The Royal Navy say that naval aviators grappled with 50 fighters and bombers over the North Sea to hone combat skills before joining HMS Queen Elizabeth for autumn exercises.
According to a news release:
“Eighty years since the Battle of Britain reached its climax in UK skies, British, US and Dutch jets have ‘joined battle’ for the latest Point Blank exercise. British, American and Dutch F-35 stealth fighters shared airspace with RAF Typhoons, US Air Force F-15 Strike Eagles, F-16s and even mighty B-52 bombers, while RAF Voyagers and American KC-135 Stratotankers kept fuel tanks topped up to allow the dogfights to continue.
Held every few months, Point Blank focuses on the ability of British and American air power to fly and fight side-by-side. The latest iteration of the exercise – the fourth held this year – expanded to embrace the Dutch (who operate the conventional, land-based version of the F-35, the A variant, rather than the ‘jump jet’ B version flown by the RN, RAF and US Marine Corps), while the Americans have also brought in two F-16 squadrons from Italy.”
617 Squadron and the US Marine Corps VMFA 211 Squadron F-35s are due to embark on HMS Queen Elizabeth in a few weeks for the final workout of the ship and her broader task group before they deploy for the first time in the new year.
This is in preparation for next year when 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.
Earlier in the year, HMS Queen Elizabeth cleared her penultimate hurdle for front-line duties after ten weeks around the UK, preparing for her maiden deployment in the new year.
“A final package of training in the autumn – working alongside NATO and US allies – will confirm her ability to act as a task group flagship, so that she can lead a potent carrier strike force on front-line operations anywhere in the world.”
The Royal Navy said at the time that in view of the size and complexity of the carrier, she received a dedicated training package, initially off the south coast, to test the ability of all 1,100 men and women on board to deal with everything they might expect to face in peace and war. The training package reached its climax with 18 fictional fire and flood incidents raging simultaneously – with the ship expected to continue flying operations while damage control teams toiled in the carrier’s depths.