Photo essay: HMS Queen Elizabeth – Westlant 19 deployment – Part 4

After the arrival of jets onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth in October, the Operational Test (OT-1) flying programme got into full swing. This photo essay covers the UK Carrier Strike Group during this period which was followed by diplomatic visits to the United States.

Jets on deck in the sunshine off the Florida coast (18th October – US Navy photo)

6 UK-owned jets on board.

Flying is not possible without the work of the aircraft handlers working on an exposed and sometimes dangerous flight deck. (20 October)

Armourers practise preparing the F-35 for combat operations. (Until SRVL is perfected the jets will not launch with a full weapon load as they could not recover vertically to the ship). Two AMRAAM missiles are about to be loaded into the internal weapons bay. Paveway IV bombs and ASRAMM missiles are visible in place on the wing pylons.

Flight Deck officer at work (20 October)

Three Jets from US Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501) arrived on 31 October to conduct Carrier Qualification, practice for the pilots who have never landed onboard the carrier before.

7 jets on deck

The ‘FOD plod’ – walking the deck looking for any small items that could be ingested into engines and cause foreign object damage (FOD).

Merlin Mk 4 Helicopters of 845 Naval Air Squadron busy on all kinds of tasks including search and rescue, logistic support and transport of troops.

HMS Northumberland exercised ASW and protection of merchant shipping with US Navy task force. USS Winston S Churchill acted as a harassing enemy force and was intercepted by the frigate. (US Navy photo, 22nd October)

US Coastguard Jayhawk MH-60T helicopter makes the first landing by non-military aircraft onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth. (24 October)

The mighty US Marine Corps CH-53 Sea Stallion delivers mail and stores (29 October).

For all the technology onboard, old fashioned mail is still important to sustain morale when at sea.

David H. Berger the Commandant of the US Marine Corps was welcomed onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth arriving by V-22 Osprey. (5th November)

HMS Queen Elizabeth Launching jets while conducting a replenishment at sea with RFA Tideforce including some very close station-keeping. The first time the RN has done this since 2010 (HMS Ark Royal and RFA Wave Knight).

RFA Tideforce conducts double replenishment at sea with HMS Northumberland and HMS Queen Elizabeth.

This image evokes a sense of how the carriers mark something of a resurgence in British naval power. Note the scorch marks on the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth left by the jets on the 3 landing spots. The darker areas of the flight deck have been treated with heat-resistant Thermal Metalic Spay (TMS) to resist the heat of jet efflux.

Another replenishment at sea with HMS Dragon

Without the hard-working stokers (engineers) down below, the warships would go nowhere. Here one of QE’s MT30 Gas Turbines is being maintained.

Merlins in the aft end of the hangar.

Jets in the forward end of the hangar.

Spectacular and poignant flight deck muster for Remembrance Day 2019.

Remembrance Day service on the flight deck.

The Operational Testing programme included night flying

One of the final evolutions in the programme was a ‘multi-ship’ mission – launching of 4 jets in quick succession and their recovery.

On completion of the main flying programme, the 617 Squadron jets left the ship and returned home across the Atlantic to RAF Marham. The UK Carrier Strike Group then went its separate ways to ports on the eastern seaboard of the US for important diplomatic visits. QE arrived in Naval Station Norfolk with RFA Tideforce to offload stores and personnel before heading north up Chesapeake Bay to anchor off Annapolis on 20th November.

HMS Queen Elizabeth berthed at Naval Station Norfolk 15-20th November – the first time she had entered port with jets on deck.

Disembarking stores and equipment used to support F-35 flying.

HMS Dragon arrived in New York and hosted a reception on behalf of the UK Mission to the United Nations to mark Britain having the presidency of the UN Security Council for November. HMS Northumberland arrived in Boston on 16th November for a week-long visit at the Charlestown Navy Yard berthed alongside the USS Constitution.

HMS Dragon detached from the Westlant19 group and arrived for a visit to New York on 16th November.

Party for local guests held in the hangar of RFA Tideforce while alongside at Naval Station Norfolk on 20th November.

CO HMS Northumberland, Commander Alexandra Pollard, addresses guests during a reception for local dignitaries while alongside in Boston.

At anchor off Annapolis. ( Photos: Brian Johnson)

Merlins of 845 NAS conduct personnel transfer between the ship and Washington DC ( Photo: Cdr Bob Bond)

The First Sea Lord (Adm Tony Radakin), Chief of Japanese Maritime Staff (Adm Hiroshi Yamamura) and Chief of US Naval Operations (Adm Mike Gilday) meet onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth on 20th November to sign a Trilateral Head of Navy Joint Statement reaffirming their commitment to increased collaboration and cooperation (Photo: US Navy)

Inventor Richard Browning of Take on Gravity demonstrates his jet suit to American guests arriving by boat for visit to HMS Queen Elizabeth. (Original footage: UK Military & Defence Staff in the US)

The Defence and Security Trade Expo was held in the hangar of while the ship was at anchor off Annapolis on 20th November. The 3 UK-owned F-35 Jets belonging to US-based 17 Squadron have been retained on board (Photo: QinetiQ)

(Photo: UK Military & Defence Staff in the US).

On 21st November, the second Atlantic Future Forum was held onboard which brought together leaders in government, military and industry from both sides of the Atlantic to address growing challenges. The theme this year was The Future We Choose. Topics on the agenda covered UK Carrier Strike – an Industrial Perspective, cyber threats, the rapid pace of technological development, AI, climate change and big data. New challenges posed by non-state actors and hostile states using new technologies to threaten our security were examined and how we can fight back. A presentation was made by Team Artemis – a new transatlantic team of defence personnel, brought together to look at ways the UK and US work together to stay ahead of the competition when it comes to space technology.

Commodore Ian Annett, RN Assistant Chief of Staff and Chief Information Officer addresses the AFF. (Photo: United States Naval Academy)

HMS Queen Elizabeth’s wardroom being prepared to receive distinguished guests.

(Photo: Techmodal)

(Photos: United States Naval Academy)

HMS Queen Elizabeth is due home in Portsmouth by mid-December where she will join her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, together in their homeport for the first time.



Images are MOD Crown Copyright unless otherwise credited. RN photographers onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth for this deployment were LPhot Kyle Heller and LPhot Daniel Shepherd.