CSG21

Watch: HMS Queen Elizabeth returns home to Portsmouth

The Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier's return was brought forward by a day because of concerns about the weather.

Royal Navy flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth has returned home after completing her first operational deployment as part of the UK Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21) mission.

The £3.3bn aircraft carrier sailed into Portsmouth Naval Base, seven months after setting sail for her maiden mission in May.

Type 45 destroyers HMS Diamond and HMS Destroyer, also deployed on the mission, sailed into Portsmouth this morning ahead of HMS Queen Elizabeth's arrival, with HMS Richmond having sailed into Devonport and HMS Kent sailing in to Portsmouth tomorrow.

The carrier had originally been expected to return to Portsmouth on Friday, but the arrival was brought forward by a day because of concerns about the weather.

The narrow entrance to Portsmouth Harbour means that the 65,000-tonne warship would not routinely enter during heavy winds.

The Strike Group, led by HMS Queen Elizabeth, has travelled 49,000 nautical miles to the Indo-Pacific and back on the deployment.

Eight other ships and a submarine made up the formation, including Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen and US destroyer USS The Sullivans.

Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander UK Carrier Strike Group, has praised the "historic" deployment.

"Our sailors, aviators and soldiers have been the finest ambassadors for UK defence and it's been a privilege to be their commander," he tweeted.

The CSG21 deployment has not been without its issues.

HMS Defender was involved in a stand-off with the Russian navy after it sailed close to Crimea in June.

China accused Britain of engaging in behaviour that "harbours evil intentions" after HMS Richmond sailed through the Taiwan Strait in September.

And just last month, a UK F35-B Lightning jet crashed into the Mediterranean shortly after taking off from HMS Queen Elizabeth's flight deck.

The pilot ejected and was found safe, but the state-of-the-art fighter jet, worth about £88.8m, languished at the bottom of the sea and has only recently been recovered.