UK aircraft carrier leads 20-ship, 150-aircraft group in show of force

Pictured in formation are, RFA Tideforce (lead), HMS Northumberland (her right), USS Truxton (her far right), HMS Dragon (her left), USS Philippine Sea (her far left) with HMS Queen Elizabeth at the rear during Exercise Westlant 19. HMS Queen Elizabeth is the biggest ship ever constructed for the Royal Navy, Exercise Westlant 19 puts this formidable warship and her embarked F-35 fighter jets through their paces on the USA Eastern Seaboard. Along with HMS Dragon and HMS Northumberland, these ships form the Carrier Strike Group. Supported by RFA Tideforce they were also joined by units from the United States Navy, US Air Force and US Marine Corps. As well as testing the capability of HMS Queen Elizabeth and the F-35, Westlant is an excellent opportunity to strengthen ties with one of our most important allies: The United States. Westlant allows the Royal Navy to bring together the aircraft with a whole carrier task group to deliver a truly potent force.

The carrier strike group led by the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth set off for a two-week exercise in preparation for a 28-week deployment, which will see the naval group traversing Asian waters.

The exercise, known as Exercise Strike Warrior, will include over 20 warships and three submarines, as well as 150 aircraft. Eleven NATO and allied nations will be involved, the Royal Navy said on Saturday in a statement.

The aircraft carrier, with four British warships as escorts, will engage in simulated battle with “warships from NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 1 in waters off north-west Scotland to prove it is capable of undertaking high intensity operations against the most demanding adversaries,” the Royal Navy statement said.

British assets involved will include the ships HMS Defender, HMS Diamond, HMS Kent and HMS Richmond, as well as a squadron of helicopters.

The exercise is the final test of the UK Carrier Strike Group before it embarks on a global deployment to the Mediterranean Sea and to the Indian and Asia-Pacific regions.

Warships from several NATO countries will join the tour, including the United States, whose guided missile destroyer USS The Sullivans will be a part of the carrier strike group.

The USS Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group reached its initial operating capability, essentially its formal certification for involvement in the Royal Navy, in January.

In October 2020, F-35B fighter planes of the U.S. Marines began practicing takeoffs and landings aboard the aircraft carrier.


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