Drilling rig starts Portsmouth aircraft carriers work

Drilling rig Some drilling will cause disruption to residents

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A large drilling rig has arrived in Portsmouth and started work as part of preparations for the navy's new 65,000-tonne aircraft carriers.

Major dredging of the harbour is needed to accommodate the ships HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.

The rig, called Deep River, will drill 27 bore holes to a depth of 32m (104ft) ahead of dredging in 2014/15.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to enter service around 2020 with HMS Prince of Wales kept in reserve.

The drilling rig, which arrived on Sunday, is operating 24-hours-a-day and is brightly lit.

It will need to drill five holes in the harbour which is likely to cause disruption, with 50 residents in Spice Island informed of the likely impact.

Sink ship

To make room for the ships, the existing channels need to be widened and deepened with the berths at the base excavated.

Computer generated image of aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is expected to enter service in 2020

The new carriers, which will replace HMS Invincible, HMS Illustrious and HMS Ark Royal, were saved in the government's strategic defence review in October 2010.

HMS Invincible, mothballed in 2005, was sold through an internet auction site to a Turkish scrapyard last year, while HMS Ark Royal was decommissioned in 2011 and is currently for sale.

Devon-based dive group Wreck the World wants to buy it to sink it and turn it into a diving wreck.

HMS Illustrious will be decommissioned in 2014.

This means no planes will be able to fly from British aircraft carriers until about 2020, when HMS Queen Elizabeth is expected to enter service.

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