The Queen

The Queen Visits HMS Queen Elizabeth Ahead Of CSG 21 Deployment

The Queen has been welcomed on board Royal Navy flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth ahead of her first operational deployment to the Indo-Pacific region.

The £3bn warship, with eight RAF F-35B stealth fighter jets on board, will depart later on Saturday for Asia accompanied by six British ships, a submarine, 14 naval helicopters and a company of Royal Marines.

The Queen was greeted by the ship's commanding officer Captain Angus Essenhigh, and Commodore Stephen Moorhouse, commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group (CSG), as she arrived by helicopter on board the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier at Portsmouth Naval Base.

Captain Angus Essenhigh, Queen Elizabeth II and Commodore Steve Moorhouse on HMS Queen Elizabeth ahead of the ship's maiden deployment 220521 CREDIT PA Alamy.jpg
The Queen on HMS Queen Elizabeth with Captain Angus Essenhigh and Commodore Steve Moorhouse (Picture: PA/Alamy).

Her tour follows a visit by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday.

The 28-week deployment will cover 26,000 nautical miles travelling through the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, then from the Gulf of Aden to the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean to the Philippine Sea.

The CSG will carry out visits to 40 countries including India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore with more than 70 engagements, including sailing alongside the French carrier Charles De Gaulle in the Mediterranean.

As well as the UK military units involved in the CSG, HMS Queen Elizabeth will also have a squadron of 10 US Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II jets embarked and be accompanied by the US destroyer USS The Sullivans and the Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said the deployment "will be flying the flag for global Britain – projecting our influence, signalling our power, engaging with our friends and reaffirming our commitment to addressing the security challenges of today and tomorrow".

The carrier had not been expected to return to Portsmouth after taking part in a major exercise off Scotland and the CSG had been expected to gather in the Solent prior to departure.

But heavy winds led to the unscheduled stop in the naval base with most of the other ships waiting at Devonport to regroup before sailing for the Mediterranean.

PM Boris Johnson looks on as he stands on the deck of aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth in Portsmouth 210521 CREDIT NUMBER 10 FLICKR
Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited HMS Queen Elizabeth on Friday (Picture: No. 10/Flickr).

Accompanying HMS Queen Elizabeth will also be a surface fleet made up of Type 45 destroyers HMS Defender and HMS Diamond, Type 23 anti-submarine frigates HMS Kent and HMS Richmond, and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary's RFA Fort Victoria and RFA Tidespring.

The Royal Navy Astute-class submarine will also be deployed, armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles.

As well as the stealth fighters, four Wildcat maritime attack helicopters, seven Merlin Mk2 anti-submarine helicopters and three Merlin Mk4 commando helicopters will be embarked – the greatest quantity of helicopters assigned to a single UK Task Group in a decade.

Cover image: PA/Alamy.