Navy

HMS Queen Elizabeth: Carrier Strike Group Begins Formation

The aircraft carrier will be at the heart of a UK-led NATO Carrier Strike Group during Exercise Joint Warrior.

HMS Queen Elizabeth's Carrier Strike Group has started forming ahead of a multinational exercise next week.

Exercise Joint Warrior will see thousands of personnel gather off the north-west coast of Scotland, including the UK-led NATO Carrier Strike Group.

The exercise will last for 11 days, involving 11 nations, 6,000 personnel, 81 aircraft, 28 ships and two submarines.

Queen Elizabeth set sail from Portsmouth this month and will be joined by British and American F-35B aircraft during the exercise.

Two squadrons of Lightning aircraft embarked on the ship last week - the largest group of aircraft on a Royal Navy carrier since HMS Hermes was in service.

NATO allies taking part in Joint Warrior are the UK, United States, Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium, Canada, France, Denmark, Norway and Lithuania, as well as Australia.

HMS Queen Elizabeth's Twitter account posted about the conditions facing the group on the North Sea, tweeting: "A lot of movement today as the Carrier Strike Group forms - a bit of movement from the North Sea as well.

"#Fighting45s plowing through though."

Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said: "Allies and adversaries alike will not fail to take note of the powerful new contribution the UK's Carrier Strike Group offers NATO when it participates in Exercise Joint Warrior next week.

"With US and UK F-35B jets exercising together over our shoes for the first as part of a group featuring 6,000 personnel from 11 nations, this UK-led exercise underlines the leading role we play in upholding European security through NATO."

HMS Queen Elizabeth spent 70 days in UK waters undergoing sea and flight trials earlier this year, returning "on the cusp of operations".

A UK Carrier Strike Group is expected to set sail on its first operational deployment in 2021.

Both Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, will require escorts in the form of Carrier Strike Groups when they deploy on operational duties.

Each Carrier Strike Group will likely include Type 45 destroyers, Type 23 frigates, Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships, an Astute-class submarine and, in the longer term, Type 26 frigates.

Minehunter vessels are often deployed in case of a threat, with submarines providing vital protection from the threats below the ocean's surface.

Cover image: HMS Queen Elizabeth earlier this year (Picture: Royal Navy).