The Royal Navy's largest-ever warship came home today for the first time, as HMS Queen Elizabeth entered her new homeport of Portsmouth. The 65,000-tonne (71,650-ton) aircraft carrier was met early this morning by flag-waving crowds and a fly-past of Fleet Air Arm Wildcat and Merlin helicopters and Hawk jet trainers, as she squeezed through the narrow passage by Portsmouth's Round Tower under the guidance of a flotilla of specially-built tugs.

Queen Elizabeth was guided to her new berth at Princess Royal Jetty at Her Majesty's Naval Base Portsmouth, that was built to receive the £3 billion (US$3.8 billion) carrier and her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, which is currently being fitted out at Rosyth. The new berth and associated infrastructure cost £100 million (US$128 million).

The berth and its approach channel had to be dredged to make it deep enough for the supercarriers, moving 3.2 million m³ (113 million ft³) of bottom sediment – enough to fill 1,280 Olympic swimming pools. During the dredging, a large number of artifacts from the Royal Navy's long use of the harbor were recovered, including a human skull, which was turned over to the local police.

Before arriving at Portsmouth, HMS Queen Elizabeth carried out a series of sea trials to test her operating and combat systems, as well as the first helicopter landing. During this exercise, there was a slight mishap when some stray fishing gear entangled one of the propellor shafts, requiring minor repairs back in port.

On her way south, the carrier encountered the cruise ship Queen Elizabeth and a NATO carrier group commanded by the USS George H W Bush. The Bush is playing host to some of the 120 aircrew of Queen Elizabeth training with the US Navy in handling the 11 F-35 Lightning II strike fighters that, along with four Crowsnest helicopters, will form the British ship's initial complement with deck trials aboard the Queen Elizabeth expected to begin next year.

"HMS Queen Elizabeth's first entry into her homeport of Portsmouth is an historic, proud and exciting occasion, not only for those of us serving in her, but also for the wider Royal Navy, the city of Portsmouth and the entire nation," says Captain Jerry Kyd, Commanding Officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth. "The UK's future flagship, as well her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales, will be powerful symbols of Britain's outward facing global character and ambition. The Royal Navy has a very special relationship with Portsmouth dating back half a millennium and both carriers will ensure the Navy's city remains the focal point of our great nation's maritime power for generations to come."

The video below shows HMS Queen Elizabeth entering Portsmouth Harbour.

Source:
Ministry of Defence
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