HMS Queen Elizabeth reforms carrier battle group
The Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabethhas reformed its carrier battle group for combined NATO/anti-submarine warfare training in the Western Atlantic.
The vessel rejoined HMS Northumberland, RFA Tideforce and the Norwegian Navy’s newest frigate, HNoMS Thor Heyerdahl, to complete this last exercise as part of its Westlant 19 deployment before returning to its homeport.
The five-week operational test phase, headed up by the Air Warfare Centre, was designed to provide end-to-end testing of British F-35 Lightning jets and the combined Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personnel who operate and support the squadrons.
Tests included mission briefs; preparation of the jets – including arming them using the ship's automated weapon handling system; launching; fighting the mission (including weapons drops) and returning to Queen Elizabeth.
At the same time, USMC F-35s flew to and from the ship, exercising their processes ahead of a detachment deploying alongside UK jets on the carrier’s maiden operational deployment in 2021.
Supporting the strike group throughout have been Merlin helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron based at Culdrose, providing anti-submarine protection and search and rescue capability; and 845 Naval Air Squadron transporting stores and equipment, providing rescue cover. Royal Marines from Lima Company, 42 Commando, practised combat search and rescue.
Cdre Steve Moorhouse, HMS Queen Elizabeth Commanding Officer, said: ‘This has been an extremely successful deployment for HMS Queen Elizabeth. It’s all been about increasing the complexity and tempo of our activity, building the capability of the strike group and testing ourselves in a demanding training environment with our close partners from the US Navy and Marine Corps.
‘Embarking UK F-35B Lightning for the first time and integrating them within the carrier strike group is a significant milestone and we are well set for an equally demanding 2020 and our first operational deployment in 2021.’
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