HMS Queen Elizabeth and carrier strike group participate in exercise Joint Warrior

Following the GROUPEX work-up period, the UK Carrier Strike Group participated in Exercise Joint Warrior (4th – 15th October 2020). This photo essay covers their activities during the exercise, along with participating NATO warships.

Commenting at the conclusion of the exercise, the Commander UK Carrier Strike Group said “We embarked the largest air group of 5th generation fighters ever put to sea – finally silencing those who harp on about ‘carriers without jets’. UK F-35B numbers will grow, but the ability to operate UK & US jets interchangeably from a British deck offers massive flexibility. We accomplished what many doubted possible by forming a sovereign British strike group – but also integrated ships & aircraft from our closest NATO allies. It demonstrates the convening power of the aircraft carriers and continuing UK leadership in NATO.”

Jets line the flight deck, seen from HMS Kent, escorting the carrier in close company.

HNLMS Evertsen in close support.

USMC aircraft handlers on deck at dusk.

Jets on deck during one of the non-flying days for fight deck and aircraft maintenance to be carried out.

A Merlin Mk2  of 820 NAS on HMS Queen Elizabeth conducts helicopter-in-flight-refuelling (HIFR) drills while another aircraft transfers an underslung load.

People are the most important capability. Warfare department personnel in the operations room watched over by the CO, HMS Queen-Elizabeth

500lb GBU-12 Laser Guided Bombs are loaded onto a UK jet on the carrier. Subsequently, Commando Wildcat pilots of 847 NAS conducted the first live UK FAC(A) control of an F-35, guiding the bombs onto the Cape Wrath range.

RN Hawks of 736 Squadron and Cobham Special Mission Falcon 20 jets conduct simulated attacks on the carrier group during the exercise Joint Warrior. The Hawks are normally based at RNAS Culdrose but were flying from Aberdeen airport for these serials in the North Sea.

Aircraft chained to the deck, inspected by a Marine Corps pilot and maintainer.

Launching in wet conditions

The view from Flyco looking aft

In this excellent, award-winning video, a Royal Navy F-35 pilot describes the experience of flying from the aircraft carrier. (Video shot during the Westlant 2019 deployment).


A third series of “Warship – Life at sea” being is made for Channel 5 TV – filming took place on board HMS Northumberland during the exercise.

HMS Northumberland during a night transit of the English Channel, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. (Photo: Lt Cdr Shaun Roster)

HMS Diamond and HMS Defender completed a successful integration period with the Carrier Strike Group. HMS Diamond left the exercise early as planned and returned to Portsmouth to prepare for several weeks of operational sea training

HNLMS Evertsen

USS The Sullivans

Merlin’s eye view of replenishment at sea. (Photo: Lt Cdr Shaun Roster)

USS the Sullivans replenishes from RFA Tideforce with HMS Northumberland to Port and HMS Kent astern. (Photo: Lt Cdr Shaun Roster)

HMS Northumberland’s turn (Photo: Lt Cdr Shaun Roster)

Replenishing the replenisher. RFA Fort Victoria tops up her fuel tanks (capacity – c10,000 tonnes) from RFA Tideforce (capacity – c19,000 tonnes).

HMS Kent refuelled by Fort Victoria.

More images of the first RAS between RFA Fort Victoria and HMS Queen Elizabeth

Night RAS seen from RFA Fort Victoria (Photo: Matt Bromage)

HMNLS Evertsen replenishes from RFA-Tideforce ( Photo: Zr.Ms. Evertsen / KonMarine)

HMS Sutherland replenishes from the Canadian Navy’s new tanker, MV Asterix. CO wearing appropriate headgear for Canadian Thanksgiving day.

Canadian Airforce CP-140 Aurora Maritime Patrol Aircraft working with HMS Sutherland. Note the frigate has her towed array sonar deployed.

Danish frigate, HDMS Triton seen from HMCS Ville de Québec (Photo: Canadian Navy)

HDMS Niels Juel, HMCS Ville de Québec and MV Asterix conduct RAS, gunnery and ASW exercised (Photo: Canadian Navy)

Canadian Frigate HMCS Ville de Québec fends off attacks from small craft in confined waters during SWARMEX. (Photo: US Navy)

Danish frigate HDMS Niels Juel. The RN Type 31 frigates are based on the design of this class of ship. (Photo: US Navy)

HMS Northumberland makes a brief logistics stop in Dundee.

The US Navy equivalent of RFA Fort Victoria, USNS Medgar Evers supported warships participating in Joint Warrior.

The 5 x UK and 10 x USMC jets returned to RAF Marham on 13 October after completing participation in Joint Warrior. The land-based carrier air group exercise Crimson Warrior to begin shortly.

HMS Queen Elizabeth returns to Portsmouth on 15 October. She will then undergo her final Capability Insertion Period (CIP) which will see her fitted with the four 30mm ASCG Cannons (with their 4 EO Directors), the last of the three Phalanx CIWS mounts and the addition of further equipment for USMC use.