HMS Queen Elizabeth – making an impression in New York. Westlant 18 deployment – Part 5

HMS Queen Elizabeth arrived in New York on the 19th October. Besides offering a great photo opportunity and a good run ashore, the visit demonstrated that beyond her obvious hard-power capabilities, how she can serve as a platform to promote Britain’s diplomatic and trade interests.

Anchoring an iconic ship in one of the most famous harbours in the world gets attention. QE’s arrival makes a statement of about UK confidence, self-belief and the close relationship with our US ally. The primary role of the carrier will always be to deliver violence to the enemy but is also an important soft-power tool. Royal Navy aircraft carriers have made many visits to New York through the years but this was the first chance for QE to be used in this diplomatic role.

On Sunday 21 Oct the Defence Secretary and the First Sea Lord attended a traditional Trafalgar Night Dinner aboard before welcoming US diplomats and business figures to the ship the following day. Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, hosted a series of events designed to secure trading deals between UK and US businesses and it was the first time the Board of Trade flag had been flown on a British warship in more than 200 years. QE will continue to be used as a venue to promote British trade and deepen trade and political relationships around the world in years to come. There is an argument that we should build a new Royal Yacht, primarily to serve in this diplomatic role but the arrival of the carriers may prove to be more than worthy replacements for HMY Brittania. An aircraft carrier also has the advantage of size and a hangar that makes for a great auditorium and reception room. The ship can comfortably host large numbers of people in a way that other warships or yachts cannot.

Journalists and photographers from the US media were welcomed on board and the ship’s arrival was given good coverage, especially in the New York media. The week-long visit also provided a chance for the ship’s company to have a memorable run ashore. In the US, service personnel tend to be treated with special respect and US hospitality was in evidence. Groups of sailors invited to attend matches at the New York Jets American football team and New York Islanders Ice Hockey team.

Sailing under the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge – high enough that the pole mast did not have to be folded down but just 14 feet to spare.

HMS Queen Elizabeth Upper Bay, New York

A welcome from the New York Fireboat Three Forty Three (named to remember the 343 Firefighters killed on 9/11)

Procedure Alpha under the Stars and Stripes.

Icons of freedom

At anchor in Upper New York Bay (Photo: Shaquille A Khan)

(Photo: Shaquille A Khan)

The big city seen from the big ship.

The First Sea Lord and the Defence Secretary arrive via the Passenger Transfer Boat “Sea Harrier”. QE can carry up to three PTBs, the 4 boats are named after iconic Fleet air arm aircraft; Buccaneer, Sea Vixen, Swordfish and Sea Harrier.

Passengers disembark onto a pontoon secured to the stern of the ship. They can and then climb a few steps onto the stern platform and ascend the companionway to the entrance at 4 deck level. Considerable thought has been given to comfortable transfer of personnel while at anchor.

The Defence Secretary tries out the captain’s chair

The rear ramp makes the Merlin Mk4s of 845 NAS well-suited for VIP transport. Here seen at Downtown Manhattan Heliport ready to collect passengers to fly out the ship

Aircrew and passengers get the best taxi ride in New York

The Secretary of State arrived onboard by helicopter and met with various industry leaders. Visitors to the ship were treated to performance from the Royal Marine band.

Plaque presented by the Trade Secretary, Liam Fox placed on the bridge to commemorate the first international diplomatic event held on board the ship.

The hangar was the venue for the first Atlantic Future Forum hosted by the UK Board of Trade. The forum aims to bring US and UK industry and military together to cooperate on measures to defend against cyber threats.

The ship provides a good platform to show the best of British industry. Here the Jaguar in F-35 livery on display during events in New York. Jaguar Land Rover have had ties with QE since she started construction and vehicles have been used in a support role for events. JLR have also provided the Captain’s chair on the bridge and ‘wings’ chair in flyco.

Perks of the job – the Captain of the QE is issued with an F-Type Jaguar for his personal use ashore, although there has not been much time to use it on this deployment. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Commodore Jerry Kyd says farewell to the ship’s company and he hands over command of the ship to his successor. He has navigated the most high profile job in the Royal Navy with calmness, professionalism and humanity.

The new commanding officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth is Captain Nick Cooke-Priest. He joined the RN in 1990 and initially served as a Lynx Observer. He has previously commanded HMS Kent, Iron Duke and Bulwark.

Two Queens together – Queen Mary 2 passes HMS Queen Elizabeth in New York harbour. (Photo by kind permission of Cunard)

QE will shortly resume Developmental Flying phase two (DT-2) (Photo: US Navy)

Progress made during the first phase of F35 flying trials has significantly exceeded expectations. Conducted over 21 days, the aircraft achieved 98 take-offs, 96 vertical landings and 2 SRVLs. This equates to an average of 4.66 sorties per day using two aircraft. Night flying and dummy bomb drops were completed successfully and there was also flying conducted in some rough weather and a very wet flight deck.

QE will leave New York today and return to Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia to re-embark stores and equipment for the next phase of flying trials. With the flying programme so well advanced, there may be some time available after DT-2 before returning home. It is possible there could be another opportunity to visit another port in North America.