HMS Queen Elizabeth and her Carrier Strike Group will be joined by a detachment of US Marine Corps F-35B jets and US Navy destroyer, USS The Sullivans.

This confirms what has been planned for a long time as the UK and US have made it official by signing a ‘Joint Declaration’.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:

“This joint declaration paves the way for the US Navy and Marine Corps to be joining the HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH Carrier Strike Group this year for the inaugural Carrier Strike 21 deployment. I am delighted that the UK now possesses a 21st century Carrier Strike capability, which has been greatly assisted by the unswerving support and cooperation of the United States at all levels over the past decade. This deployment embodies the strength of our bilateral ties and reflects the depth and breadth of this vital defence and security partnership.”

The UK reached a major milestone in December when it declared its Carrier Strike programme had achieved Initial Operating Capability following a series of multi-national exercises throughout 2020. This Joint Declaration paves the way for a successful inaugural operational deployment of the UK Carrier Strike Group alongside its allies.

How many aircraft will the vessel carry on this deployment?

The plan, as I understand it, is around 24 jets plus helicopters. As pointed out above, US jets will be augmenting British jets.

Jerry Kyd, former commander of HMS Queen Elizabeth, commented on the initial deployment and the gradual increase in air wing numbers:

“We are constrained by the F-35 buy rate even though that was accelerated in SDSR in 2015, so initial operating capability numbers in 2020 are going to be very modest indeed. We will flesh it out with helicopters, and a lot depends on how many USMC F-35s come on our first deployment in 2021. But by 2023, we are committed to 24 UK jets onboard, and after that it’s too far away to say.”

Commodore Michael Utley, Commander United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group, is reported by Save The Royal Navy here as saying that HMS Queen Elizabeth will be escorted by two Type 45 destroyers, two Type 23 frigates, a nuclear submarine, a Tide-class tanker and RFA Fort Victoria.

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John Pattullo

nice to see some additional muscle in the group – an american destroyer in the mix also sends a strong signal and its always nice to see us operating with our american allies

barry white

I thinks you will find out soon that it will also have a Dutch ship joining as well
The UK has very strong ties with the Dutch armed forces
I could be wrong but i just have this feeling

Max Jones

That was the plan though it’s not certain now. Everything looks like it will be an exact repeat of GroupEx so far – 2 T45, 2 T23, 1 DDG + auxiliaries so it would make sense to get an extra European escort too.

The CSG is likely to also work on a shorter basis with various allies in the regions such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, other US vessels or any European ships on deployment in the relevant areas.


I still think the CSG is missing one T23. My reason for my thinking is as follows, the Tide/Fort will need to go off and get more fuel and supplies, which means she will need an escort. Also the T23s are the ASW ships, so they will need to sprint ahead or astern drift, listen, investigate and then do it again. If there is a ASW exersise which I think there will be one of the T23s if not both will be of station dealing with a potential sub. Yes I know we are not at war, but is this… Read more »

Paul T

AFAIK the only Concession to Fitting the MK41 VLS to a Type 45 is the Allocation of Space,which Currently Forms the Onboard Gym,so no Services of Any Note will be Pre-installed.

Max Jones

To comment on some of your core points: In a wartime scenario where the carrier strike group is operating independently for a prolonged period without access to friendly ports, there would be more escorts. In that scenario there is a decent chance of a larger strike group in general but also additional warships in the general area which could accompany auxiliaries to ports. In this situation the carrier group will only need replenishment for long range transport across oceans like the Pacific but the group as a whole including escorts will regularly visit ports where they have opportunities to refuel.… Read more »


I believe the cloggies have already committed one of their escorts to the QE deployment….However I could be wrong.


Glad to have a joint force, always good to see cooperation with allies. The buy rate is the tricky thing with the F-35B, and I’d rather take it slow now and get the later block aircraft that will require fewer updates- I don’t like the idea of accelerating the buy before Block IV is standard. That said, I’ll be disappointed if we don’t have a full 10-12 aircraft squadron on board for our first deployment. That raises the question: Does anyone know what the set size of an F-35 squadron is? I think I saw somewhere that the USN is… Read more »

Meirion X

USN airwing squadrons have historically been large, of 14-18 aircraft.
And USMC squadrons as well.

