Navy

What Makes Up A Carrier Strike Group?

Once HMS Queen Elizabeth becomes fully operational she will need a Carrier Strike Group up to escort her - but what will that include?

F-35B aircraft landed on the deck of the UK's new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time last week.

The landing was completed by US aircraft, flown by British pilots.

British jets will land on deck when HMS Queen Elizabeth returns to the UK.

The UK now has 16 of a planned 138 F-35B jets.

The aircraft arrived at their Marham home for the first time earlier this year.

HMS Queen Elizabeth successfully crossed the Atlantic Ocean and reached the United States last month, where it is part of flight trials.

HMS Monmouth set sail from Devonport to join HMS Queen Elizabeth in August to head to the US.

The Type 23 frigate joins the aircraft carrier acting as its escort for the next four months.

HMS Queen Elizabeth will be fully operational in her Carrier Strike role in 2021.

But when the carrier is fully operational following the completion of trials, what could make up the Carrier Strike Group?

What Forms A Carrier Strike Group?

Protecting an aircraft carrier is a large scale task.

They require escorts in the form of Type 23 frigates, which have anti-submarine capabilities, and Type 45 destroyers with sophisticated air defence systems.

Minehunter vessels may also need to be deployed in case of a threat, with submarines providing vital protection beneath the surface.

1990s carrier strike group
Carrier HMS Ark Royal in the 1990s surrounded by an RFA fleet tanker, the Sandown-class minehunter, HMS Cromer and carrier escort ship HMS Gloucester.

A Carrier Strike Group will also need a replenishment ship, provided by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

This would contain all weaponry needs, as well as food for the sailors.

Earlier this year RFA Fort Rosalie delivered vital supplies to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Arabian Gulf.

Fort Rosalie transferred 96 pallets of stores to the Roosevelt, known as the Big Stick, as part of her tasking with the aircraft carrier's strike group.

British personnel from RFA Fort Rosalie joined the US strike group in the Gulf - they used the trip to see first hand how operations are conducted aboard a US vessel, ahead of the RFA supporting the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

USS Theodore Roosevelt in the South China sea (Credit: DVIDS)
A US Carrier Strike Group supporting and protecting the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the South China Sea (Picture: US Department of Defense).

A US strike group could contain a Nimitz-class carrier, Ticonderoga-class cruiser, Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, Los Angeles-class attack submarine and Supply-class replenishment ship - however, this could change depending on the ships needs.

The Royal Navy's new generation of aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales cost around £3 billion each.

But what will be protecting the two ships is yet to be formally announced.

When asked in a written parliamentary statement in January former Defence Minister Guto Bebb kept his answer broad, saying:

“The Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers will operate as part of a maritime task group that will be configured to meet the required task.

"The precise number and mix of vessels deployed will depend on the operational circumstances at the time.

"We will be able to draw from a range of modern and highly capable vessels to support the carriers, such as the Type 45 destroyers, Type 23 frigates, Astute Class submarines and, in the longer term, the Type 26 frigates."

HMS Queen Elizabeth is expected to embark on its first operational deployment in 2021.

More: What Is It Like On Board HMS Queen Elizabeth?