Later this 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.

It is understood that the deployment will see the Carrier Strike Group sail in the Mediterranean Sea, the Gulf and end up in the Pacific before returning home

HMS Queen Elizabeth sailing with HMS Defender, HMS Diamond, HMS Northumberland, HMS Kent, RFA Fort Victoria and RFA Tideforce in addition to the USS The Sullivans and Dutch vessel HNLMS Evertsen.

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.

The Carrier Strike Group concept recently reached ‘Initial Operating Capability’.

British Carrier Strike Group declared operational

When asked about whether or not the UK has enough escorts to deploy a carrier group 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.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth at sea.

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.”

An MV-22 Osprey from HX-21 Air Test and Evaluation Squadron lands onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth.

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.”

A squadron of US Marine Corps F-35B jets will join British jets on the carrier for the deployment.

This all comes despite China recently warning the UK against sending a carrier to the South China Sea, one of the potential destinations for the group on its voyage.

Then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told Australian ministers in 2018 that HMS Queen Elizabeth would conduct freedom of navigation patrols in the disputed South China Sea region on her maiden deployment this year.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also said at the time:

“We spoke about the challenges including in the South China Sea and we had a long discussion about the Pacific and the opportunities for deeper British engagement in our part of the world.”

Johnson (now Prime Minister) said at the time in response to concerns raised regarding freedom of navigation in the South China Sea:

“One of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built is send them on a freedom of navigation operation to this area, to vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade.”

You can read more about this by going to the article linked to below.

China warns UK against sending carrier to South China Sea

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Captain P Wash

Well I guess that’s what she was built for after all….. Great to see though. Rule Britannia, so on so forth…..


Great picture of the flight deck with HMS Dragon in the background. Need more British F-35’s, a working AEW, and let’s get the interim anti ship program up and running… but what an awesome sight!


China can warn all it likes, but the World’s trade routes must remain clear of unwanted intervention. The future operations of the RN will be to step up considerably the ability to maintain the freedom of our nation’s sea trade. However, we all know the current fleet will need more hulls to accomplish this,(especially two simultaneous carrier deployments) I’m sure the Admiralty will be lobbying the Government incessantly, to provide the funds for this to be accomplished?

Supportive Bloke

I’ve never seen anything suggesting that the two carriers could be deployed other than in a crisis. With T31 and T32 on the cards at least there is some kind of thought process to increase frontline hull numbers. The pressure has come from lots of places: Jo Public banging on to their MP’s, Jeremy Hunt running the issue up the flag pole, broad cross party support for more hulls, and the Chinese and Russians have given it a good push to with their behaviors. HMG have come up with some funding to end the penny pinching days let’s home the… Read more »


The deployment of two carrier groups I doubt is standard practice, but in overstretched circumstances, the RN may need to operate two ‘C’ Groups once POW is fully commissioned? The most likely scenario would be the need for a ‘C’ Group in both the Med or Gulf and the Far East simultaneously, a strong possibility, considering developing World events?

Sceptical Richard

Will it have Crowsnest on board? I’m all for having the carriers and the capability they confer, but i think deploying them to the Far East is unnecessary tokenism. That area is for the US, Australia, Japan and S Korea to patrol. We’ve got enough fish to fry with the N Atlantic, Mediterranean and Gulf regions.


If I understand correctly there will be three crows nest systems on board. However they are the test and evaluation systems, so not fully operational.

Captain P Wash

Not fully but more than capable…. apparently.

Sceptical Richard


David Flandry

I believe the plan is for five AEW helicopters per carrier eventually, and nine ASW copters.

Captain P Wash

Yes There will be…. and they will be up and at it too………… Horses mouth.

Sceptical Richard

Thanks Captain!

Supportive Bloke

I see CrowsNest as a bit of a stopgap until something more sophisticated and drone orientated comes along.

Whilst CrowsNest is essential for short term sovereign use, the presence of 12+ USMC jets will ensure overwatch as needed from our friends in the USA.

Cooperation from the Japanese too, on an interoperability training basis is pretty sure to happen as well.

Maybe this is also more “Join the navy, see the World?” Rather then wearing grooves in the Atlantic and Greenland Gap doing ASW……might be good for crew morale?

