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Both of the Royal Navy's Carriers Head Out to Sea

queen elizabeth
HMS Queen Elizabeth departs Portsmouth, March 9, 2022 (Royal Navy)

Published Mar 9, 2022 11:23 PM by The Maritime Executive

Over the past two weeks, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine has inched forward, three NATO carriers have headed to sea - each for its own set of training workups and exercises. A fourth, USS Harry S. Truman, is already on station in the northern Aegean Sea, near the entrance to the Dardanelles.

On March 9, Royal Navy flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth got under way from Portsmouth, UK for "vital training and exercises to keep her ready for operations." The Queen Elizabeth had just returned from her maiden operational deployment to the Pacific on December 9, leaving a relatively short window for repairs and replenishment before departure. Her sailing means that both of Britain's carriers are at sea at the same time. 

“We return to sea today as the United Kingdom’s Very High Readiness Strike Carrier for routine operational activity and training," said Captain Ian Feasey, Queen Elizabeth's CO. “The hard work of both my ship’s company and our supporting industrial partners has improved the condition of the Fleet Flagship.”

On March 7, sister ship HMS Prince of Wales got under way to serve as NATO’s command ship for Exercise Cold Response, a large-scale Norwegian-led exercise. The staff aboard Prince of Wales will lead NATO's Maritime High Readiness Force for a large-scale exercise to show "how a unified multilateral force would defend Norway and Europe's northern flank from a modern adversary." She is accompanied by unspecified surface combatants. Cold Response is held every other year, and the planning for the 2022 edition has been laid well in advance; with 35,000 troops involved, it will be twice as large as the 2020 event.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the Nimitz-class carrier USS George H.W. Bush has just completed a training availability and is now conducting "group sail" operations with Destroyer Squadron 26 in preparation for deployment. The training period included live-fire exercises using the carrier's point-defense weapons systems, used to defend against hostile aircraft, drones and incoming anti-ship missiles. 

Meanwhile, the long-delayed supercarrier USS Gerald R. Ford has completed a yard maintenance period after shock trials, and she has transferred to Naval Station Norfolk to work up flight qualifications with Carrier Air Wing 8. She is scheduled to deploy ahead of schedule for a special purpose “service-retained early employment” period later this year - two years sooner than planned, according to Defense News.