Carrier Strike Group 21 returns home

Sailors, marines and aviators are welcomed home after a 7-month long historic deployment around the globe. Here is what they got up to;

HMS Queen Elizabeth’s crew are welcomed back to their home base of Portsmouth after sailing 49,000 nautical miles to the Indo-Pacific and back.

The Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21) deployment has engaged with over 44 nations strengthening partnerships with allies as the Strike Group navigated the world.

This ambitious deployment took the Carrier Strike Group from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, from the Gulf of Aden to the Arabian Sea and from the Indian Ocean to the Philippine Sea.

Here are some of the highlights from the historic deployment 👇

Exercise Strike Warrior

The first major exercise for the Carrier Strike Group pre-deployment began taking part in was Exercise Strike Warrior, taking place just off the coast of Scotland Following the exercise, they group then set sail on the historic deployment on 22 May.

Exercise Steadfast Defender

Shortly after departing, they were onto taking part in Exercise Steadfast Defender 21. This was a NATO-led exercise designed to ensure that our forces are trained, able to operate together and ready to respond to any threat from any direction.

It showcased the true value of North America and Europe working together to keep our nations safe in a challenging security environment.

F-35 aircraft train together in NATO air exercise

The jets aboard UK flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth have participated in Exercise Falcon Strike 21, a multi-national training exercise led by the Italian Air Force. It saw F-35 Lightning stealth fighters from four nations train together for the first time.

Stealth jets support UK’s fight against Daesh in first combat missions from HMS Queen Elizabeth

F-35B fighter jets embarked on the UK Carrier Strike Group have completed their first operational mission in support of the ongoing Global Coalition against Daesh

F-35B jets of the renowned 617 Squadron RAF (“The Dambusters”) carried out operational missions for the first time from the carrier in support of Operation SHADER and US Operation INHERENT RESOLVE.

From exercises and international engagements, this was the first time the group used its full might of naval and air power, putting the “strike” into Carrier Strike Group and contributing to the UK’s fight against Daesh.

HMS Queen Elizabeth passes through Suez Canal

The passage through the world famous waterway, the Suez Canal, marked the end of a six-week phase of exercises and operations in the Eastern Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Sea.

Between the nine ships of the Carrier Strike Group they visited eleven different European countries, operating alongside allies through a variety of exercises and operations.

The UK Carrier Strike Group passes through the Suez Canal.
The UK Carrier Strike Group passes through the Suez Canal.

HMS Queen Elizabeth trains with two US Navy task groups

In July we saw the Carrier Strike Group link up with the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group and USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group in the Gulf of Aden.

The two-day exercise saw the three navy task groups, comprising US, UK and Dutch ships, test their abilities in anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare tactics and techniques.

Each ship in the task groups has a specific role to help fight against a range of threats from above, on and below the waves from the F-35 Lightning stealth jets embarked on HMS Queen Elizabeth to the advanced radar on the navy’s Type 45 destroyers.

HMS Queen Elizabeth meets up with the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group and USS Iwo Jima amphibious ready group for training in the Gulf of Aden.
HMS Queen Elizabeth meets up with the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group and USS Iwo Jima amphibious ready group for training in the Gulf of Aden.

Carrier Strike Group sails with Indian Navy in two-day exercises

The task group then completed a range of exercises with the Indian Navy for a range of exercises in the Bay of Bengal.

The series of close manoeuvres and drills saw the Carrier Strike Group sail with the Indian destroyer INS Ranvir, frigate Satpura, corvettes Kulish and Kavaratti and replenishment ship INS Jyoti.

Over the course of a busy two days, the ships conducted a range of air, surface and sub-surface exercises. In total, 12 ships took part in the training along with more than 30 aircraft and 4,500 personnel.

The UK’s Carrier Strike Group sailed with the Indian Navy for a range of exercises in the Bay of Bengal.

UK, Netherlands, United States and Japan complete intensive joint exercises in the Pacific

The UK Carrier Strike Group’s warships worked with the USS America-led United States Expeditionary Strike Group 7 and two ships from Japan’s Maritime Self Defence Force to prove the ability of the three navies to operate together.

These exercises mark a significant moment in the Royal Navy’s increasing presence in and focus on the Indo-Pacific. The collective 12-day workout closed with the allied ships sailing in formation in a demonstration of naval might in the Philippine Sea.

A powerhouse naval force of warships, aircraft, sailors and marines from the UK, United States and Japan converged for milestone exercises in the Pacific Ocean.

UK Carrier Strike Group completes joint F-35 missions and exercises with Republic of Korea

The Carrier Strike Group then worked alongside ships from the Republic of Korea Navy during three days of events near Busan, which included joint maritime manoeuvres.

The UK CSG’s latest foray has seen them work alongside ships from the Republic of Korea Navy during three days of events near Busan, which included joint maritime manoeuvres
The UK CSG seen working alongside ships from the Republic of Korea Navy during three days of events near Busan, which included joint maritime manoeuvres.

Royal Navy aircraft carriers make history on simultaneous F-35B Lightning jet operations

Separated by 7,000 miles, HMS Prince of Wales in the North Sea and HMS Queen Elizabeth in the Pacific, launched and recovered the stealth strike fighter on a round-the-clock mission.

Until this point in time, the ships had embarked the fifth-generation jets but never had the two 65,000-tonne aircraft carriers launched the fighters from their flight decks at the same time.

This all changed when HMS Prince of Wales was exercising with the RAF’s 207 Squadron in waters close to the UK, while, on the other side of the world, HMS Queen Elizabeth carried out flying operations over the Pacific with her jets from 617 Squadron and VMFA-211 of the US Marine Corps.

F-35 onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth (left) and HMS Prince of Wales (right).

Third nation lands on HMS Queen Elizabeth’s deck in milestone moment

HMS Queen Elizabeth exchanged F-35Bs from the Italian Navy and Italian Air Force. The VFMA-211 USMC jets departed HMS Queen Elizabeth and landed on the Italian carrier Cavour.

Two F35B Lightning jets from the Italian Navy and Italian Air Force landed, refuelled, and relaunched from HMS Queen Elizabeth, becoming the third nation to have landed jets on the UK Carrier.

On completion of the refuelling, HMS Queen Elizabeth launched an Italian Navy F-35, Italian Air Force F-35, USMC F-35 and finally an F-35B from the UK 617 squadron.

HMS Queen Elizabeth exchanged F-35Bs from Italian Navy and Italian Air Force. The VFMA-211 USMC jets departed HMS Queen Elizabeth and landed on the Italian carrier Cavour.

Find out where else the UK Armed Forces are deployed here:

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Stories from the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the UK Armed Forces around the globe.

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