The UK Carrier Strike Group — led by HMS Queen Elizabeth — is now at Initial Operating Capability, but how will it operate?

Initial Operating Capability, or IOC, means that all elements of the strike group have been successfully brought together, from fighter jets to radar and anti-ship weapons.

F-35B jets onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth.

What makes up the UK Carrier Strike Group?

The Ministry of Defence say that the group includes NATO’s most sophisticated destroyers — the Royal Navy’s Type 45s HMS Diamond and HMS Defender and US Navy Arleigh Burke-class USS The Sullivans as well as frigates HMS Northumberland and HMS Kent from the UK and the Dutch Navy’s HNLMS Evertsen.

“The task of protecting an aircraft carrier involves many ships, submarines and people. A Carrier Strike Group has an escort in the form of Type 23 Frigates and Type 45 destroyers, giving the strike group the ability to defend against above and below the sea threats.

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary also play a vital role, keeping the strike group replenished with food and armament. The Queen Elizabeth-class carriers will be deployed with up to two operational Lightning squadrons and 24 F-35Bs on board, with a maximum capacity allowing for up to 36.”

Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander UK Carrier Strike Group, said:

“The new UK Carrier Strike Group is the embodiment of British maritime power, and sits at the heart of a modernised and emboldened Royal Navy.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth (and 15 F-35B jets) 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.

How will it operate?

The strike group is the largest and most powerful European-led maritime force in almost 20 years.

The units that could be involved in the upcoming Carrier Strike Group 2021 deployment.

The Ministry of Defence say that the Carrier Strike Group “offers Britain choice and flexibility on the global stage, reassuring our friends and allies and presents a powerful deterrent to would-be adversaries”.

The Ministry of Defence say that the group includes NATO’s most sophisticated destroyers coming together from the Royal Navy, the US Navy and the Dutch Navy. They will not only protect the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers from enemy ships, submarines, aircraft and missiles, but are also capable of conducting a range of supporting missions, from maritime security to disaster relief.

Later this year, HMS Queen Elizabeth and her Carrier Strike Group will deploy to the Pacific.

British Carrier Strike Group to deploy to Pacific

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.

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That’s a great idea for a more in-depth article: how will the carrier strike group operate? A pity there was very little of that in the content. This was just an echo of the MoD getting its message out. Fine in a news journal, but the title promised so much more.

Supportive Bloke

George does have a day job too…..

George, who owns the site, does publish quite a few third party in depth write ups.

If you fancy writing it up better, why not have a go and send it to George and see what he says?

The form here tends to be that George posts the topics and then this sparks a debate with input, most of the time, from the knowledgable.

Nick C

A good point. I am sure that the pool of writers can throw up several who are itching to put their opinions out there.
I am going to be interested to see, among other things, how they cope with the COVID situation when they get to places like Australia. Are all the personnel going to be vaccinated before they go? I have seen nothing yet to suggest that the forces get any kind of priority.


Hi Nick C,

Two weeks at sea with no cases on board between ports of call and its job done I would suggest. Nothing quite like sitting in the middle of an ocean to underline true isolation.

All the crews have to go into some kind of isolation before sailing as well. Of course, a vaccine shot wouldn’t be a bad idea either just in case they cross paths with another one of those pesky variants.

Cheers CR

Mr Bell

Good point. If police and teachers are being vaccinated I would think the armed forces should be at the same time.


Nick C, Quarantine restrictions are pretty tight here in Australia for overseas arrivals, anyone arriving here by plane (for example), is put into quarantine for 14 days. It might appear harsh, but that’s why there are currently less than 200 active Covid cases here in Oz, there are only 32 people in hospital, and only 1 in intensive care. Australian Covid stats as at the 19th January 2021: I would imagine that no one will be getting off the ships for a wonder around, and also depending on what other places may have been visited prior to the ships… Read more »

Nick C

Sadly you are right, there won’t be any runs ashore in Oz this time. Interesting reading your stats, we really are world beating in the number of cases we have. About the only thing we can say is that we are getting ahead of the curve with the jab, but it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
Question. Will there be an Australian frigate joining the Task Group at any stage?

Mr Bell

It’s a pity Fort Victoria was never armed with the sea wolf system she was designed to take. Could she be fitted with sea captor before this deployment? Would make a very useful screening close range air defence picket.


