HMS Queen Elizabeth: A Month At Sea

HMS Queen Elizabeth has been away from her home harbour for a month, but what has she been up to?

The Royal Navy's biggest warship has returned home to Portsmouth's historic harbour.

HMS Queen Elizabeth was away for a month at sea tackling helicopter flight trials on her expansive four-acre flight deck.

Around 1,000 successful deck landings were trialled in a range of sea and weather conditions in the Atlantic. 

On board were a team of 56 aircrew, analysts and engineers from the Air Test and Evaluation Centre at MoD Boscombe Down, accompanied by two Merlin Mk2 and two Chinook Mk 5 test aircraft.

Specially-equipped helicopters gathered data to identify the operating limits of the aircraft from the carrier at sea. Both airframe types have flown on average 10 hours a day.

The data will be able to show the Ship Helicopter Operating Limits (SHOL) information for a range of helicopters, including Merlin Mk2, 3 and 4s, Chinooks, Apache attack helicopters and Wildcats. 

Its aim is to achieve the widest SHOL envelope possible, so the ship is not constrained in its ability to manoeuvre.

Neil Thomas, QinetiQ's Programme Technical Manager who was onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth, says the trials have been very successful.

"It's gone extremely well, even though we had a very compressed timescale. We achieved 450 deck landings on Chinook and 540 on Merlin, which is pretty good going. This is definitely a once only career opportunity for us. It's been an enormous challenge but well worth it for what we have achieved for the Royal Navy".

The £3 billion aircraft carrier is thought to be a base like RAF Marham at sea and can carry up to 72 aircraft at maximum capacity.

It was the third time the 65,000-tonne vessel had made the journey back into her home port after first arriving in August.

Last summer, the first aircraft to touch down on Queen Elizabeth was a 14-tonne Merlin helicopter, just days after she left Rosyth at the end of June.   



During her estimated 50-year working life, the vessel could be pressed into action for various work such as high-intensity war combat or providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief anywhere in the world. 

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