Aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has launched the first ever UK F-35 ‘4-ship package’ for a reconnaissance mission.
Count them out 1️⃣2️⃣3️⃣4️⃣
— HMS Queen Elizabeth🇬🇧 (@HMSQNLZ) June 26, 2020
HMS Queen Elizabeth is undergoing an intense period of flying training having successfully completed four weeks of basic sea training earlier. The aim, say the Royal Navy, is to demonstrate that the jets can successfully defend the aircraft carrier by delivering combat air patrols – launching from the ship to conduct strike missions against a target – and being ready to take off at short notice.
This is all part of a journey to enable the carrier, her aircraft and her escorts to deploy operationally next year. 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.”
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.