The Royal Navy's two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, have met at sea for the first time, following a major military exercise.
Queen Elizabeth, the fleet flagship, was among the vessels and aircraft to complete a UK-led multinational exercise ahead of a maiden operational Carrier Strike Group (CSG) deployment.
The exercise took place off the coast of north-west Scotland and, as it ended, the two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers rendezvoused at sea for the first time as HMS Queen Elizabeth returned to Portsmouth.
Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander UK Carrier Strike Group, said it was "hugely exciting" to witness the two vessels meeting at sea for the first time.
"Building one aircraft carrier is a sign of national ambition," he said.
"But building two – and operating them simultaneously – is a sign of serious national intent.
A moment that has been a long time coming! 🚢🚢📸— HMS Prince of Wales (@HMSPWLS) May 20, 2021
Pretty sure that these photos confirm that we are bigger than @HMSQNLZ too. 😉
What do you think?#CarrierStrike#CarrierTake2#PWLSatSeapic.twitter.com/ATDJEVau36
"It means Britain has a continuous carrier strike capability, with one vessel always ready to respond to global events at short notice."
In the future, it is likely only one Queen Elizabeth-class vessel will be deployed on operations at once, with the other in dock.
HMS Prince of Wales' official Twitter page described the mid-sea meet-up as "a long time coming", adding with a winking face emoji that: "These photos confirm that we are bigger than HMS Queen Elizabeth too."
Exercise Strike Warrior 21 saw 20 warships, three submarines and 150 aircraft involved in a number of tests assessing the CSG's response to crisis and conflict situations.
"By leading a large international exercise, practicing its wide range of capabilities, and demonstrating its formidable size, Strike Warrior 21 has proved that years of hard work, training and planning have paid off," Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said.
"The UK Carrier Strike Group is ready to promote Global Britain and confront future security threats of the 21st century."
Ten nations contributed to the exercise, with the UK joined by forces from Denmark, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the United States and Australia.
UK F-35 fighter jets were also involved and conducted missile firings during the exercise, the first time British jets have done so at sea in 15 years.
Exercise Strike Warrior 21 formed part of a wider military exercise known as Exercise Joint Warrior.
It was the final test of the Carrier Strike Group before it sets sail on its maiden operational deployment.
Cover image: HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales met at sea after the exercise ended (Picture: Crown Copyright).