The UK Carrier Strike Group has new leadership, having welcomed a new commander in Commodore James Blackmore, who replaces the outgoing Commodore Angus Essenhigh OBE.
Good wishes and thanks were shared on Twitter after the Carrier Strike Group account posted a farewell message to Cdre Essenhigh, who takes up a new role at the UK Hydrographic Office.
The Twitter post said: "We bid farewell to Commodore Angus Essenhigh OBE RN and wish him good luck for his next role at @UKHO (UK Hydrographic Office)."
The role of the Carrier Strike Group is to act as a self-contained force that can work independently or as part of wider operations.
Under 18 months of Commodore Essenhigh's direction, the group deployed on Operation Achillean in autumn 2022, including the first visit by HMS Queen Elizabeth to Oslo.
Promoted to Rear Admiral, he now moves on to take over as the National Hydrographer at the UK Hydrographic Office in Taunton – following in the footsteps of his father who was the Royal Navy's senior hydrographer in the 1990s.
"It's been a huge privilege and very fulfilling to command the UK Carrier Strike Group – the apex of the UK's conventional warfighting capability," said Adm Essenhigh.
'Honoured and privileged' to take command
New commander Cdre Blackmore is one of the most experienced naval aviators, a Harrier pilot who has also flown F/A-18 Super Hornets with the US Navy, been in charge of air operations on HMS Queen Elizabeth, then commanded the entire air wing which deployed with the Carrier Strike Group (CSG) to the Pacific in 2021.
Cdre Blackmore said he was "honoured and privileged" to take command of the UK CSG.
"We are in a time more than ever when the Royal Navy must be ready to face increasingly competitive and modern challenges across the globe, and I am truly confident in our ability to project British sea and air power from our the Strike Group centred on our Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers," he said.
"Having previously served with the Carrier Strike Group as Strike Warfare and Air Wing Commander (CAG) during Operation Fortis in 2021, this will be an exciting opportunity to see Carrier Strike capability grow under my tenure over the next three years."
The Carrier Strike Group is compatible with Nato and will often include allies.
This means that while the carrier herself and her F-35 Lightning jets are ever-present, the rest of the formation can be made up of submarines, warships and support vessels from other navies.
With additional ships, and aircraft from the UK's allies, the Carrier Strike Force can comprise 10 ships and submarines or more, and in excess of 30 F-35s and helicopters, operated by around 3,700 personnel, deploying for six months or longer.
"The Carrier Strike Group offers cutting-edge air, surface and underwater defence, but it is also a focal point for the worldwide democratic activity that is more powerful than any weaponry," the Royal Navy says.
Cdre Blackmore takes charge of the force as it gears up for an annual autumn deployment, this year in the waters of northern Europe with the UK's allies in the Joint Expeditionary Force.
That will be followed by Steadfast Defender 2024, one of the largest and most important workouts in the Nato calendar as the CSG begins preparations for a global deployment in 2025.