Page last updated at 14:01 GMT, Thursday, 3 July 2008 15:01 UK

Carriers deal 'a dream come true'

An aircraft carrier
Aircraft carriers are a vital part of the Royal Navy's fleet

A 3.2bn deal which will secure more than 4,500 Scottish shipbuilding jobs has been hailed as "a dream come true" by unions.

The Ministry of Defence has signed the orders to build the UK's biggest ever aircraft carriers.

More than half of the 280-metre-long HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales will be built at yards in Govan in Glasgow and Rosyth in Fife.

Defence Secretary Des Browne described the deal as "historic".

Speaking to workers at the Govan yard, Mr Browne added: "The future of shipbuilding on the Clyde is secure and I'm delighted to say that.

"Thank you all very much. You've got a lot of hard work ahead of you, so good luck."

The contracts will create or secure 3,000 jobs at Govan, 1,600 at Rosyth, 1,200 in Portsmouth and 400 in Barrow in Furness.


Mr Browne says the deal will safeguard thousands of jobs

The Rosyth yard will assemble hull blocks of the aircraft carriers built in Govan and the other UK yards, and will also launch the 65,000 tonne vessels.

The trade union convenor at Govan, Jamie Webster, described the contracts as "a dream come true".

He was involved in the fight to save the shipyard nine years ago.

He added: "It brings considerable stability over the next few years and you understand that was what the campaign a few years ago was all about.

Glasgow's shipyards are second to none and this contract recognises that valuable expertise
Nicola Sturgeon
Deputy First Minister

"To maintain a manufacturing base in Scotland and on the Clyde - to give those kids an opportunity of a future."

The vessels will be capable of carrying up to 40 aircraft and will be used for a wide range of tasks, including supporting peacekeeping and conflict prevention.

HMS Queen Elizabeth will come into service in 2014, followed by the HMS Prince of Wales in 2016.

Each ship will be a similar size to the QE2 ocean liner, with a flight deck the size of three football pitches.

Rear Admiral Bob Love told workers at Govan that their efforts were at the heart of the plans.

He said: "Your skills... will bring together each of these ships, with four acres of sovereign territory that can move up to 500 miles per day to help maintain peace and stability where we wish.

"They are truly assets of world class capability."

However, there has been some concern at delays in signing the contract.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who is also Govan MSP, welcomed the news.

She said: "Glasgow's shipyards are second to none and this contract recognises that valuable expertise.

"It is unfortunate that the shipyards and the workforce have faced significant delay from the Ministry of Defence in signing the contract, leading to some uncertainty at the yards, but this is a good day for shipbuilding on the Clyde and in Rosyth."

Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Willie Rennie, whose constituency includes Rosyth dockyard, said there had been "dithering and delay".

He added: "The Scottish and UK Governments must now ensure that the economic and employment opportunities these contracts provide for Scotland's shipbuilding industry are sustained far beyond the completion of these contracts."

Glasgow Chamber of Commerce chief executive Richard Cairns said: "This is fantastic news.

"Having recently been given a tour of the under-construction Type 45 destroyer HMS Dauntless, and being highly impressed by the skill and commitment of the staff at BAE Systems, I am certain these new carriers will be the best as well as the biggest."

Graphic of the Future Aircraft Carrier (CVF)
Displacement: 65,000 tonnes
Length: 280m (920ft)
Width (at flight-deck level): 70m (230ft)
Keel to masthead: 56m (184ft)
Nine decks (plus flight deck)
Speed: 25+ knots
Range: 8,000-10,000 miles
Aircraft: 36 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and four Airborne Early Warning aircraft, plus EH 101 Merlin helicopters
Crew: 1,450 (including air crew)
Weapons: Phalanx close-in weapon systems; 30mm and mini-guns
Source: Ministry of Defence

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