Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has returned to Portsmouth after testing the carrier strike group concept during exercise Joint Warrior that concluded this week.
The aircraft carrier has been training in the North Sea as she prepares for her first operational deployment next year.
Her time at sea, joined by Royal Navy warships, Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ships, F-35B Lightning jets from the US and UK, Fleet Air Arm helicopters and ships from the US Navy and Dutch Navy, saw the 65,000-ton carrier achieve a number of ‘firsts’.
British and American jets carried out strike missions from the carrier using live weapons for the first time, while newly-modernised support ship RFA Fort Victoria and HMS Kent undertook the Royal Navy’s first transfer of ammunition at sea in three years.
GroupEx 2020 was followed by exercise Joint Warrior, in which the Carrier Strike Group joined other NATO warships for a series of demanding scenarios across air, land and sea.
Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander UK Carrier Strike Group, said: “Over the past few weeks the Royal Navy has achieved what many people said would be impossible.
“We have formed a sovereign UK Carrier Strike Group with the ships and aircraft necessary to protect and sustain global carrier operations. Crucially, the Royal Navy has done this against the backdrop of the Covid pandemic and while maintaining our other commitments at home and around the world.
“We’ve also gone a step further by operating and integrating a mixed UK/US air group of strike fighters and by incorporating ships from our closest allies.