Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has sailed from Portsmouth for her maiden operational deployment at the heart of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group after a farewell visit from Her Majesty The Queen.
The 65,000-ton aircraft carrier recently completed demanding training to make sure her and the ships that will accompany her on her world mission are ready for any eventuality.
Following the exercises off the Scottish coastline, the ships of the CSG dispersed briefly before sailing for their deployment on May 22, which will take them to Japan and back over the next seven-and-a-half-months.
Joining HMS Queen Elizabeth on her maiden deployment are destroyers HMS Diamond and Defender; frigates HMS Richmond and Kent; an Astute-class submarine in support below the waves; and Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ships RFA Fort Victoria and RFA Tidespring.
In addition to the Royal Navy ships, the CSG will be joined by US destroyer USS The Sullivans, Dutch air-defense frigate HNLMS Evertsen, and a squadron of US Marine Corps F-35B fighter jets that will operate from the carrier’s flight deck.
Speaking at the Sea Power Conference 2021 earlier this week, the First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin, confirmed the final two Batch 2 River-class offshore patrol ships HMS Tamar and HMS Spey would head west-about into the Indo-Pacific and join up with the Carrier Strike Group the long way round. The OPVs will stay forward-deployed in the Indo-Pacific and be joined by Type-31 frigates in the future.
Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group, said: “HMS Queen Elizabeth, her escorts and her aircraft, will now begin the most important peacetime deployment in a generation.
“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.”
Led by HMS Queen Elizabeth, the task group will visit 40 nations including India, Japan, Republic of Korea and Singapore in a deployment covering 26,000 nautical miles.
The group will also join up and take part in exercises with French carrier FS Charles De Gaulle in the Mediterranean as well as navies and aircraft from allies such as the US, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan and the UAE.
While in the Pacific, ships from the CSG will mark the 50th anniversary of the Five Powers Defence Arrangements between Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the UK by taking part in Exercise Bersama Lima.
More than 30 aircraft will also embark across the task group including F-35 jets from 617 Squadron, the Dambusters, and the US Marine Corps’ VMFA-211; Wildcat helicopters from 815 Naval Air Squadron and Merlin helicopters from 820 and 845 Naval Air Squadrons.