Next year, HMS Queen Elizabeth will deploy with two frigates, two destroyers, a nuclear submarine and support vessels.
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.
The ship will also carry 24 F-35B jets, including US Marine Corps aircraft, in addition to a number of helicopters.
Prior to the deployment, it is understood that the Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group will go through a work-up trial off the west Hebrides range sometime in early 2021.
When asked about whether or not the UK has enough escorts to do this without impacting other commitment, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:
“The size and the scale of the escort depends on the deployments and the task that the carrier is involved in. If it is a NATO tasking in the north Atlantic, for example, you would expect an international contribution to those types of taskings, in the same way as we sometimes escort the French carrier or American carriers to make up that.
It is definitely our intention, though, that the carrier strike group will be able to be a wholly UK sovereign deployable group. Now, it is probably not necessary to do that every single time we do it, depending on the tasking, but we want to do that and test doing it. Once we have done that, depending on the deployment, of course, we will cut our cloth as required.”
Air Marshal Knighton added:
“The escorts that go with the carrier will depend on the circumstances. The work-up for carrier strike group 21 will be with British ships, because we need to demonstrate and prove that we can do that, but we are already engaged with international partners to understand how we will integrate an Arleigh Burke destroyer from the US or a Dutch destroyer into that package.”
Captain 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.”
It is understood that the 2021 deployment will see the Carrier Strike Group sail in the Mediterranean Sea, the Gulf and end up in the Pacific.