HMS Queen Elizabeth, the flagship of the Royal Navy and the UK’s most powerful warship, is under NATO command for the first time.
This milestone was announced via a NATO tweet, which underscored the deployment of the British aircraft carrier alongside allied forces for the #NeptuneStrike exercise.
HMS Queen Elizabeth, @RoyalNavy’s largest and most powerful ship ever built, sails under NATO command for the first time.
— NATO (@NATO) November 9, 2023
The Royal Navy said in a statement:
“Control of HMS Queen Elizabeth and the UK Carrier Strike Group (UKCSG) comprised of frigate HMS Kent, destroyer HMS Diamond, aircraft, including F-35B Lightning jets, Wildcat and Merlin helicopters, and support ships was transferred to NATO to create a potent task group able to operate across a vast area from the length and breadth of the Mediterranean and north to the Baltic Sea.
Three aircraft carriers have been under NATO’s command – with the UKCSG deployed to the North Sea, the Italian ITS Cavour and Spanish ESP Juan Carlos in the Mediterranean – knitting together cutting-edge forces ready to shield every inch of the alliance’s airspace, waterways and territory.
Warships from 21 nations are deployed on the exercise – codenamed Neptune Strike – and are under the command and control of NATO’s Naval and Striking Support Forces, a battle staff under the Supreme Allied Commander Europe tasked with rapidly planning and executing operations wherever needed.
Neptune Strike is ‘enhanced vigilance activity’ – basically showing that NATO remains as strong and relevant as ever and capable of the defensive commitments of the alliance.
When any Royal Navy ship and its crew is under NATO command it is carrying out duties of vital importance to the alliance for a set period as part of the nation’s staunch commitment to the security of its allies and partners. Once that operation is complete – or when UK requirements demand – the ships returns to RN control for further tasking.”
Commodore James Blackmore, Commander of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group, said:
“Deterrence and defence of the Euro Atlantic is at the heart of NATO, and our enhanced vigilance activity with Neptune Strike is a clear demonstration of that. This is the first time a UK Carrier Strike Group has been commanded by NATO in my memory, so this is momentous for the UK and the alliance. I look forward to a full week of activity ahead, and much more in the future; we are stronger together.”
What is the Carrier Strike Group doing?
The UK Carrier Strike Group, led by flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth, recently completed the first phase of its autumn deployment. This involved participating in a series of simulated strike missions in the North Sea and Norwegian Sea alongside international naval partners.
“HMS Queen Elizabeth and her embarked jets and helicopters have proven their ability to provide the “punch” of the UK Carrier Strike Group during a series of simulated strike missions alongside international partners”, the press release stated.
Joining the aircraft carrier for these combat simulations were several ships from the UK and allied nations. Among these were the Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond, Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker RFA Tideforce, Norwegian ships HNoMS Otto Sverdrup and HNoMS Maud, Dutch ships HNLMS De Zeven Provincien and HNLMS Van Amstel, and the Belgian frigate BNS Louise Marie.
The exercises featured HMS Queen Elizabeth’s F-35 Lightning fighter jets from 617 Squadron, Merlin helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron, and Wildcat helicopters from 815 and 847 Naval Air Squadrons. Their missions varied, ranging from defending against aerial threats to suppressing enemy air defences and executing strike attacks.
Additionally, HMS Queen Elizabeth and her Carrier Strike Group showcased their medical capabilities, including advanced resuscitation techniques, trauma surgery, and casualty evacuations.
The next phase of the deployment will feature UK forces collaborating with ships and personnel from Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) nations, which include countries such as Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden.
Commodore James Blackmore, Commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group, was quoted as saying, “CSG23 is off to a great start. Integrated training within the air and maritime environments, and alongside our European allies, has demonstrated the capability and agility of UK Carrier Strike.”
“Integrated training within the air and maritime environments, and alongside our European allies, has demonstrated the capability and agility of UK Carrier Strike”, reaffirmed Blackmore.