Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth returned home to Portsmouth today after her maiden operational deployment which took the UK’s flagship to the Indo-Pacific and back.
Accompanying the carrier on a seven-month mission was a task group of eight supporting ships, a submarine, five air squadrons and more than 3,700 personnel visited more than 40 countries.
HMS Queen Elizabeth’s F-35B stealth jets flew more than 4,000 hours – more than 23 weeks in the skies, including combat sorties bombing remaining elements of Daesh – while the ship worked with allied and partner nations forging new ties, renewing old friendships and flying the flag for Britain. Unfortunately, one of the British F-35Bs embarked on the carrier crashed during operations in the Mediterranean Sea in November. The defense ministry announced this week that the jet had been recovered from the seafloor with the help of Italian and US assets.
Queen Elizabeth returned after some of her escort warships, which formed a protective ring around the aircraft carrier during her operations.
Type 45 destroyers HMS Defender and HMS Diamond sailed into Portsmouth this morning while HMS Richmond sailed back to Devonport earlier today.
Families gathered in Portsmouth to greet their loved ones – some of whom return from their first deployment and others who are putting the seal on the latest milestones in their naval careers.
Able Seaman Thomas Corby, who completed his first ever deployment, said: “The thing that I am most looking forward to when I get home is being able to hug my grandparents again for the first time in nearly two years owing to Covid and the deployment.”
The aircraft carrier and her strike group sailed a combined 500,000 nautical miles and strengthened bonds with allies, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, Greece, Israel, India, Italy, Japan, Oman and the Republic of Korea.
The task group was also a notable international effort, with Dutch frigate Evertsen and US Navy destroyer USS The Sullivans sailing side by side with seven British ships on the deployment.
US Marine Corps jets were also deployed alongside the RAF’s 617 Squadron on board HMS Queen Elizabeth, assembling the largest contingent of fifth-generation stealth jets ever seen at sea.