Captain P Wash

Every Weapon/capability is a stop gap until something else comes along though…… The trick is to be able to use it in the most productive and lethal way.

David Barry

Although when the septics achieve and… accept… SRVL they will be able to provide a very credible CAP capability and IF they can communicate via Link 16 one hopes that they can add to the picture of the one provided by Crowsnest.

(I assume that a Brit 35 will be able to communicate with the mother ship and therefore the USMC will do as well)


Hi SB……do the Japanese have F35b’s and would they like an aircraft carrier to play on…….
Thanks Ian


How does ‘drone operated’ help. The equipment has to be of a certain size and weight. It has to take off and importantly land. Our carriers are very good but conventional planes as opposed to VTOL need catapults and arrestors.
I dont see how drones help in any way. And I’m still not sure that a helicopter really helps… how long can they loiter and how high can they fly and how viable in less than ideal weather?

Glass Half Full

It probably depends on what one visualizes with “drone operated”. I’ve posted it before but the following link demonstrates the type of UAV platform that might make unmanned carrier and other warship based VSTOL AEW practical, with better range and endurance than helicopters. This solution supports VTOL, STOL as well as CTOL. This solution, developed to support long range cargo delivery in places like Alaska, is basically a helicopter turboshaft engine generating electrical power for electrical lift/propulsion motors. It carries a VTOL payload of up to 5,400 lbs / 2,455 kg over a distance of 1000 nm / 1850… Read more »

Glass Half Full

Here’s a a link to their YT videos if interetsed.


The Endurance of the Merlin and the Hawkeye are pretty similar actually. Merlin is 5 hours and Hawkeye is 6 hours.

Peter S

Agree completely. To make a real statement, what is needed is a big multi national task force including all the countries most affected by Chinese claims and led by USN. Maybe the UK could contribute but to send incompletely equipped carriers won’t impress anybody and could end in embarrassment.

lamda baryon

Just to be pedantic COMUKCSG is Commodore S Moorhouse. R Adm Mike Utley is Commander Uk maritime forces.

Still excellent news and must be a lot of matlot’s looking forward to May next year.

Daniele Mandelli

Good stuff.


Don’t forget the buckets, hand pumps and American allies and their planes
Rule Britan…………………

Robert Blay

See you next Tuesday.

Trevor W Hogg

Can’t make it Tuesday would Thursday be ok

Robert Blay



Russian trolling much ?lol

Trevor W Hogg

Harold you comments make you look a bit of a Mid week………… Tuesday, Wednesday And Thursday

Meirion X

He will Die, without the Oxygen of attention!


True but its like helping out a simple, crayon eating child. But his posts are getting more rubbish than ever, even I may have to give up on him. Cheers.


Used to be called Albion, mmmmmmm now where have we seen a bastardised and sadly , a stolen version of that……….mmmmmmmm


Wish they had more TLAMs to help knock down the door if needed.

David Barry

When it comes to kicking in the back doors, I would suggest that HM matelot is just the chap, ask Captain Pugwash!

Captain P Wash

Ha, just read this. Where were you in 82 mate ?

Captain P Wash

In fact Where were you in 91. Take the piss all you like mate, after all this site isn’t about Defence anymore, just a nice little safe place for Trolls.

John Stott

Sadly I found this site is a little club, like FB. It’s not possible to project radical ideas without the club rubbishing said ideas. A few contributors seem to have operational experience, the rest? Sadly lacking.

David Flandry

The force will have 1/5 of all UK escorts. Pitiable.


Hopefully QE and her task group make it here into Sydney Harbour during the deployment.

The last RN carrier I saw here in Sydney, and visited too, was Ark Royal when she was here during the 1988 Bicentennial celebration, the Sea Harriers also took part in the Bicentennial air show too.

I wonder if the RAF will, or be able to, send any of their new P-8A aircraft during the deployment?

And talking of P-8A, the Government here in Oz announced a week ago that two more P-8A are to be procured bringing the fleet to 14 aircraft.



Out of interest and a slight tangent. How does a sub operate in a carrier strike force? Does it sail “ahead” or in a particular pattern as a sub-surface warning platform? Or is it included purely as a sub-surface deterrent?

Impressive article photo too!