HMS Queen Elizabeth Fully Loaded With F‑35Bs Ready for Exercise

 In Sea, Air, Forces & Capabilities

The Royal Navy’s first-in-class air­craft car­ri­er, HMS Queen Elizabeth, has embarked the largest number of fixed-wing air­craft yet as the vessel pre­pares to take centre stage in a NATO car­ri­er strike group for exer­cis­es.

The F‑35Bs, a mix of Royal Air Force (RAF) and US Marine Corps (USMC) jets, joined the air­craft car­ri­er as it sails for exer­cise Joint Warrior and GroupEx in the North Sea.

Onboard, the carrier’s air wing is made up of 14 Lockheed Martin F‑35B short take-off ver­ti­cal land­ing jets and eight Merlin heli­copters. The deploy­ment marks the largest con­cen­tra­tion of fight­er jets oper­at­ing at sea from a Royal Navy car­ri­er since 1983.

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Commander UK Carrier Strike Group Commodore Steve Moorhouse said: “The United Kingdom’s mar­itime renais­sance has been unfold­ing over many years, as we intro­duced a new gen­er­a­tion of ships, sub­marines and air­craft into ser­vice. But this marks the first time we have brought them togeth­er in a cohe­sive, potent, fight­ing force.

“HMS Queen Elizabeth will be oper­at­ing with the largest air group of fifth-gen­er­a­tion fight­ers assem­bled any­where in the world. Led by the Royal Navy, and backed by our clos­est allies, this new Carrier Strike Group puts real muscle back into NATO and sends a clear signal that the United Kingdom takes its global role seri­ous­ly.”

Image: MOD/ Crown Copyright.

HMS Queen Elizabeth will be joined on the car­ri­er strike group exer­cise by NATO and UK ves­sels includ­ing Type 23 frigates HMS Kent and HMS Northumberland, Type 45 Destroyers HMS Diamon and HMS Defender, a Royal Navy sub­ma­rine, HNLMS Evertsen from the Royal Netherlands Navy, US Arleigh Burke-class destroy­er USS The Sullivans and a Royal Navy sub­ma­rine.

The car­ri­er strike group will be tested during Exercise Joint Warrior off the coast of Scotland.

The US F‑35Bs are usu­al­ly sta­tioned at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma, Arizona and arrived in the UK this month. The USMC jets worked up with RAF F‑35Bs before embark­ing on the car­ri­er.

The com­mand­ing offi­cer of the USMC fight­er jet con­tin­gent, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Freshour USMC, said: “The Wake Island Avengers are ready in all respects to work with the British sailors and air­crew onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth.

“We are look­ing for­ward to deploy­ing along­side our British coun­ter­parts over the next few months, and we will work tire­less­ly as a part of this transat­lantic naval force. We are proud to play such an impor­tant role in the gen­er­a­tion of an allies’ car­ri­er strike capa­bil­i­ty.”

The RAF jets on board are from the 617 Squadron – also known as the Dambusters.

617 Squadron’s Commanding Officer Royal Navy Commander Mark Sparrow said: “This is an incred­i­bly excit­ing time for 617 Squadron as we begin a new era of part­ner­ship with

the US Marine Corps build­ing towards next year’s oper­a­tional deploy­ment with HMS Queen Elizabeth.

“You need to go back more than three decades to find the UK oper­at­ing any­thing on this scale or com­plex­i­ty and this is a first for fifth-gen­er­a­tion car­ri­er capa­bil­i­ty. The era of big-deck, fast jet car­ri­er oper­a­tions is back.”

Image: MOD/ Crown Copyright.

The embark­ing of USMC jets is cru­cial to the HMS Queen Elizabeth’s work up to ini­tial oper­at­ing capa­bil­i­ty (IOC) and pre­cedes the ships maiden deploy­ment next year which is also likely to see USMC F‑35Bs on board.

Captain James Blackmore, the UK’s Carrier Air Wing Commander, added: “We are going to learn a huge amount from oper­at­ing F‑35Bs at sea with the USMC, they have had them longer and we can share ideas and prac­tices.

“But this is much more than that; this is the trans-Atlantic alliance in action, demon­strat­ing that two close allies can not only fly from each other’s car­ri­ers but can fight along­side each other should we need to. This level of inte­gra­tion offers a deci­sive flex­i­bil­i­ty in times of crisis, con­flict or war.”

Naval Technology source|articles

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