Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has sailed from Portsmouth bound for the east coast of the USA for operational trials which will see UK fighter jets join this state-of-the-art ship in a significant milestone for the programme…

The deployment, known as ‘WESTLANT 19,’ will see the carrier conduct ‘Operational Testing’, with British F-35B Lightning jets embarking for the first time as she moves closer to her first operational deployment in 2021. The carrier will also spend time in Canada during her four-month travels.

Operational Testing allows the equipment and crew to operate under realistic warfighting scenarios to ready them for their first operational deployment. From planning campaigns, briefing, preparing and arming the jets and pilots, to flying and sustaining them on their ‘mission,’ the trials ensure that the units can fight as one.

Defence Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “HMS Queen Elizabeth is symbolic of the UK’s global reach and power. As she enters this stage of the programme, she will demonstrate her immense engineering, capability and battle readiness.

“As she makes her second voyage across the Atlantic, HMS Queen Elizabeth will also strengthen our special relationship with the US and Canada. Our naval forces will visit Canada then spend the coming months working and training side by side with the US to ensure the UK’s carrier strike is ready for operations in 2021.”

The deployment represents the continued positive relationship between the UK and US. Units from the United States Navy, US Air Force and US Marine Corps will all take part in the ‘WESTLANT 19’ deployment, further demonstrating the close partnership between the two NATO allies.

While at sea, HMS Queen Elizabeth is accompanied by other units of the Commander UK Carrier Strike Group including a Type-45 destroyer, a Type-23 frigate and air assets from the Carrier Air Wing. This provides vital warfighting skills and training for each element to the Royal Navy’s potent carrier strike capabilities.

RFA Tideforce is providing tanker support to the Strike Group, which will be joined by ships and air assets from other nations throughout the deployment. Lima Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines based in Plymouth and a Role 2 Medical Team Afloat are also embarked on the carrier.

HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Commanding Officer, Capt Steve Moorhouse said: “To command HMS Queen Elizabeth during this pivotal phase of her capability development is a real honour. In addition to my core ship’s company, the fixed and rotary wing air assets, enhanced medical capability, Royal Marines and other force elements from across Defence will enhance HMS Queen Elizabeth and the UK’s Carrier Strike capability on this deployment.”

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