Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious left Rosyth today on time and within budget, and with improved capability, to commence sea trials following a successful 16 month docking period undertaken by Babcock. This was the fifth refit on the Invincible class aircraft carriers by Babcock's experienced team, and took place in No.2 Dock, beside No.1 Dock where Babcock is also undertaking the assembly and integration of the UK's new aircraft carriers as part of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance.
Capability upgrades have included the Defence Information Infrastructure (DII), which provides a coherent infrastructure enabling information sharing and collaborative working across the defence sector network, and installation of the Bowman communications system and Surface Ship Torpedo Defence, as well as reverse osmosis plants for improved shipboard fresh water production and upgraded chilled water plants.
Improvements to the living conditions for the crew have also been undertaken, including revitalising the mess decks, galley equipment upgrades for improved catering facilities, and upgrading of the sewage plant.
Further maintenance work has included a full Lloyds Register structural survey; major repairs to both funnels; application of a foul release paint system to the hull (improving fuel efficiency and speed through the water); overhaul of high pressure air, fuel and salt water systems and of all the ship's underwater valves; renewal and overhaul work to the diesel generators; replacing two of the gas turbine engines; and painting of the ship side and superstructure along with the renewal of the flight and hangar deck paint coatings.
The GBP40 million docking period has benefited from close partnering between Babcock, Ship's Staff, MoD (local CDR and Capital Ships IPT) and BAE Systems as members of the Joint Project Team, as well as from the application of Babcock's significant knowledge and experience gained on previous Invincible class aircraft carriers, including Illustrious during refit 2003-2005. Various measures were implemented to maximise efficiency and cost-effectiveness in order to deliver maximum value for money to the MoD and Royal Navy.
Babcock operations manager Charlie Forrester said: "We are delighted to be returning Illustrious to sea on-time and in the best possible material condition, fully capable and, on completion of sea trials, fighting fit and ready to perform her operational duties providing maritime power projection anywhere in the world. The fact that this upkeep period is seen as a major success is down to the hard work and close working relationships of all parties involved."
MoD Project Contract Manager, Jim Proctor, stated: "The team has achieved a high standard of product against a backdrop of stringent financial control, staff reduction and equipment failure which brought its own challenges, both in re-scoping the work package and sourcing replacement equipment to meet the programme. Working closely together with ship's staff and Babcock was key to this joint success."
HMS Illustrious will now undergo seven weeks of sea trials before returning to the fleet at the end of July.
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