Exercise Virtual Warrior has been testing the response of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s crew and battle staff in a simulated digital global crisis.
Using the combined computer training suite at HMS Collingwood in Fareham, the two-week-long Exercise is one of two final assessments the ship and command staff must successfully complete before the 65,000-tonne warship leads her task force on deployment.
Britain's flagship will visit the Indo-Pacific region later this year to enhance UK-Japan defence cooperation, as part of her maiden operational deployment, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has said.
The 'digital workout' picks up where the carrier strike group disbanded last autumn at the end of exercises off the coast of Scotland - where the warship spearheaded a UK Carrier Strike Group for the first time.
Exercise Virtual Warrior will be followed by a live-action assessment during this spring’s Joint Warrior war game, ‘Strike Warrior’, after which the force can head to Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia-Pacific region on its Carrier Strike Group 21 mission.
“Virtual Warrior is about command and control – it may not be as exciting as being at sea, but it’s just as important,” explained Lieutenant Commander Jeremy Olver of the Carrier Strike Group staff.
“The carrier group will consist of numerous ships and squadrons, some operating at considerable range” he said.
“It’s crucial that they are all thinking and operating in the same way and information is shared around them.
“Each one of the ‘warrior’ exercises is more sophisticated and demanding with Strike Warrior the final ‘tick in the box’ before we sail.”
At its largest, the task group will comprise around 3,700 military personnel – including more than a dozen warships, support vessels and squadrons, including three dozen F-35B jets and helicopters.
Various vessels and aircraft break away from the force for specific missions – so the team on Britain's flagship are training to direct and advise their actions, as well as the core carrier group.
Commodore Steve Moorhouse, who will lead the impending deployment with his staff, says such tests are vital to “master the complex art of strike group operations”.
“The success of our deployment rests on our ability to harness and direct different capabilities in the strike group for military, political and diplomatic effect” he said.
“Virtual Warrior helps ensure we think, act and operate as a cohesive and focused force.”
HMS Queen Elizabeth is currently undergoing maintenance in Portsmouth Naval Base to prepare for her mission.
Cover image: HMS Queen Elizabeth operations room during an exercise in 2018 (Picture: Royal Navy).