Why is HMS Queen Elizabeth in Plymouth? And can it ever dock at HMNB Devonport?

Britain's biggest ever military vessel: The HMS Queen Elizabeth

Britain's biggest ever military ship, the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) arrived at the southern limits of Plymouth Sound a few days ago (on the 22nd of June 2019). According to tracking apps, the ship is due to sail off before the 12th of July, which means it will be in Plymouth Sound for Armed Forces Day. The official Royal Navy statement says R08 is currently on deployment in Plymouth for training purposes, but we believe they've synchonized it perfectly so it could be here on this special day for each and every serving and ex-forces person.

Wildcat helicopter flying from HMS Queen Elizabeth (Phot credit:

Many locals flocked to the Plymouth Hoe over the weekend to get a look, and anyone with a decent camera or binoculars could see its imposing figure. While other vessels went past it, the massive size difference was quite obvious, the closest being Brittany Ferries' Armorique, looking like a child's toy as it went by. You can see it below, in this photo by Plymouth Live.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the first of two similar aircraft carriers, with the second one being called HMS Prince of Wales.

Unfortunately, they won't be able to come too close to Plymouth's shore due to their size. The HMS Queen Elizabeth is 919ft (280m) wide, weighs in at 65-000 tonne and has a top speed of 25+ knots. The important size issue is the carrier's huge draught (the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull) of 11 metres, which is far bigger than most ships that navigate the Tamar River. By comparison, the largest we usually see in Plymouth is Brittany Ferries’ Pont Aven, which has a draught of 6.8 metres and the second would be HMS Ocean's 6.5 metres. Because the approaches towards Drake’s Island are between 13.1 metres and 17 metres deep at high tide, the ship COULD come into dock, but it would make it vulnerable in low tide conditions.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence has previously said: “As it stands, they (the aircraft carriers) would not be able to come alongside at Devonport because the water is too shallow.

“They would have to be at anchor in Plymouth Sound with personnel shipped or flown ashore. With dredging work, it could be possible for them to come alongside.” So unfortunately, the HMS Queen Elizabeth can only visit Plymouth for short periods of time, and will be based in Portsmouth for its estimated 50-year lifespan.

When asked about the possibility of the two aircraft carriers being docked at HMNB Devonport, experts say that "considerable dredging work" would have to be carried out to make it a reality.

More info on the HMS Queen Elizabeth:

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest and most powerful vessel ever constructed for the Royal Navy. This awe-inspiring warship is capable of carrying up to 40 aircraft.

As well as state-of-the-art weaponry and communications systems, HMS Queen Elizabeth boasts five gyms, a chapel and a medical centre.

The flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth comes in at an enormous four acres, and will be used to launch the fearsome new F35 Joint Strike Fighter fast jet. Four fighter jets can be moved from the hangar to the flight deck in just one minute.

The ship’s two propellers weigh 33 tonnes each. The powerplant behind them generates enough power to run 1000 family cars.

More info on their medical centre in this video below:

Here is a video of the Royal Navy at HMS Raleigh preparing to deploy HMS Prince of Wales for the first time:

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