UK Carrier Strike Group explained: Global Britain in action
There’s a lot to know about the Carrier Strike Group, but here are the highlights
What is the UK Carrier Strike Group?
The group is led by aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and she is joined by a strike group of ships, submarines and aircraft from the UK and allied nations.
In a practical military sense, this means that the group will not only protect the carrier from ship, submarine, aircraft and missile threats, but it will also be capable of completing a range of supporting missions, from maritime security to disaster relief operations.
The Strike Group has the flexibility to move, act and fight as a single force even if spread out over a few hundred miles.
This Carrier Strike Group 21 deployment will take place over 28 weeks, in 6 phases, from May to December 2021. The Strike Group will transit over 26,000 nautical miles, 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.
Is just the UK involved?
The Carrier Strike Group is international by design. With the UK at the core, it will be joined by allied nations including the United States and the Netherlands.
Deploying with the Strike Group is a mixed UK-US air wing of F-35Bs from 617 Squadron (“The Dambusters”) and the US Marine Corps VMFA-211. Also joining is the US Navy’s destroyer, USS The Sullivans. There is also a team of US Coastguard personnel embarked on ships of the Strike Group.
- Read more about the United States’ involvement
- Read about how the Carrier Strike Group have been training
- Carrier Strike Group Assemble
Why an aircraft carrier?
An aircraft carrier is like a floating airfield. They are large ships that have been designed specifically to operate aircraft from.
The Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers are the biggest warships ever built for the Royal Navy — and the most advanced. They’re our nation’s flagships and will be for the next 50 years.
In today’s age, the aircraft carrier is the hallmark of global maritime power. With the likes of the US, India, Russia, France and China all operating aircraft carriers and others around the world developing them, it’s a key asset to any Navy and only natural that the UK should wield this strategic asset.
Carriers have played a huge role in the UK’s major military endeavours since the Second World War, from Korea and the Falklands to more recent operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Libya. Even in Afghanistan, which is landlocked with 300 miles to the nearest coast, most of the coalition’s airpower was delivered by US carriers operating in the North Arabian Sea.
The Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers are impressive in size, weighing in at 65,000 tonnes each carrier can field more than two dozen F-35Bs. They can deliver fifth-generation jets, cruise missiles, attack helicopters and naval gunfire, which is an incredible power offering reassurance to allies and partners around the world.
The deployment of the UK Carrier Strike Group in the summer will also allow the UK to champion UK prosperity and trade, and to engage with our allies and partners in support of international peace and stability. This is an essential component of Britain’s global outlook.
So what forms a Carrier Strike Group?
The task of protecting an aircraft carrier involves many ships, submarines and people.
At the heart of the group, Queen Elizabeth-class carriers will be deployed with up to two operational F-35B squadrons totalling 24 F-35Bs on board. Pilots from both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, from the legendary 617 Squadron (“The Dambusters”), will work alongside fast jet pilots from the US Marine Corps.
Type 23 Frigates and Type 45 destroyers escort the group, giving the Strike Group the ability to defend against threats from above and below the surface.
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary also play a vital role, keeping the Strike Group replenished with food and supplies.
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary is the civilian support branch of the Royal Navy, providing vital logistical and operational support to military operations.
Who is in charge of the entire group?
The group is commanded by Commodore Steve Moorhouse of the Royal Navy and is supported by 70 maritime and aviation specialists to plan and direct the carrier operations as part of the Headquarters. As well as the HQ element he also has 3,700 men and women under his command.
These specialists working in the HQ come from all three Services and are multinational, including civil servants and reservists.
The staff are organised into three core functions of operations, information warfare and logistics.
“The advent of the UK Carrier Strike Group represents a substantial new injection of fifth generation combat power into the defence of the Euro-Atlantic region.”
— Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander UK Carrier Strike Group
Watch this space for more content on the UK Carrier Strike Group as they embark on operations around the globe.