Last edited 1 month ago by Meirion X

Thanks, I wasn’t aware of that.
I was just going off some open source stuff I’d seen about the composition of the new air wing that’s deployed to the Pacific Fleet- the one with F-35Cs and F/A-18s. But I wouldn’t call any of it definitive, hence the question.

Patrick Bechet

You’re not aware of it because it’s not true. A F/A-18 Squadron is currently 10 or 11 jets and Growler squadrons 5 jets. In the old days an A-6 Squadron would have 8-10 A-6Es and sometimes 4 KA-6Ds, an F-14 Squadron 12 aircraft and Hornet/ Corsair squadrons 12 aircraft. As for F-35 squadrons, the USMC F-35B squadrons have 16 jets, F-35C squadrons have 10; Navy F-35C squadrons have 10 but the Navy recently announced that the new Airwing design requires 16 F-35s, which may be one large squadron or two smaller (8 aircraft) squadrons- they didn’t say.

Max Jones

They tend to count anything from 6 and up. GroupEx with 15 was considered two squadrons and that’s about 8 a piece.

Long term, though, I expect a full sized squadron is expected to be 12 jets since most of the numbers are in 12s (24, 36, etc.)


Thanks, I assumed as much, but wasn’t sure if there was anything set in stone about 12 aircraft. It seems to be quite difficult to work out how many aircraft we have available, compared to the US who have a slightly more transparent approach to showing how many squadrons they have, how many aircraft, what their availability rates are, etc.


There is no such thing as a ‘interim’ operational capibilty in my view – our defence assets are either in a proper degree of readiness to be sent into action or they are not. Interim capabilty sounds a tad too much the time honoured ‘teething troubles’ excuse for poor performance that has blighted military performance so often in the past. Not so long ago we were able to commission a warship, have it spend a appropriate amount of time in ‘work up’ and then have said vessel join the operational fleet fully prepared and ready for its expected tasks. The… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Moonstone

Of course it would have been better if we’d never had a capability gap and if we already had 24 RN/RAF jets available to make up a full operation compliment but we are where we are and this is the right way forward. We ARE moving forward.

John Hartley

Fantasy wishlist to make the most of QE/PoW. 1 A few T26 to the Canadian spec with Spy7, an extra 8 cell VLS, 8x NSM, torp tubes. RCN issued a fact sheet available online recently. 2 Any future F-35B ought to have the uprated engine, a heavy stand off weapon (Spice 1000?) & some sort of extra fuel such as drop or saddle tanks. 3 Half a dozen CMV-22 for the FAA, so we can stay connected to the carrier when it is far out to sea. CMV-22 cost $105 million each with initial spares package. 4 A study on… Read more »


Can understand your thinking however there is a few issues. 1 Type 26 with Spy7, whilst the Spy7 is a good radar I am not sure if it is as good as SAMPSON. Not only that but by using Spy7 you are changing the role of the Type 26 from a anti sub frigate with air defence ability to an Anti Air Destroyer. So possibly such a configuration could be used as the base line for the Type 45 replacement. Apart from the Artisan radar the T26 is a well thought out design and well equipped, the only thing missing… Read more »


I note there is an awful lot of political fallout presently in Canada about the large increases in costs associated with their program and all that high tech equipment it is eating up (mostly American) though thankfully Lockheed Martin seems to be in the firing line at the moment.


Yeep, noticed that SPY7 is causing some finacial headaches also to Japan.

Andrew Breen

Beautiful heading picture with a “lively” sea. I hope there is a USS “The Simpsons”.


So how many British F35s will be on QE when she deploys?


They managed 8 last year. You’d think it’d be more for the big operational deployment, but a squadron of 12 out of the 18 currently in service might be a stretch.


Oh dear, your previous sad troll post on the MCM story has confirmed you are a troll account. Something we all know but love the crayon eating reactions you give.