per-minute and has a range of nine kilometres, was lowered into position for installation and testing using a Leibherr LTM1040-2. The crane has been carrying out various tasks for around three weeks.
To carry out the work, which was commissioned by BAE Systems, the crane first needed to be lifted onto the flight deck using a 500t Liebherr LTM1500-8.1 from Ainscough’s Heavy Cranes fleet, which was set up on the quay side, 22 metres below the flight deck.
Tony Arnold, depot manager from Ainscough’s Southampton Depot, said: “These lifts were something a little out of the ordinary but our experience, approach to safety and the diversity of our crane fleet combined to ensure the works were carried out as both ourselves and the customer wanted.
“We have a lot of former armed forces personnel working here, including myself, and to have worked on the HMS Queen Elizabeth not once but twice, is something we are all incredibly proud of.”
Once the LTM1040’s work is complete on the flight deck, it will be removed and replaced with a Bocker MPC44 which will carry out further lifts.
The Phalanx weapon has been nicknamed ‘R2-D2’ because of its distinctive domed shape which is similar to the famous robot character in the Star Wars films. It is radar-controlled and is said to provide a ‘last chance’ defence for ships against anti-ship missiles and aircraft.
It is manufactured in the USA by the General Dynamics Corporation, and is in common usage within the US Navy. Its installation on the HMS Queen Elizabeth comes in advance of the carrier’s first operational deployment in 2021.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is 280 metres – almost 1,000 ft. – long, 73 metres wide and displaces 65,000 tonnes. She is capable of reaching 25 knots and has a range of 10,000 nautical miles. Built by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, consisting of BAE Systems, Thales Group and Babcock, HMS Queen Elizabeth and her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, cost £6.2billion.