UK F-35B Lightning jet at RAF Marham DATE UNKNOWN CREDIT RAF.jpeg
Aircraft

Carrier Strike Group 21: RAF Gets Ready For Deployment As US F-35s Arrive

The Strike Group, which deploys this month, will travel more than 26,000 nautical miles over 28 weeks.

UK F-35B Lightning jet at RAF Marham DATE UNKNOWN CREDIT RAF.jpeg

Royal Air Force personnel have prepared to deploy as part of the UK Carrier Strike Group (CSG 21).

F-35B aircraft stationed at RAF Marham in Norfolk and their crew have been getting ready to join the deployment, spearheaded by aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, for the past six months.

"The variety of equipment is vast, from a washer to an engine, and all have their own issues," the Warrant Officer from the Logistics Support Squadron said.

"For example, an F-35 engine requires a crane and the right team needs to ensure it's prepped ready to be lifted."

Operating from a ship poses its own challenges to aircraft and crew members, with limited space available.

The operation of the British F-35s would not be possible without the support of 617 Squadron Mission Support Flight (MSF), which enables a variety of activities ranging from intelligence support to mission planning.

US Marine Corps F-35B at RAF Lakenheath before joining UK Carrier Strike Group 260421 CREDIT US AIR FORCE
US Marine Corps F-35s have arrived at RAF Lakenheath ahead of the Carrier Strike Group deployment (Picture: US Air Force).

Officer Commanding for 617 Squadron MSF said: "We have to ensure our pilots have everything they require to be ready to meet any mission they may be tasked with."

Meanwhile, American F-35s have landed at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk from their home station in Arizona.

The jets from the US Marine Corps' VMFA-211 Squadron will also be joining the Strike Group, alongside the UK F-35Bs from 617 Squadron.

The Carrier Strike Group was declared fit for operations in January.

It will travel more than 26,000 nautical miles over 28 weeks, visiting India, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and the wider region.

It will be the largest concentration of maritime and airpower to leave the UK in a generation and the first operational deployment of HMS Queen Elizabeth.

HMS Queen Elizabeth with her Carrier Strike Group during Exercise Joint Warrior last year (Picture: Royal Navy).

The Carrier Strike Group will begin with two weeks on Exercise Joint Warrior off the coast of Scotland.

After returning to Portsmouth, the group will then set sail to the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, before making its way through the Suez Canal, Red Sea and Arabian Sea.

CSG 21 will then head down into the Indian Ocean and through the South China Sea before visiting Japan and South Korea.

American destroyer USS The Sullivans is also deploying, as is Dutch warship HNLMS Evertsen

Six Royal Navy ships, including Type 45 destroyers HMS Defender and HMS Diamond will also set sail, as well as an Astute-class submarine.

The vessels in the Strike Group will be supported by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary's RFA Fort Victoria and RFA Tidespring.

Cover image: A British F-35 at RAF Marham (Picture: RAF).