Royal Navy Assembles Largest Carrier Strike Group in Decades

queen elizabeth
The HMS Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group (Royal Navy)

Published Oct 6, 2020 12:43 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Royal Navy’s new Carrier Strike Group has assembled for the first time, marking the beginning of a new era of operations. HMS Queen Elizabeth is at the center of the group which is the start of joint carrier operations between the navy and its NATO allies.

Nine ships, 15 fighter jets, 11 helicopters and 3,000 personnel from the UK, US and the Netherlands are now carrying out exercises in the North Sea. According to the Royal Navy, the strike group is the largest and most powerful European-led maritime force in almost 20 years; it is also the largest carrier strike group fielded by the UK since the 1980s. 

“The new UK Carrier Strike Group is the embodiment of British maritime power, and sits at the heart of a modernised and emboldened Royal Navy," said Commodore Steve Moorhouse, the strike group's commander. “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 . . . Carrier Strike offers Britain choice and flexibility on the global stage; it reassures our friends and allies and presents a powerful deterrent to would-be adversaries.”

Image courtesy Royal Navy

In addition to five Royal Navy F35 fighters, HMS Queen Elizabeth carries a detachment of 10 U.S. Marine Corps F35Bs, allowing airmen from both services to work together. 

Queen Elizabeth is escorted by the Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyers HMS Diamond and HMS Defender, the U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS The Sullivans, the frigates HMS Northumberland and HMS Kent and the Dutch Navy’s HNLMS Evertsen.

Two Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships, RFA Tideforce and RFA Fort Victoria, will supply fuel, food and ammunition to enabled sustained operations at sea.

"Providing air and missile defence to a Carrier Strike Group is exactly the task HMS Defender and the Type 45 has been designed to do," said Commander Vince Owen, the CO of HMS Defender. “Having previously supported the French aircraft carrier FGS Charles de Gaulle in the fight against ISIL in 2015 and more recently been part of the USS Abraham Lincoln task group as she transited through the Strait of Hormuz last year, it is exciting to be integrating HMS Defender into the UK-led Carrier Strike Group for the first time."

The strike group is currently exercising alongside allied nations in the North Sea as part of NATO’s largest annual exercise, Joint Warrior.

Image courtesy Royal Navy