Nick C, Will there be any RAN ships joining the task group? Nothing has been reported or said by either the RAN or Government at this stage. There hasn’t been much, if any, reporting of the UK Carrier deployment here in the Australian media as yet either. I would imagine there will be some RAN involvement, but we probably won’t hear anything until closer to the time. Yes sadly the UK Covid stats are mind boggling to say the least. As you’ve seen with the Oz stats I posted we’ve been very fortunate indeed, but you make your own luck… Read more »

Gavin Gordon

If the Dutch should not show, you’d be more than welcome to fill the vacancy.


Mate, I think it’s pretty reasonable to assume the RN and RAN will cross paths when you guys are in our part of the world, doesn’t happen that often.

But to what extent?

Could be anything from an RAN DDG or FFH joining with the QE task group, or at the other end of the spectrum, a more substantial RAN task group consisting of LHD, DDG, FFH, SSG and AOR for example.

Again at what level, we’ll just have to wait and see.



One of the reasons we have ‘world beating’ figures is that deaths are registered following a positive test, I think within last 28 days. You could literally fall of your roof, break your neck and be counted as a Covid death if you had a recent positive test. Mad!


There must be a shed load of people in the UK falling off roofs and breaking their necks …..


But it is also things like RTA deaths. Covid made you crash your car or walk in front of a bus!
Had 3 heart attacks in previous years, got a stent, had triple bypass surgery…Covid was the cause of death. Not the booze fags and greasy meals you ate for 50 years….

They are between a rock and a hard place.
There is no accurate way of reporting the deaths when the standard response appears to be no post mortem needed….stick COVID on the death certificate.


I have a few mates in the RAN and working in Aus as civvies now. They have locked down a couple of times due to outbreaks in the cities. I take it that its now back under control?


Gunbuster, Things here in Oz are pretty well under control at the moment. Different States have had varying levels of lockdown, at times borders have been closed from one State to the other. Here in New South Wales, there have been no new ‘locally’ acquired cases for 4 days, there have been 5 new cases from people who have returned from overseas, all overseas arrivals automatically go into quarantine for 14 days. Prevents outbreaks. With a current population of 25.5 million, we have ‘less than’ 200 active cases, 32 people in hospital, and only 1 in intensive care (see the… Read more »

Gavin Gordon

Actually witnessed someone fall off a house roof years back. Certainly made the hairs on my neck react. Bloke just got up looking slighty dazed. Falling off said roof with C19 obviously more lethal.


To be fair to George, the MOD is pretty terrible about telling people what they do with what they’ve got. I’m not talking operational security, I mean just standard stuff that the Us and other NATO coutnries would quite happily share. I haven’t looked very hard, but I’m pretty confident that there will be very little about how the CSG will operate in a conflict. That said, I think we can look at USN operations and potentially a bit of what we did in the Falklands as a guide. After all, many of our pilots and crew have cross trained… Read more »

Peter L Harrison

No mention of a RFA Tanker!


Tankers are one of the few things we’re not short of so one will certainly deploy with the rest of the carrier-group.

Gavin Gordon

Although not suggesting that the CSG would operate in the same manner during a peer level crisis, I do think we need to carry out a credible FON through the SCS by not giving disputed shoals fortified by the Chinese an unnecessarily wide berth. From both a political and operational standpoint we should test the Politburo’s response. Outside of any comments (or the lack of them) they make, their military commitment and tactics need to be confronted in order to calibrate both Chinese & our CSG’s strengths and weaknesses.

Barry Larking

I judge this to be a necessary incremental political step, not a military escalation. Several countries around the South China Sea have serious concerns that cannot be eased simply by soothing conversations and the odd public condemnation; these countries need to decide if they must appease Beijing or stand up to it. If the latter, how? With what? They need to see what the western powers will do about countering Chinese claims and expansionary pressure. In that regard it would have been useful to have a presence of more than one ship from a single European country in this modest… Read more »

Gavin Gordon

Hello, Barry. It would not constitute a military escalation as a legitimate Freedom of Navigation exercise. But for that to be credible, as I view it, navigational courses would need to follow the most logical chart plot, or the other SCS stakeholders would not be reassured by any means. There would likely still be military probing by the Chinese of course, either overtly or covertly, which will be of benefit to us one way or another as indicated. No concern about just one EU vessel since it still shows a level of willingness. Separately, though, I don’t think the Biden… Read more »

Barry Larking

Many thanks. The Dutch have historic links to this region. The rest of western Europe wants to hide behind the U.S. and save money on defence. They certainly don’t give one much hope of riding to rescue Australia and other friends from the Chinese octopus.


