HMS Queen Elizabeth departs for maiden operational tour

The United Kingdom Royal Navy’s (RN’s) new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has departed Portsmouth on 22 May for a seven-month long, 26,000 nautical mile deployment to the Indo-Pacific, leading an international strike group comprising assets from the RN, the Netherlands and the United States.

These include RN Type 45 destroyers HMS Diamond and Defender; Type 23 frigates HMS Richmond and Kent; an Astute-class submarine; and Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ships RFA Fort Victoria and RFA Tidespring. The RN assets are joined by the Royal Netherlands Navy’s De Zeven Provinciën-class frigate HNLMS Evertsen and the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS The Sullivans.

Embarked aboard the 65,000 ton carrier are eight British and 10 US Marine Corps (USMC) F-35Bs Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters as well as 250 US marines, with a total complement of 1,700 personnel on the vessel itself.

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) noted that the strike group represented the largest concentration of maritime and air power to be deployed from the UK in a generation.

“HMS Queen Elizabeth, her escorts and her aircraft, will now begin the most important peacetime deployment in a generation,” said Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group, noting that his command includes

“It is the privilege of my career to lead 3,700 sailors, aviators and marines from the United Kingdom, United States and the Netherlands for the next seven-and-a-half-months,” added Commodore Moorhouse.

The Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group will interact with more than 40 countries – including India, Japan, Republic of Korea and Singapore – as it travels to the Philippine Sea via the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean.

The strike group will take part in a NATO exercise before it heads into the Mediterranean, and assist NATO maritime security operations in the Black Sea. It will also perform dual-carrier operations with the French Navy’s aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle in the Mediterranean.

In a separate announcement earlier in May, the MoD stated that the British F-35Bs embarked on the carrier, operated by the Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) 617 Squadron ‘Dambusters’, will provide “tangible and impactful support” to Operation Shader in Iraq and Syria to counter the Islamic State.

by Jr Ng