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Queen Elizabeth to name warship Queen Elizabeth

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A graphical illustration of HMS Queen Elizabeth. A UK MoD photo

LONDON (AFP): Queen Elizabeth II will officially name Britain's biggest ever warship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, at a ceremony in July, the Ministry of Defence announced on Feb. 22.

The monarch will give the 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier a traditional champagne christening at the Rosyth dockyard near Edinburgh on July 4 to mark its completion.

The ship is named after both the 87-year-old monarch and England's Queen Elizabeth I, who reigned from 1558 to 1603.

Thousands are expected to line the banks of the Firth of Forth for the event, including the workers who helped to build it. More than 7,000 people in more than 100 companies around Britain have played a hand in its construction.

The dock will be flooded later in July so the 920-foot (280-metre) long ship can be floated for the first time.

Sea trials are expected to begin in 2017, with flight trials of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth multi-role fighters starting the following year.

"This will be a proud and historic day, not just for the Royal Navy but for the entire nation," Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said.

"It is great news that Her Majesty will officially name the first aircraft carrier Her Majesty's Ship Queen Elizabeth.

"This occasion will mark a major milestone in regenerating the UK's aircraft carrier fleet and its power projection capability, with the first Lightning II aircraft due to begin flight trials off the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2018."

The ship is due to enter service in 2020.

Britain has not been able to launch jets at sea since the flagship Ark Royal was withdrawn in 2010 as part of Britain's defence budget cuts.

Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government announced heavy cuts in 2010 as part of its bid to rein in Britain's massive deficit.

The defence budget is being slashed by eight percent over four years.

Work is already underway on the HMS Queen Elizabeth's sister ship the Prince of Wales which will start to be assembled in Rosyth later this year.

The estimated cost of the two ships together is 6.2 billion pounds (USD 10.3 billion, 7.5 billion euros).

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