HMS Queen Elizabeth Back In Portsmouth Ahead Of Carrier Strike Group Deployment

Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has returned to Portsmouth Naval Base ahead of setting sail on Carrier Strike Group 21.

For the first time, she entered Portsmouth with F-35B Lightning II jets on her flight deck.

The £3.2bn vessel has been preparing for the mission by undergoing training off the coast of Scotland with her Carrier Strike Group and NATO allies.

HMS Queen Elizabeth - the joint biggest and most powerful warship ever built for the Navy - had been expected to complete her pre-deployment preparations at anchor in the Solent following Exercise Strike Warrior.

However, poor weather forecasts mean this will now be done alongside at the naval base. 

Personnel will remain on board the carrier as part of COVID-19 measures.

Other ships deploying as part of the Carrier Strike Group will complete their pre-deployment preparations at Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth and Clyde in Faslane.

The Carrier Strike Group is expected to set sail as planned for the deployment which is the Navy's biggest in more than a decade. 

It will see the ships sail more than 26,000 nautical miles, travelling through the Atlantic, Mediterranean Sea, Suez Canal, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, South China Sea and more.

Over 28 weeks, the group will also visit India, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and the wider region.

F 35B aircraft on deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth in Portsmouth 190521 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
HMS Queen Elizabeth entered Portsmouth with F-35B Lightning II jets on the flight deck.

What ships and aircraft are also deploying?

Eight ships are joining HMS Queen Elizabeth, the nation's flagship, on the Carrier Strike Group 21 deployment.

Four Royal Navy ships will sail alongside the 65,000-tonne carrier - Type 45 destroyers HMS Defender and HMS Diamond, plus Type 23 frigates HMS Kent and HMS Richmond. 

A Royal Navy Astute-class submarine will also be deployed in support.

Whilst American destroyer USS The Sullivans and Dutch ship HNLMS Evertsen are also part of the formation.

Watch: What makes up a Carrier Strike Group?

The task group will be supported by two ships from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary - RFA Tidespring and RFA Fort Victoria - which will help replenish the other vessels with supplies, equipment, fuel and food. 

Aircraft from several squadrons will also help make up the Carrier Strike Group.

This includes eight UK F-35B Lightning jets which will be flown by the RAF's 617 Squadron, plus 10 F-35s from the US Marine Corps' VMFA-211 Squadron.

Wildcat helicopters will be flown by 815 Naval Air Squadron, and Merlins will also be operated by 820 Naval Air Squadron and 845 Naval Air Squadron. 

In total, 3,700 personnel will be a part of the Carrier Strike Group, including personnel from 42 Commando, Royal Marines.

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