UK Carrier Strike Group Declared Operational

The Carrier Strike Group is expected to reach Full Operating Capability by December 2023.

The UK's Carrier Strike Group has been declared ready for operations ahead of its first operational deployment this year.

The group - spearheaded by £3.2bn aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth - has achieved Initial Operating Capability, meaning all elements, from fighter jets to radar and anti-ship weapons, have been successfully brought together and operated.

It is expected to reach Full Operating Capability by December 2023, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) said.

Defence minister Jeremy Quin said: "This is a hugely significant milestone for HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Navy and the whole country.

"This achievement is a testament to the determination of our service personnel and industry workforce who have delivered this first-rate military capability, a capability held by only a handful of nations."

A Royal Navy spokesperson said last month HMS Queen Elizabeth will sail to the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and East Asia region on her "inaugural deployment" this year.

HMS Queen Elizabeth leads a Carrier Strike Group during Exercise Joint Warrior last October (Picture: Royal Navy).

The announcement comes after the UK Carrier Strike Group assembled for the first time in the North Sea in October as part of NATO's Exercise Joint Warrior.

It saw the largest number of aircraft on a Royal Navy carrier since 1983, as well as the most F-35B jets at sea across the globe. 

Carrier Strike Groups are designed to keep aircraft carriers safe whilst at sea.

Ships such as Type 23 frigates will provide anti-submarine capabilities, Type 45 destroyers will bring sophisticated air defence systems and submarines will provide vital protection beneath the surface.

A ship from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary will also be on hand to carry out replenishment, delivering stores, ammunition and food to the vessels.

The aircraft carriers can also launch their own aircraft, with the Queen Elizabeth-class vessels able to carry a maximum of 36 F-35B Lightning aircraft.

HMS Queen Elizabeth's sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, is currently alongside undergoing repairs worth an expected £3.3m after a flood in an engine room.

The Navy's second aircraft carrier is not expected to return to sea until May and is not yet operational.

Cover image: HMS Queen Elizabeth during Exercise Joint Warrior last year (Picture: Royal Navy).