More than 60 Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel have been onboard USS George HW Bush coordinating a giant NATO maritime exercise off the coast of Scotland.
The UK team have been working with their US counterparts to hone their skills ahead of taking command of the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, which could be arriving in Portsmouth in ten days time.
The war games, called Exercise Saxon Warrior, have seen the Commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group Commodore Andrew Betton and his team direct jets, firepower and personnel across the task group for the last ten days to ensure full readiness for the UK’s own carrier strike capability.
Strike Warfare Commander Colonel Phil Kelly Royal Marine said:
"We have been working with the US for a few weeks now and they are doing a really good job of helping us train in bringing our skill set up so that when we do bring in our aircraft carrier and join that up with our aircraft then we can do it in a much more effective manner because we have seen how the experts do it."
As well as the USS George HW Bush, the group includes two Portsmouth based Type 23 frigates, HMS Westminster and HMS Iron Duke, destroyer USS Donald Cook, missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the Norwegian frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad.
Captain Ken Houlberg, Chief of Staff to COMUKCSG said:
“The US Navy, out of huge generosity, given us the whole of their carrier strike group so that we can practise the command and control of a carrier doing these operations in British waters so that when HMS Queen Elizabeth comes into service later this year we will be well on the way to forming our own carrier strike capability.”
The exercise, which has been at play for nearly a week, has seen the COMUKTG staff work with their American counterparts to fight off a series of simulated threats from enemy forces, using all the air, surface and sub-surface assets of the entire task group.
The threats have been specifically designed to test the UK personnel’s reactions for coordinating a response.
There are 15 ships from across NATO taking part throughout the exercise with more than 100 aircraft and nearly 10,000 personnel.
During a brief pause in the exercise, the UK’s brand new carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth joined the USS George Bush as she takes part in her own sea trials ahead of her entry to her new home in Portsmouth.
And with the ships sailing alongside one another for the first time, it’s tempting to compare the two nation’s carriers.
It’s plain to see that the US Titan is somewhat bigger than the British offering; whilst HMS Queen Elizabeth measures in at 280 meters in length, the USS George HW Bush is a whopping 333 meters long.
The USS George HW Bush typically carries a maximum of 56 fixed-wing aircraft including the Hornet, F/A-18A, C, E and F, the Grumman EA-6B Prowler and the Grumman E-2C Hawkeye, and up to 15 helicopters, Sikorsky SH-60F, HH-60H Seahawk and SH-60B Seahawks
HMS Queen Elizabeth will have the capacity to embark a maximum of 36 F-35B and four CROWSNEST AEW helicopters.
However, both HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales are great value at just £6.2bn compared to the U.S. Navy’s 4.7 bn vessel.