HMS Duncan joined 200,000 tonnes of naval might as she worked simultaneously with two American aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean…

The Portsmouth-based destroyer slipped seamlessly into the USS John C Stennis and USS Abraham Lincoln carrier battle groups, honing skills needed to work with Britain’s new Queen Elizabeth-class flagships. The Stennis is making her way home after operations in the Middle East while the Abraham Lincoln is in the early stages of a deployment which will take her to the Gulf and Pacific.

Both nuclear-powered warships, displacing 100,000 tonnes each, are home to upwards of 6,000 sailors, marines and aviators, some 60 fast-jets – mostly F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters – plus intelligence gathering Hawkeyes and around 20 helicopters. They can launch more than 120 sorties a day during intensive operations including catapulting more than 20 F/A-18s skywards one after another in rapid succession.

Duncan is one of six Type 45 destroyers built to both defend a task group from air attack as well as to guide jet fighters and bombers on to targets. She did both in the opening stages of her deployment alongside France’s flagship Charles de Gaulle; the carrier’s Rafale jets carried out strikes against Isis forces in Syria and Iraq.

Since then she’s broken away from the French to join a NATO task force patrolling the Mediterranean, promoting the work of the alliance – celebrating its 70th anniversary this year – and conducting combined training to ensure the group is ready for any eventuality. East of Malta, the three naval forces combined for some joint exercises.

“The meeting of two of these colossal ships is a sight to behold and for Duncan to be integrated so well with the US carrier groups can only be positive as we look into the future deployments of our own carriers,” said Lieutenant Commander Duncan Abbott, the British destroyer’s senior warfare officer, who joined the Stennis to observe a ‘big deck’ carrier operating in full flow.

“This is maritime force on an epic scale – the sheer number of aircraft airborne at any one time plus the number of aircraft on standby means this is an air force, borne from the sea, ready to project at range anywhere in the world at any time.”