HMS Queen Elizabeth begins tracking aircraft as she flashes up her radar

Turning and burning’ for the first time, this is the long range radar of Britain’s flagship of tomorrow.

The crew of HMS Queen Elizabeth flashed up the new carrier’s ‘invisible eyes’ as part of ongoing preparations to ready the leviathan for sea next year.

The S1850M radar – the same as those fitted to Type 45 destroyers – is a large black slab (over eight tonnes, 32 square metres) sitting on top of the carrier’s forward island.

It was lifted into place by the huge Goliath crane at Rosyth dockyard back in November 2013 – long before the ship was ‘launched’ by the Queen.

Queen Elizabeth is another step closer to becoming an operational warship.

PO Ian McDonald

Since then the ever-growing ship’s company and engineers from the Aircraft Carrier Alliance have been toiling on the ‘setting to work’ phase of the 65,000-tonne warship’s constructions, preparing its myriad of complex systems for use.

The radar has not been switched to full power – with hundreds of people working on her daily there are power and safety limitations to bear in mind.

But even on ‘restricted duties’ the radar immediately began compiling an air picture, tracking aircraft on approach to Glasgow airport (40 miles to the west of Rosyth) a well as transatlantic traffic to and from the rest of the UK. (When the radar is turned all the way up to 11, it can track up to 1,000 aircraft simultaneously as far as 250 miles away from the ship.)

Central to getting the LRR – as it’s commonly abbreviated in the RN – going were weapon engineers PO Ian ‘Mac’ McDonald and LET Colleen Dunne.

“Having been a part of the long range radar programme since it was delivered to Rosyth back in October 2013, it’s very satisfying to see it ‘turning and burning’ – a milestone nearly two years in the making,” said PO McDonald.

“It shows both the progress of the ship’s radar section in conjunction with mission systems, and that Queen Elizabeth is another step closer to becoming an operational warship.”