Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier - Wikimedia Commons.
HMS Queen Elizabeth and her Strike Group:
The Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group (CSG21) will deploy to the Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia-Pacific in Spring 2021 and will visit more than 40 countries including India, Japan, Republic of Korea and Singapore, during a 28-week deployment spanning 26,000 nautical miles with 3,700 sailors, aviators and marines.
The Aircraft Carrier along with other ships of the Strike Group left Portsmouth Harbour on Saturday 1st May 2021 to take part in Exercise Strike Warrior for two weeks of intensive training, ahead of their Asia-Pacific deployment.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:
'When our Carrier Strike Group sets sail next month, it will be flying the flag for Global Britain - projecting our influence, signalling our power, engaging with our friends and reaffirming our commitment to addressing the security challenges of today and tomorrow.'
'The entire nation can be proud of the dedicated men and women who for more than six months will demonstrate to the world that the UK is not stepping back but sailing forth to play an active role in shaping the international system of the 21st Century.'
The Strike Group will consist of three Destroyers, three Frigates, two Support Ships and a Nuclear Attack Submarine:
HMS Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group ships:
HMS Queen Elizabeth - Aircraft Carrier
HMS Diamond - Type 45 Destroyer
HMS Defender - Type 45 Destroyer
US Navy Arleigh Burke-class Destroyer (The Sullivans)
HMS Richmond - Type 23 Frigate
HMS Kent - Type 23 Frigate
HNLMS Evertsen - Dutch Frigate
RFA Tidespring - Support Ship (Replenishment tanker)
RFA Fort Victoria - Support Ship (Fleet stores ship and tanker)
Astute Class Nuclear Attack Submarine (SSN)
There will be thirty two jets and helicopters onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth & Escort vessels:
Aircraft on HMS Queen Elizabeth & Escort ships:
8x UK F-35B Lightning (617 Sqn 'The Dambusters', Marham)
10x USMC F-35B Lightning (VMFA-211 Sqn 'Wake Island Avengers', MCAS Yuma, Arizona)
4x Wildcat HMA2 maritime attack helicopters on Escort ships (815 NAS, Yeovilton)
4x Merlin HM2 anti-submarine helicopters (820 NAS, Culdrose)
3x Merlin HM2 airbourne early warning helicopters with Crowsnest (820 NAS, Culdrose)
3x Merlin HC4/4A Commando Helicopter Force helicopters (845 NAS, Yeovilton)
Supporting below deck will be a company of Royal Marine Commandos.
On the Mediterranean leg of the deployment the Carrier Strike Group will provide a period of dual carrier operations with the French Aircraft Carrier Charles De Gaulle. Elsewhere air and maritime forces from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Israel, India, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Oman, the Republic of Korea, Turkey and the UAE will operate alongside the Carrier Strike Group.
F-35B Lightning Aircraft:
617 Sqn, based at RAF Marham have deployed eight F-35B Lightnings (ZM147/013, ZM148/014, ZM150/016, ZM151/017, ZM152/018, ZM153/019, ZM154/020 & ZM155/021)
to the aircraft carrier on 2nd & 3rd May 2021 and have been/are being joined by a further ten United States Marine Corps (USMC) F-35B Lightnings (VMFA-211 Sqn, 'Wake Island Avengers') from MCAS Yuma, Arizona.
Five USMC F-35B aircraft arrived at RAF Lakenheath on Monday 26th April 2021 and were joined by another five USMC F-35B Lightnings on Wednesday 28th April 2021.
The first five USMC aircraft to land at Lakenheath on Monday were 169621/CF-01, 169416/CF-03, 169589/CF-04, 169607/CF-06 & 169608/CF-07. The second batch of five aircraft landed at lakenheath on Wednesday were 169620/CF-00, 169587/CF-02, 169678/CF-05, 169610/CF-08 & 169614/CF-09. They started to arrive on the aircraft carrier from 2nd May 2021.
The UK F-35s from 617 Sqn and USMC F-35s from VMFA-211 Sqn will take part in training and pre-deployment preparations in home waters, leading up to Exercise Strike Warrior in May 2021 (off the coast of Scotland) and will then deploy on HMS Queen Elizabeth on her first operational mission to the Pacific.
USMC F-35 (VMFA-211 Sqn) previous visit in September 2020:
VMFA-211 Squadron 'Wake Island Avengers' had previously come over to the UK (169620/CF-00, 169621/CF-01, 169587/CF-02, 169588/CF-03, 169589/CF-04, 169607/CF-06, 169608/CF-07, 169610/CF-08, 169614/CF-09 and 169414/CF-25)
in September 2020, landing at RAF Marham, where they worked alongside 617 Sqn initially conducting synthetic training in Marham's purpose-built simulators to familiarise themselves with the local airspace and procedures before they took to the Norfolk skies to fly training sorties with 617 Squadron. They took part in Exercise Point Blank with their colleagues from RAF Lakenheath along with other NATO partners before deploying to HMS Queen Elizabeth where they conducted aircraft carrier qualification training to ensure that all pilots were proficient to operate from the carrier during both day and night.
Merlin Helicopters & Crowsnest:
There will be seven Merlin HM2 anti-submarine helicopters onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth from 820 Naval Air Squadron based at RNAS Culdrose. As well as being used in the anti-submarine role they will also be able to deploy the new powerful Crowsnest radar for Airbourne Early Warning. Three Merlin HM2 helicopters (ZH843, ZH846 & ZH856)
will be used for the Airbourne Early Warning role and four Merlin HM2 helicopters (ZH824, ZH827, ZH841 & ZH857)
for the anti-submarine role.
There will also be three Merlin HC4/4A helicopters (Commando Helicopter Force, ZJ121/E, ZJ127/L & ZJ129/N)
from 845 Naval Air Squadron based at RNAS Yeovilton and these helicopters are used by the Royal Marines.
Four Wildcat HMA2 Maritime attack helicopters (ZZ514, ZZ518, ZZ530 & ZZ535)
from 815 Naval Air Squadron based at Yeovilton will deploy to the Escort ships - HMS Diamond Destroyer (201 Flt), HMS Defender Destroyer (219 Flt), HMS Richmond Frigate (202 Flt) and HMS Kent Frigate (206 Flt). These helicopters have an anti-submarine role as well as an anti-surface warfare, force protection and counter-piracy role. Each helicopter can carry up to twenty new Martlet missiles to protect the Carrier Strike Group.
More information on the Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier and her Pacific deployment can be found here.