The “largest and most powerful warship” ever built for the Royal Navy is beginning to take shape as two massive sections of HMS Queen Elizabeth were joined together today.
It took around 90 minutes to move a 4,087-tonne section of the hull of the aircraft carrier 328ft (100m) via 132 remote-controlled transporters to join another section of the ship at BAE Systems' Govan Shipyard in Glasgow.
Engineers will now spend the next week ensuring that the sections are perfectly aligned before welding them together into a 263ft (80m) long, 11,500-tonne section.
Project director Steven Carroll said today marked a "major milestone" in the construction.
He said: "It's the largest and most powerful warships we've ever built for the Royal Navy. They are 65,000 tonnes, so about three times the size of our present 'invincible' class and these ships will be the flagships for the nation for years to come.
"It's another chapter in a rich history of ship-building on the Clyde and it's a major engineering endeavour and one that we should be proud of as a nation that we can deliver major and complex programmes in the way that we are at the moment."
Mr Carroll said up to 14,000 people are working on the project in terms of the construction, design and manufacturing and supply of materials.
The hull section in Glasgow, which will house two engine rooms, a medical area and accommodation, will now be fitted out before being transported to Rosyth in the autumn to join up with the other sections of the ship which have been constructed in Portsmouth.
The ship is due to be completed by 2016, with another aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, following later.
The ships are being delivered by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, a partnership between BAE Systems, Thales UK, Babcock and the Ministry of Defence.
Each of the carriers will be utilised by all three sectors of the Armed Forces and will provide a four-acre operating base which can be deployed worldwide, and will be able to be used in battle and to provide humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
The decommissioning of former Royal Navy flagship HMS Ark Royal last year and the conversion of HMS Illustrious into a helicopter carrier means the UK will have no fixed-wing carrier aircraft capability until 2020 - when HMS Queen Elizabeth should be ready for active service.
Under the Strategic Defence and Security Review plans set out in October 2010, it was announced that the new carriers will operate a cheaper Joint Strike Fighter, rather than the short take-off, vertical-landing (STOVL) version originally planned.
In December the Commons Public Accounts Committee criticised the Ministry of Defence, saying the full costs of scaling back Britain's aircraft carrier programme were still not fully understood by the Government more than a year after the changes were made.
Today, Labour MP Ian Davidson, who represents Glasgow South West, including Govan, praised the workers involved in the construction of the ship.
He said: "The giant hull sections are awe-inspiring and testament to the skill and commitment to the incredible workforce on the Clyde.
"For generations, the Clyde yards have built the most incredible Navy ships and the carriers will be the largest and most advanced ever built.
"I want to pay tribute to all those involved whose work does our country proud.
"We have to make sure these are not the last ships built on the Clyde, and we have to keep winning orders.
"The Royal Navy order book sustains shipbuilding on the Clyde and anything that damages that damages Scotland."