A massive new £3 billion Royal Navy aircraft carrier will be launched next year, the UK Government has confirmed.
Construction of the HMS Prince of Wales is now complete, making it the second Elizabeth-class carrier built for the navy.
The colossal 65,000 tonne sister ship is large enough to house 36 F-35B Lightning II stealth multi-role fighters and accommodation for up to 1,600 crew.
Four Merlin helicopters will also be stationed on the carrier to provide early warning and anti-submarine capabilities.
The Royal Navy say it will be one of the most powerful warships ever, with a flight deck measuring 70 metres by 280 metres long.
HMS Prince of Wales’ aims to provide humanitarian relief across the seven seas, engage in high intensity war fighting and combat global terrorism with a lifespan of 50 years.
The first supply stores were moved on board the ship in March, with more than 62 tonnes of equipment stowed away, including bandages, pots, pans and camp beds.
The new warship is powered by four Wartsila diesel generators, each capable of producing enough electricity to support a town of 25,000 people.
Rolls-Royce MT30 main engines which drive the ship through the water account for the other 60% of power needed. Each of these alone can meet the electricity needs of a town the size of Burnley or Guildford.
Under Secretary of State for Defence Stuart Andrew revealed sea trials for the vessel will begin in late 2019.
Responding to a Parliamentary question Mr Andrew said: “HMS Prince of Wales is structurally complete and on current plans will commence contractor sea trials in late 2019.
“Her first entry to Portsmouth will take place during those sea trials and her commissioning into the Royal Navy will follow their completion. Both of these dates have yet to be determined.”
It comes at a time when the UK Government has been criticised for the diminishing size of the Royal Navy’s fleet.
The shrinking fleet of 50 vessels is around half the size as it was when the UK took part in the Falklands War in 1982.
Defence experts have expressed concerns the dwindling numbers makes the UK a soft target for Iran, who recently seized a British oil tanker.
Writing for The National Interest, Dakota Wood a senior research fellow for Heritage Foundation, said: “Britain and other Western nations today are minimally able to protect their own interests, with almost no ability to deter bad behavior of the sort we have recently seen in the Gulf from the perennially thuggish Iran.
“In the early 1980s, not too long after Margaret Thatcher became prime minister, the Royal Navy sailed sixty-four surface combatants and sixteen submarines. Today, the British fleet has dwindled to a mere nineteen surface ships, half of which are in maintenance, and only ten submarines.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he wants to build more ships for Royal Navy and increase defence budget, following criticism over recent Iranian attacks.