The UK Royal Navy’s new Carrier Strike Group (CSG) centred on HMS Queen Elizabeth has assembled for the first time, marking the beginning of a new era of of joint carrier operations between the Navy and its NATO allies.
Made up of nine ships, 15 fighter jets, 11 helicopters and 3,000 personnel from the UK, US and the Netherlands are now carrying out exercises in the North Sea – the strike group is the largest and most powerful European-led maritime force in almost 20 years.
Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander UK Carrier Strike Group, said, "The new UK Carrier Strike Group is the embodiment of British maritime power, and sits at the heart of a modernised and emboldened Royal Navy. Protected by a ring of advanced destroyers, frigates, helicopters and submarines, and equipped with fifth-generation fighters, HMS Queen Elizabeth is able to strike from the sea at a time and place of our choosing; and with our NATO allies at our side, we will be ready to fight and win in the most demanding circumstances."
The Carrier Strike Group includes NATO’s most sophisticated destroyers – the Royal Navy’s Type 45s HMS Diamond and HMS Defender and US Navy Arleigh Burke Class USS The Sullivans as well as frigates HMS Northumberland and HMS Kent from the UK and the Dutch Navy’s HNLMS Evertsen.
They will not only protect the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers from enemy ships, submarines, aircraft and missiles, but are also capable of conducting a range of supporting missions, from maritime security to disaster relief.
"Carrier Strike offers Britain choice and flexibility on the global stage; it reassures our friends and allies and presents a powerful deterrent to would-be adversaries," Cdre Moorhouse explained.
Meanwhile, two Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships, RFA Tideforce and RFA Fort Victoria, will supply fuel, food, spares and ammunition to enable sustained operations from the sea without host nation support.
Commander Vince Owen, Commanding Officer of HMS Defender, said, "Providing air and missile defence to a Carrier Strike Group is exactly the task HMS Defender and the Type 45 has been designed to do.
"Having previously supported the French aircraft carrier FGS Charles de Gaulle in the fight against ISIL in 2015 and more recently been part of the USS Abraham Lincoln task group as she transited through the Strait of Hormuz last year, it is exciting to be integrating HMS Defender into the UK-led Carrier Strike Group for the first time."
HMS Queen Elizabeth and her Strike Group are currently exercising alongside allied nations in the North Sea, as part of NATO’s largest annual exercise, Joint Warrior.
Commander Rick Ongering, Commanding Officer of HNLMS Evertsen, added, "The Royal Netherlands Navy and the Royal Navy have been very close maritime partners for decades. Our marines have been working together through the UK-Netherlands Amphibious Force for almost 50 years and our ships regularly undertake Fleet Operational Sea Training in the UK.
"However, the opportunity to accompany HMS Queen Elizabeth is a new experience and HNLMS Evertsen is excited to be working with the UK Carrier Strike Group during Exercise Joint Warrior this October."
HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest and most powerful vessel ever constructed for the Royal Navy – the warship is capable of carrying up to 40 aircraft, as well as state-of-the-art weaponry and communications systems, HMS Queen Elizabeth boasts five gyms, a chapel and a medical centre.
The flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth comes in at an enormous four acres, and will be used to launch the fearsome new F35 Joint Strike Fighter fast jet, four fighter jets can be moved from the hangar to the flight deck in just one minute.