The Royal Navy’s “biggest and greatest” warship has left the Cromarty Firth to resume her sea trials after an extended 15-day stay at Invergordon.
The 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier had only been expected to remain moored at the port for a week, but the length of stay doubled so that repairs could be carried out to a propeller shaft.
The £3billion vessel departed Invergordon at about 7.30pm on Sunday night and spent most of yesterday carrying out manoeuvres in the Moray Firth, a few miles north of Lossiemouth.
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon landed on the deck of the carrier in a Merlin helicopter yesterday for his first visit while she was at sea.
He spoke to the ship’s crew, saying that “big decks and fast jets are now back” as he urged the “armchair critics” of the carrier to “shut up for a while”.
The Conservative minister added: “Queen Elizabeth, the biggest and the greatest warship this country has ever built, will go on now from these trials to defend our country, to safeguard our sea lanes, to work with our allies and partners to keep the peace, and to save lives across all seven seas.”
Sir Michael, who also visited RAF Lossiemouth yesterday, revealed that an official naming ceremony would be held in Rosyth in September for HMS Queen Elizabeth’s sister carrier, HMS Prince of Wales.
Yesterday’s visit was made four weeks after HMS Queen Elizabeth departed from Rosyth on her maiden voyage, with 200 industry contractors and more than 700 sailors on board, led by Commanding Officer Captain Jerry Kyd.
During the trials earlier this month she hit debris and an issue with a propeller shaft was reportedly inspected and repaired while she was moored at Invergordon.
Crew members spent time onshore during the two weeks she was docked in the Cromarty Firth, including taking part in a record-breaking mass Highland Fling at the Inverness Highland Games in the city’s Bught Park.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is expected to enter Portsmouth and be accepted by the Royal Navy towards the end of the year.