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US, UK flattops meet up in Gulf of Aden

HMS Queen Elizabeth in Gulf of Aden with US carrier, amphibious assault ship
Ships of the UK Carrier Strike Group, USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, and Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group operate in formation in the Gulf of Aden, July 12. Photo: US Navy

After transiting the Suez Canal last week as part of its maiden deployment, the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth met up with its US counterparts in the Gulf of Aden.

More specifically, the UK carrier met with Nimitz-class carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which is supporting the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, and the Iwo Jima amphibious ready group (ARG), which is deployed to the Middle East.

The trio carried out a large scale joint interoperability exercise on July 12, in what the US 5th Fleet described as “200,000 tons of integrated, all-domain naval power.”

The combined, bilateral surface, air and sub-surface exercise was designed to enhance UK, Dutch and US maritime interoperability and demonstrate naval integration through a series of training scenarios.

“Our team was proud to operate alongside the UK Carrier Strike Group during this unique opportunity to hone the full scope of our mutual capabilities,” said Rear Adm. Will Pennington, commander, Ronald Reagan CSG and Task Force 50. “By operating together at sea, we deepen our coalition partnerships and extend our global reach throughout the region’s critical waterways.”

Photo: US Navy

Participating forces focused on the full spectrum of maritime warfare operations, practicing anti-air warfare (AAW), anti-surface warfare (ASUW), and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) tactics and procedures.

The crews exercised their abilities to conduct precision maneuvering, hunt simulated enemy submarines, provide layered defense against simulated air and surface threats, and conduct long range maritime strikes against simulated adversarial forces.

“The aircraft carrier is the ultimate expression of global maritime power,” said Commodore Steve Moorhouse, commander, United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group. “Queen Elizabeth, Ronald Reagan and Iwo Jima symbolize the might of the U.S. and UK partnership, and the ease with which our naval and air forces can combine here in the Gulf of Aden, or anywhere else in the world.”

This also marks the second time this year the Iwo Jima ARG has operated alongside the UK carrier strike group, following an exercise off the coast of Scotland in May.

“The Iwo Jima ARG remains in a high state of readiness to support our partners and allies as an effective amphibious force,” said Capt. Darren Nelson, commodore, Amphibious Squadron Four. “Operating with the Ronald Reagan and UK carrier strike groups allows us to better address common threats to regional security.”

Participating units included aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R 08) with embarked F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), anti-submarine frigate HMS Richmond (F 239), Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen (F 805), guided-missile destroyers USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) and USS Halsey (DDG 97), and guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67).