US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) left its Mayport homeport on April 19, for a deployment with the Royal Navy’s carrier strike group led by aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08).
USS The Sullivans is the first ship to officially start the deployment, but preparations for the maiden operational deployment of HMS Queen Elizabeth have been in high gear for quite some time now.
The other foreign warship to join the UK task group will be the Dutch air defense frigate HNLMS Evertsen.
The first rehearsal for an international strike group that would accompany the first of Royal Navy’s two 65,000 ton carriers took place in October 2020, when the group assembled during exercise Joint Warrior off the coast of Scotland.
Leaving Mayport on the US East Coast, USS The Sullivans will cross the Atlantic to join HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is scheduled to get underway for its deployment from Portsmouth in late May. According to an itinerary of the deployment put together by Navy Lookout, the group will enter the Mediterranean for a series of NATO exercises before a visit to Souda Bay, Greece. The Times has already reported that a Type 45 destroyer and a Type 23 frigate deployed with the group could break off for operations in the Black Sea, at a time when Russia is building up its land and naval presence on the border with Ukraine.
After the Mediterranean stint, the group is expected to transit the Suez Canal and visit Oman’s Duqm port before proceeding to Singapore. The final stop of the journey will be Japan, where HMS Queen Elizabeth would join the US and Japan for exercises off the Nansei Islands chain in southwestern Japan.
It has also been reported that the UK plans to carry out maintenance work on its F-35B short take-off and vertical landing fighter jets that operate from the aircraft carrier. This work would be carried out by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
“It is an honor to sail in this elite multi-national strike group on the frontline demonstrating a fully integrated force that showcases the special relationship that our countries have,” said Cmdr. David Burkett, commanding officer of The Sullivans. “USS The Sullivans’ namesakes would be extremely proud of us as we boldly show that, We Stick Together!”
The Sullivans recently participated in a successful Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX) alongside the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) that included a NATO vignette and training with SEALS from an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Group.
The vignette consisted of familiarity training designed to facilitate Allied maritime interoperability and integration, in practical terms using NATO procedures, messaging formats and chat capabilities.
The vignette developed and refined a clear list of interoperability requirements for future navy force generation, and improved allied maritime command and control (C2) linkages.
“To ensure truly effective deterrence and defense in the North Atlantic, we need to make sure that the navies of NATO can work as one team, and that means interoperability is vital,” said Commodore Tom Guy, Royal Navy, deputy director CJOS COE. “This NATO vignette has been a great step forward in pursuing allied interoperability. CJOS COE looks forward to continuing to develop this for future deploying Strike Groups.”
In addition to the destroyer, the US will also deploy Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II aircraft that will operate from the flight deck of the carrier. The F-35Bs have also thoroughly prepared for their upcoming task, having spent two months in the UK last year, flying from Royal Air Force base Marham. A total of ten F-35B jets flew from Yuma Arizona via MCAS Beaufort to visit the UK for the first time and operate alongside the RAF 617 Squadron.