Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier visits Gibraltar on first overseas tour

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The Royal Navy’s new £3 billion aircraft carrier has arrived in Gibraltar for its first overseas port visit.

The 65,000-tonne warship has called in at the British Overseas Territory for a routine logistics stop having left its home base of Portsmouth, Hampshire, for helicopter trials.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “As the Rock casts its shadow over the flight deck of our world-class aircraft carrier, Gibraltar rightfully marks HMS Queen Elizabeth’s first overseas stop as she refuels and takes on supplies before continuing her sea trials.

“I’m sure our friends in Gibraltar will be proud to see our future flagship sail through British waters into their famous port.”

Commanding officer Captain Jerry Kyd: “It is a great privilege for me to be bringing our new aircraft carrier into Gibraltar for her first ever overseas port visit.

“Gibraltar is the perfect stop for HMS Queen Elizabeth as we conduct our flying trials in the waters off the Iberian Peninsula.

“And our visit also underlines the incredibly rich history and special relationship the Royal Navy and Royal Marines share with Gibraltar.”

Since departing the UK for the first time since being commissioned into the Royal Navy, HMS Queen Elizabeth and its ship’s company of 1,000 men and women have been undergoing training in dealing with a series of lifelike exercise scenarios including fires, floods, man overboard drills and a simulated crash on deck.

The governor of Gibraltar, Lieutenant General Edward Davis, said: “I wish HMS Queen Elizabeth and her crew Godspeed as they make us all proud to be British.”

The carrier reached a major milestone last week when a Naval Air Squadron embarked in the ship for the first time.

And for the first time, a tandem-rotor RAF Chinook helicopter was stowed in the carrier’s hangar which is large enough to house the 99ft-long helicopter even without its rotors folded.

The commander of British Forces in Gibraltar, Commodore Mike Walliker, said: “It is utterly appropriate and no surprise that the Rock is the first port of call for the ship as she embarks on an exciting journey which has taken her from the builder’s yard to eventually assuming her rightful position at the vanguard of the British fleet.

“There is never any doubt in a sailor’s mind that Gibraltar is the Mediterranean home from home of the Royal Navy, as the Rock has been for centuries now, and will continue to be the maritime gateway to everywhere.”

The ship was escorted into Gibraltar by the Royal Navy’s Devonport-based Type 23 frigate HMS Somerset.

On leaving Gibraltar HMS Queen Elizabeth will return to sea to conduct helicopter trials with the specially equipped Merlin and Chinook aircraft from the Aircraft Test and Evaluation Centre at MoD Boscombe Down.

These tests will be followed by further trials with the fixed wing F35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter off the east coast of the USA later this year.

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