NATO's Secretary General Visits HMS Queen Elizabeth On Exercise Steadfast Defender

HMS Queen Elizabeth has been visited by NATO Secretary General during the alliance's biggest exercise this year.

Taking place across land and sea, Exercise Steadfast Defender sees military personnel deployed from North America to the Black Sea and off the coast of Portugal.

The exercise aims to test the alliance's readiness and military mobility and HMS Queen Elizabeth has been among the 20 ships participating.

Jens Stoltenburg said the Royal Navy's flagship was a powerful demonstration of the UK's vital contribution to NATO.

"The first aircraft carrier in the world designed to operate fifth-generation combat aircraft – from these decks, [HMS] Queen Elizabeth projects power to keep us all safe," he said.

It comes as HMS Queen Elizabeth departed from HMNB Portsmouth on her maiden deployment, Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG 21), earlier this week.

Mr Stoltenburg added that as the carrier both "carries US Marines" and "is protected by a Dutch frigate", it is a "perfect example of Europe and North America working together in NATO".

HMS Queen Elizabeth and USS The Sullivans alongside HMNB Portsmouth prior to sailing on Carrier Strike Group 21
HMS Queen Elizabeth departed from HMNB Portsmouth on her maiden deployment, Carrier Strike Group 21, earlier this week (Picture: MOD).

Sixty aircraft, 500 vehicles and more than 9,000 personnel are deployed on the exercise, which Mr Stoltenburg said "reflects NATO's resolve to deter and defend across the Euro-Atlantic area".

The exercise also sees NATO's 4,000-strong high readiness force deployed to Romania and the simulated rapid movement of allied forces and equipment across Europe.

It is the first large-scale test of NATO's adapted command structure and involves NATO's two new commands – Norfolk, Virginia, for the Atlantic and Ulm, Germany, for logistics.

Mr Stoltenberg was joined on the visit by Portuguese Defence Minister João Gomes Cravinho, Chair of the Military Committee Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Tod Wolters, and First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin.  

He later attended the Informal Meeting of European Union Defence Ministers in Lisbon for talks on a range of topics, including on further strengthening NATO-EU ties, as well as Russia, Afghanistan and China's rise.

Cover image: Jens Stoltenburg, NATO's Secretary General, aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth during Exercise Steadfast Defender (Picture: NATO).

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