The Queen Elizabeth Carrier Battle Group formed up with a new addition just days from home.
According to the Royal Navy, the Norwegian Navy’s newest frigate HNoMS Thor Heyerdahl.
“Slipping into the battle group for the second time alongside HMS Northumberland and tanker RFA Tideforce is the Norwegian Navy’s newest frigate HNoMS Thor Heyerdahl as the Westlant 19 deployment ends as it began: a spot of NATO action. The curtain raised on the deployment in September with a NATO anti-submarine exercise, Cutlass Fury, hosted by the Canadians and it ends with yet more combined NATO/anti-submarine warfare training in the Western Atlantic. It’s the last act of a busy three months away for the Portsmouth-based carrier which hosted British F-35 Lightning jets for the first time at sea – followed by US Marine Corps doing the very same.
The future flagship embarked three UK jets from 17 Test and Evaluation Squadron (TES) based at Edwards Air Force Base in California, as well as three which crossed the Atlantic from RAF Marham. The 5 week operational test phase, headed up by the Air Warfare Centre, was designed to provide ‘end-to-end’ testing of the jets and the combined Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personnel who operate and support the squadrons.
The tests included: mission briefs; preparation of the jets – including arming them using the ship’s unique automated weapon handling system; launching; fighting the mission (including weapons drops) and returning to Queen Elizabeth.”
Commanding Officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth, Cdre Steve Moorhouse said:
“This has been an extremely successful deployment for HMS Queen Elizabeth. It’s all been about increasing the complexity and tempo of our activity, building the capability of the strike group and testing ourselves in a demanding training environment with our close partners from the US Navy and Marine Corps. Embarking UK F-35B Lightning for the first time and integrating them within the carrier strike group is a significant milestone and we are well set for an equally demanding 2020 and our first operational deployment in 2021.”
Captain James Blackmore, Commander of the Air Group, added:
“The five-week period of operational tests with UK F-35s was significant and historic. As the last pilot to fly Harrier from the deck of HMS Ark Royal in 2010, it filled me with tremendous pride to see UK fixed wing aircraft operate once more from a British carrier.”