Nine ships, 32 aircraft, and 3,700 personnel will set sail today on the UK Carrier Strike Group’s maiden operational deployment. The seven-month global deployment will extend through the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean and on to the Indo-Pacific, interacting with more than one fifth of the world’s nations.
Britain’s new flagship aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will lead six Royal Navy ships, a Royal Navy submarine, a US Navy destroyer and a frigate from the Netherlands in the largest concentration of maritime and air power to leave the UK in a generation.
Her Majesty the Queen visited her namesake vessel – which she commissioned in 2017 – this morning before the aircraft carrier sets sail from Portsmouth, meeting crew members and wishing them luck in what will be an unforgettable life experience by being part of naval history.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was also among those to visit HMS Queen Elizabeth ahead of her departure, joined on Friday by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin and Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston on the flight deck.
In a projection of the UK’s global reach and influence, the Carrier Strike Group will interact with over 40 nations during its 26,000-nautical-mile global tour, undertaking over 70 engagements, exercises and operations with allies and partners. As outlined in the recently-published Defence Command Paper, the Carrier Strike Group is a demonstration of the UK’s commitment to be ready to confront future threats alongside international partners and help seize new opportunities for Global Britain.
Underscoring the UK’s leading role in NATO, in the coming days the Carrier Strike Group will take part in NATO’s Exercise Steadfast Defender. The Strike Group will also provide support to the Alliance’s Operation Sea Guardian and to maritime security operations in the Black Sea during the deployment.
Working alongside another key NATO ally, the Carrier Strike Group will be joined by French Aircraft Carrier Charles De Gaulle for a period of dual carrier operations in the Mediterranean. In the Indo-Pacific, the Carrier Strike Group will visit India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore to strengthen Britain’s security relationships, reinforce political ties and support our UK exports and international trade agenda.
Elements of the Carrier Strike Group will also participate in Exercise Bersama Lima to mark the 50th anniversary of the Five Powers Defence Arrangements between Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.
On the carrier’s flight deck are eighteen state-of-the-art F-35B fast jets, operated by joint RAF and Royal Navy 617 squadron, and the US Marine Corps – the greatest quantity of fifth generation Lightning jets ever put to sea. Operating alongside the jets are four Wildcat maritime attack helicopters, seven Merlin Mk2 anti-submarine helicopters and three Merlin Mk4 commando helicopters – the largest number of helicopters assigned to a single UK Task Group in a decade.
Photo credits: UK Mod Crown Copyright 2021