HMS Queen Elizabeth leaves Portsmouth for first time since joining Navy fleet


HMS Queen Elizabeth has sailed out of her home port for her first voyage at sea since being commissioned into the Royal Navy.

The £3.1 billion aircraft carrier squeezed out of Portsmouth Naval Base on Friday to begin the next phase of trials with two Chinook helicopters on her deck.

Sailing out of the harbour guided by a tug, the behemoth passed the helicopter carrier and amphibious assault HMS Ocean - the current fleet flagship - which arrived the same morning.

The rotary wing trials will involve the Chinooks and two Merlin helicopters - set to join the ship later - taking off from and landing on the four-acre flight deck at sea.

Commanding officer Captain Jerry Kyd said following the excitement of the commissioning ceremony in December, attended by the Queen, the ship's company is looking forward to the trials.

"These trials will involve operating different types of helicopter from the ship in all weather conditions and fully testing the myriad of on-board systems that are designed to support aviation," he said.

"This is an important milestone in the ship's progression towards embarking the F35-B Lightning jets later this year, and ultimately the achievement of carrier strike capability."

The aim of the trials is to work out the conditions aircraft can operate in at sea on the carrier, the Royal Navy said.

Data about the landings, take-offs and manoeuvres in different wind and sea conditions will be collected and processed, before it is declared that the ship can safely operate the aircraft.

HMS Queen Elizabeth
Crowds wave off HMS Queen Elizabeth as she leaves Portsmouth (Steve Parsons/PA)

As part of the next batch of tests, expected to last a month, the Royal Navy said there is also "an option" for the carrier to visit the British overseas territory of Gibraltar.

Later this year the UK's F-35s, the world's most advanced fighter jet, will undertake flight trials from the deck of the carrier while it is off the east coast of America.