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 this include?

The Royal Navy's HMS Queen Elizabeth has returned to her home base of Portsmouth and is "on the cusp of operations".

The £3 billion aircraft carrier has been in UK waters undergoing sea and flight trials for 70 days ahead of her maiden deployment in 2021.

The training included working alongside HMS Kent and her Merlin helicopter, as well as flight trials with UK F-35B fighter jets from RAF Marham in the North Sea.

Her return marks the first time she has arrived in Portsmouth as a "fully-trained aircraft carrier", according to the Royal Navy.

When the carrier embarks on her first operational deployment, the ship will need a Carrier Strike Group to protect her.

Last year, HMS Queen Elizabeth arrived in Canada along with other Royal Navy ships to spearhead a Carrier Strike Group (CSG) deployment.

Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon and Type 23 frigate HMS Northumberland sailed alongside the £3 billion aircraft carrier as part of the CSG.

Both Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, will require escorts in the form of CSGs when they deploy on operational duties.

What could make up the Carrier Strike Groups?

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.

RFA Tideforce was part of the Carrier Strike Group on Westlant 19 in Canada last year. 

In 2018, 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, 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).

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

The two ships will call on other vessels to support them, including Type 45 destroyers, Type 23 frigates, Astute Class submarines and, in the longer term, Type 26 frigates.

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

F-35s will operate from the UK's Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers for the next 50 years (Picture: Lockheed Martin/MOD).

Cover image: HMS Kent and HMS Queen Elizabeth together during training at sea (Royal Navy).