BAE Systems to rewire world's oldest commissioned warship in major renovation of HMS Victory

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PORTSMOUTH, England, 13 July 2011. Ship systems experts at BAE Systems in Farnborough, England, are replacing the electrical wiring and performing many other detailed tasks as part of the biggest renovation of the world's oldest commissioned warship, the Royal Navy's HMS Victory, since work was done to repair damage to the ship after the landmark Battle of Trafalgar more than 200 years ago.

The Victory was to the Napoleonic Wars era what USS Missouri was to World War II -- one of the period's largest, most heavily armed, and most formidable ocean-going vessels. The Victory, commissioned in 1778 during the American Revolution, is a 104-gun first-rate ship of the line. The huge wooden-hulled sailing warship is still commissioned with the United Kingdom Royal Navy and is berthed in Portsmouth, England.

BAE Systems and its subcontractors have begun a 10-year restoration of the Victory, which during the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar against the French and Spanish navies, was the flagship of Royal Navy Adm. Horatio Nelson -- perhaps Britain's most distinguished naval hero -- who was killed on the deck of the Victory during the battle by a sharpshooter firing from an enemy ship.

BAE Systems ship specialists working on the tall ship are skilled with cutting-edge technology of modern warships, yet maintain their traditional wooden shipbuilding skills, BAE Systems officials say. BAE Systems engineers are dismantling the ship’s three tall masts, bowsprit, and rigging, and are preparing to rewire the ship, as well as repair and paint the historic vessel's hull.

Click to EnlargeIt is difficult to appreciate the size and firepower of the Victory relative to other ships of its day. The oldest commissioned warship in the U.S. Navy, for example, is the USS Constitution, which saw action during many of the same years as the Victory. The Constitution, which is berthed in Boston Harbor is a 44-gun heavy frigate, which displaces 2,200 tons. The Victory, by contrast, displaces 3,500 tons and has more than twice as many guns as the Constitution.

The Victory will remain open to visitors from the public during its decade-long restoration. The Victory, like the few other surviving wooden tall warships, requires constant maintenance to keep deterioration in check. On the Victory, for example, studies have shown leaks and rot, and that the ship was being pulled apart by its own weight.

The restoration, funded by the Royal Navy, will remove 26 miles of rigging by a team of master shipwrights and specialists. Among the tasks that BAE Systems experts will perform is replacing the ships wiring. Originally the ship had no electricity, yet wiring has been installed in recent years to accommodate lighting and climate control to help preserve the vessel and to accommodate the ship's 350,000 visitors each year.

For more information contact BAE Systems online at, the Royal Navy at, or the HMS Victory at

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