HMS Queen Elizabeth Sets Sail From Portsmouth

Britain's largest-ever warship has set sail for the US, where British fighter jets will take off from her flight deck for the first time.

HMS Queen Elizabeth, a £3 billion aircraft carrier, is deploying to the east coast of the United States where her crew will work alongside the US Navy for operational testing of British F-35B Lightning jets.

The tests are part of Westlant 19, which will see the carrier work alongside American and British ships, helicopters and fighter jets.

In total, seven British F-35Bs are taking part, as well as pilots, deck crew and F-35s from the US Marine Corps.

Commodore Mike Utley, Commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group (CSG), said: It's a massive enterprise of thousands of people that will deploy on this next deployment who will take the next step from being able to operate Lightning aircraft from this ship and put that all together with the broader capability set.

"This is a hugely exciting point in the carrier strike programme."

The aircraft carrier passes Portsmouth's city walls (Picture: Royal Navy).
The aircraft carrier passes Portsmouth's city walls (Picture: Royal Navy).

Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon and Type 23 frigate HMS Northumberland will sail alongside HMS Queen Elizabeth as part of a Carrier Task Group.

Last year saw a similar exercise take place, but this time, there will be more personnel on the ship.

HMS Queen Elizabeth Commanding Officer, Captain Steve Moorhouse, said: "This time we will embark more aircrew, supporting staff, Royal Marines, the Battle staff that come with us. 

"So we'll sail with somewhere near 1,500 people when we go across the Atlantic."

Watch: before HMS Queen Elizabeth set sail for America, we took a look inside the aircraft carrier

In July, HMS Queen Elizabeth was forced to return to her home base of Portsmouth following a major leak which caused more than 200 tonnes of water to pour into the ship

Captain Moorhouse said leaks on the aircraft carrier are a "weekly" problem but insisted the ship is safe and ready for deployment.

"I reckon the average is a flood a week in every ship I have been captain of," he said.

"You shouldn't be surprised about that, you buy a new house or new car, bits and bobs of this ship were put together six/seven years ago, and the fact that a seal leaks and the amount of water you get on a ship like this is more than you get on a P2000.

"The design is absolutely world class but it's inevitable that seals and valves can fail if you haven't run systems for years, it's not a surprise."

A few repairs have been made on the flight deck after the leak but the material itself has proved a revelation. 

Captain James Blackmore said: "It's unmarked and that's had 70 landings of an F-35 on it already and it hasn't burnt the deck.

"That's crucial to the way we operate the aircraft, so we can remain flexible and bring lots of aircraft to the same spots and deliver mission effectiveness quickly."

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