The luxury liner Queen Elizabeth 2 is readying for what could be the most perilous role of its career.
The 963-foot, 67,107-ton QE2--the pride of its owner, Cunard Lines Ltd.--has been requisitioned by the British government to transport troops to the Falkland Islands.
But while the ship's enormous store of lobster and caviar may be replaced with simpler fare, a Cunard spokesman here in New York says ''very few modifications will have to be made'' to fit the QE2 for its new duty.
The liner, launched in 1967, already has one helicopter deck and cavernous storage space. Moreover, Cunard spokesmen affirm, the ship was originally designed so it could be easily converted for troop use.
Published reports say that the QE2 will be specifically used to transport some 3,000 troops of Britain's 5th Infantry Brigade. They should be able to travel quite comfortably. Normally, the liner can hold as many as 1,800 passengers and 1,000 crew members.
At least one more helicopter pad is expected to be built over one of the two outdoor swimming pools (there are two outdoor and two indoor pools). The Queen Mary Suite, the ship's largest, which usually costs $19,220 for the crossing from New York to Southampton (compared with $1,070 for a small room) may be used to house some senior officers.
The QE2's cruising speed of 28.5 knots could put it near the Falklands in a week.
Cunard estimates it will lose $3.5 million from the cancellation of a 12-day Mediterranean cruise--and much, much more if the war in the Falklands continues. But a spokesman here said, ''Duty calls.''