HMS Queen Elizabeth sailed from Portsmouth for a period of operational training, say the Royal Navy.
According to a news release, the aircraft carrier will undergo several weeks of training and assessment with the staff of Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) to ensure the UK can deliver on its commitment to have a Carrier Strike Group ready to deploy from the end of this year.
“While many Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel from the regular and reserve forces remain ashore supporting the current national fight against COVID-19, the ship’s company of HMS Queen Elizabeth are focused on ensuring that UK Defence remains prepared for future global threats. HMS Queen Elizabeth will be put through her paces in UK waters off the south coast, facing simulated battle damage, fires and floods, as well as warfare training and mission rehearsals.
The training will include more qualifying training for UK F35 Lightning fighter jet crews, who will be conducting practice manoeuvres from her decks, giving vital experience to the aircrews and ship’s company involved in air operations. This training will prepare the ship for further training later in the year with other Royal Navy ships to ensure they are ready to deploy as a task group next year.”
The sailing comes after outbreaks caused issues for the USS Theodore Roosevelt, kept the USS Harry Truman at sea and forced the return of the FS Charles de Gaulle. So what are the Royal Navy doing to keep the crew safe?
The whole of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s ship’s company was tested for COVID-19 prior to her departure.
Stephen Morgan, the Shadow Minister for Defence, the Armed Forces and Defence Procurement, asked via a written question:
“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what contingency plans are in place to tackle an outbreak of covid-19 on board HMS Queen Elizabeth while that vessel is on exercise.”
According to James Heappey, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, the following actions were taken:
“The whole of HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH’s ship’s company will be tested for COVID-19 prior to her departure for a period of Operational Sea Training. The Royal Navy is well prepared to respond to COVID-19 and has well-rehearsed plans in place for dealing with health matters. Public Health England (PHE) guidelines on social distancing will be followed by the ship’s company where practical. It is acknowledged that it is difficult to socially distance within a warship, and there will be a number of essential operational and training tasks where this will not be possible.
To reduce the risk of transmission, further emphasis is being placed on the cleaning of communal areas and personal hygiene. In addition, members of the ship’s company who are, or whose households are, symptomatic will be isolated before embarking, in accordance with PHE self-isolation guidelines. QUEEN ELIZABETH will sail with a medical facility including a full complement of medical staff and doctors. Any individual who experiences symptoms will be isolated onboard in accordance with PHE guidelines and receive the appropriate medical attention.”
The planned sailing of aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth had been postponed to allow Covid-19 testing for the ship’s company to take place, additionally, the Captain of the vessel also has authority to cut the deployment short, should that be required for health reasons.