Sea vessels

HMS Queen Elizabeth Returns To Portsmouth After Leading Carrier Strike Group Exercises

Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has returned to base after forming a UK Carrier Strike Group for the first time for exercises in the North Sea.

Hundreds of families and well-wishers lined the harbour walls to welcome home the 65,000-tonne warship as it sailed into Portsmouth Naval Base, having taken part in the multinational GroupEx and Joint Warrior exercises.

During Exercise Joint Warrior, the Royal Navy described the UK Carrier Strike Group as "the largest and most powerful European-led maritime force in almost 20 years".

Two squadrons of F-35B stealth jets – the RAF’s 617 Squadron (The Dambusters) and the US Marine Corps VMFA-211 (The Wake Island Avengers) – were embarked on the 65,000-tonne ship. 

With a total of 14 jets, and eight Merlin helicopters, it was the largest concentration of fighter jets to operate at sea from a Royal Navy carrier since HMS Hermes in 1983.

It was also the largest number of warplanes to embark on the aircraft carrier yet. 

Royal Navy Type 45 destroyers HMS Diamond and HMS Defender formed part of the Carrier Strike Group, as well as frigates HMS Northumberland and HMS Kent.

Ships from the US and the Netherlands were also involved with helping to protect HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The vessels were supported by Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships, RFA Tideforce and RFA Fort Victoria, supplying fuel, food, spares and ammunition. 

HMS Queen Elizabeth with other vessels as part of the Carrier Strike Group (Picture: Royal Navy).
HMS Queen Elizabeth with other vessels as part of the Carrier Strike Group (Picture: Royal Navy).

HMS Queen Elizabeth's deployment from Portsmouth to form the Carrier Strike Group was delayed last month following cases of coronavirus among her crew and changing weather forecasts. 

The aircraft carrier, which costs more than £3bn, is expected to deploy on operations for the first time in 2021.

Eleven nations, 6,000 personnel, 81 aircraft, 28 ships and two submarines have been taking part in Exercise Joint Warrior. 

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