HMS Queen Elizabeth joined by supporting warships as the Carrier Strike Group assembles

This week the Royal Navy’s complete Carrier Strike Group assembled for the first time in the North Sea. The multi-national group worked up together in preparation for the more demanding exercise Joint Warrior that begins this week.

The group comprises nine ships, 15 F-35B jets, 11 helicopters and 3,000 personnel from the UK, US and the Netherlands.

Pictured: HMS Queen Elizabeth, HMS Diamond, HMS Defender, HMS Northumberland, HMS Kent, USS The Sullivans, HNLMS Evertsen, RFA Tideforce and RFA Fort Victoria

Commander UK Carrier Strike Group, Cdre Steve Moorhouse. Speaking to the BBC he said “I’d argue [the carrier] is the most well defended airfield in the UK, it moves 500 miles a day. Look over your shoulder at the ring of steel, it’s a very difficult airfield to hit… Protected by a ring of advanced destroyers, frigates, helicopters and submarines, and equipped with fifth generation fighters, HMS Queen Elizabeth is able to strike from the sea at a time and place of our choosing; and with our NATO allies at our side, we will be ready to fight and win in the most demanding circumstances.”

HMS Defender and HMS Diamond conducted air defence exercises with RAF Typhoons of 12 Squadron in the North Sea this week.

Anti-submarine escorts – the frigates HMS Kent and HMS Northumberland. (Northumberland will be replaced by HMS Richmond for the 2021 operational deployment)/

Critical enablers for the Carrier Strike Group – Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ships – RFA Fort Victoria and RFA Tideforce.

RFA Fort Victoria conducted her first replenishment at Sea with HMS Queen Elizabeth (RAS(L) Supplying fuel on this occasion. A solid stores replenishment will be conducted later in the exercise.

RFA Fort Victoria also provided fuel and stores to USS the Sullivans.

USS The Sullivans

Dutch air defence frigate, HNLMS Evertsen

HMS Queen Elizabeth hosted Kenneth Braithwaite, Secretary of the (US)Navy and Robert Wood “Woody” Johnson, The US Ambassador to Britain on 1st October.

USMC F-35s made their first launch from HMS Queen Elizabeth armed with a Gun Pod Unit (GPU) on 28 September. The pod carries a GAU-22/A 4-barrelled 25mm cannon with 220 rounds. There are currently no plans to equip UK jets with a gun pod.

Ordnance Marines assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 load inert guided bomb unit (GBU) 12’s and GBU-49’s onto an F-35B aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth. 26 September

Ordnance is unloaded from one of the weapons lifts in the hangar.

USMC Pilots experience the joy of the ski-ramp. The USN amphibious ships that they normally operate from lack the ski ramp as air operations prioritise the assault helicopters.

Jets on deck at night

Initially, flying operations focussed on familiarisation and conducting carrier qualification sorties for the USMC pilots.

Jets as far as the eye can see.