Any area where a coastal nation has ideas about restricting access to an area that it considers to be its own pet lake ( Black Sea excepted due to treaty rules on tonnage) is going to get a FON demonstration. I fully expect a short trip into the Gulf for a few weeks just to say that they have been there and done that and to demonstrate commitment to Gulf allies.

Gavin Gordon

Would trust so, and that it was authoritative, still wince slightly over Duncan warning the Russians that coming too close to Sampson may be a H&S risk as if they did not know! Even taking into account Black Sea transiting rules which we naturally obeyed, Russia was out of line reacting the way it did. Again, hope we gained tactical and operational data from that beyond realising that just maybe T45 don’t carry enough Asters.


6 frigates and destroyers, hopefully 24 jets, over a dozen helicopters as well as RFA support makes for a seriously impressive group for the initial deployment – second only to the USN!

Will be very interested to see what port visits and exercises are being planned once the schedule is released.

Daniele Mandelli


“Micky mouse navy” someone on here said months back.

We have some holes still to be filled but slowly but surely getting there.


Couldn’t agree more nice to see the RN starting back on the long road to recovery after years of neglect. A moment to be proud about for the Navy, the workforce building the ships and supporting the Navy and the nation.

I also like the fact that it is a strong allied contingent with the USN, USMC and the Dutch Navy participating in the deployment. I think it adds a subtle additional message to the significance of the deployment that will not be lost on those watching closely around the world.

Cheers CR

Michael F

24 jets seems unlikely at this point considering we’ve only just hit IOC. 14 seems to be the number floating around, along with 10 or so helos for the carrier. That said, plenty can change between now and May.


It’s 24 in total rather than 24 UK F-35s. This will likely equate to a squadron of UK F-35s and a squadron of USMC ones.

Michael F

I hope you’re right. 8 UK and 6 American jets is what I heard last—NavyLookout seems to be of that opinion too.


Fair enough, I hadn’t picked up on that. I imagine the final number won’t be set until fairly shortly before they actually sail, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it fluctuates a bit during the deployment itself.

To be honest, whether it is 14 or 24, I am actually more interested in Crowsnest and what level of capability that will be at for the deployment. F-35s on QE isn’t actually a new thing any more which is a nice thing to be able to say.


Wondered what the two extra ships were when I saw the pic in a tweet earlier. Thanks for confirming. Great that we have support from our allies. Does anyone have any idea how much of the deployment they will be around for? Or any ideas whether there will be a leapfrogging of ships as we near other countries?


What is considered the minimum speed requirement for an escort (frigate/destroyer or a support vessel) to be part of a carrier strike group?

Mr Bell

I would think 25 knots as a minimum.


You answered everyone’s question in yoyr MCM post. Multiple troll writers on the same unreal troll account, I urge all to read his MCM post. Sorry pal you fecked up there.


Oh dear, it’s crayon time.

Meirion X

It seems to me AB! That this avatar is ran by the Internet Research Agency(IRA), from St.Petersburg.
The usual agent that runs hARROld has COVID I suspect!


Mate you really have got to read the chuff and abuse he is dishing out on the Navy buys 3 autonomous mcm story. You have to read it to believe it, more proof theirs quite a few bot/trolls using the same pathetic profile avatar.


Sad Walt!


Which MCM post is that?


“UK orders 3 autonomous minesweeping vessels”. It’s hilarious, he seems to have forgot his previous sad comments…you have to read it, it’s hilarious the sadness he must feel about being left out at such an old age.

Steven B

Have the plans for HMS Richmond to be part of CSG in place of HMS Northumberland been dropped?


Would be nice to have more than a couple TLAMs from a sub in the strike group to help soften things up some.


If it’s an Astute they have space for 38 weapons in total. You wouldn’t expect more than 8-10 spearfish which leaves plenty of room for many more than a couple of TLAMs. Whether we have sufficient that can be deployed on this one rather than the nomination SSN(T) is another question of course!