The first of two new Royal Navy aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, quietly departed her Portsmouth homeport for several weeks of training.
The carrier usually gets underway around noon and is sent off by the public. On April 29, the carrier departed in late afternoon hours, likely in a bid to avoid drawing crowds due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is set to undergo assessment with the staff of Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) to ensure the UK can deliver on its commitment to have a carrier strike group ready to deploy from the end of this year.
The ship will be put through her paces in UK waters off the south coast, facing simulated battle damage, fires and floods, as well as warfare training and mission rehearsals.
The training will include more qualifying training for UK F35 Lightning fighter jet crews, who will be conducting practice maneuvers from her decks, giving vital experience to the aircrews and ship’s company involved in air operations.
The carrier remains on track to start the first operational deployment in 2021.
All personnel sailing with the ship have undergone testing for coronavirus. As a further precaution, HMS Queen Elizabeth will conduct a period of isolation at sea, before she starts her training with the FOST staff.
She will be operating in waters close to the UK coast and the commanding officer has the discretion to cease the training if it is deemed necessary.