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Britain’s largest ever warship the HMS Queen Elizabeth has arrived at her home port for the first time.
Crowds lined the seafront to welcome the UK’s £3 billion aircraft carrier into Portsmouth Naval Base, where she will be based for its estimated 50-year lifespan.
The 919ft (280m), 65-000 tonne vessel, the Royal Navy’s newest and biggest warship, has been undergoing training and tests at sea after setting out from Scotland’s Rosyth dockyard in June.
A flotilla followed the aircraft carrier as she sailed into the Solent before heading into Portsmouth, where, at its narrowest point, there was less than 66ft (20m) clearance on each side.
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: “Today we welcome our mighty new warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, to her home for the very first time.
“She is Britain’s statement to the world: a demonstration of British military power and our commitment to a bigger global role.
“The thousands of people across the UK who have played a part in building her and her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, should be immensely proud as our future flagship enters Portsmouth.
“She has made good progress in sea trials and will now embark on the next phase of preparations that will see the return of Britain’s carrier strike ability.
“When she enters service she will help keep Britain safe at a time of increased threats, able to fill multiple roles from providing air power anywhere at any time to fight future campaigns, supporting allies or delivering humanitarian aid.”
The warship docked at about 7.40am.
With boots polished and caps perfectly placed, all the ship’s available company stood at the edge of the vessel as she arrived in the harbour and naval base.
As eager crowds waved and welcomed her in, Commander Darren Houston could be heard saying over the Tannoy to those on the shore: “Good morning, Portsmouth”.
Those on board and watching from the shore were also treated to two separate flypasts of Royal Navy helicopters – the first featuring a Sea King, two MK2 Merlins and two MK3 Merlins – which were then joined by two Hawk jets for the second.
HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is set to be the nation’s future flagship, and her 700-strong ship’s company have been taking part in maiden sea trials over the summer.
The warship was pictured alongside the HMS Westminster, HMS Iron Duke, HNoMS Helge Ingstad from Norway, USS Donald Cook and USS Philippine Sea and USS George HW Bush.
More than 60 Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines boarded the USS George HW Bush to hone their carrier strike skills ahead of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s entry into service.
During the exercise UK staff worked with their American counterparts to fight off a series of simulated threats from enemy forces, using all the air, surface and sub-surface assets of the entire task group.
HMS Queen Elizabeth, the most powerful ship ever built for the Royal Navy, set sail for the first time in June from Rosyth in Fife.
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