16 Aug 2017

Carrier Strike Exercise ends as HMS Queen Elizabeth makes its approach

As Britain’s new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, prepares to sail into Portsmouth for the very first time, the team responsible for her future strike force has demonstrated their skills during a major US-UK exercise.

Saxon Warrior 2017 saw more than 60 Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel direct carrier strike operations from the deck of the USS George HW Bush in anticipation of the HMS Queen Elizabeth’s arrival this week.

The exercise – which involved more than 100 jets, around 10,000 personnel and 15 warships from five NATO member states – took place off the coast of Scotland.

Commodore Andrew Betton, Commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group, said: “Protecting and sustaining the aircraft carrier is the main role of the Strike Group’s frigates, destroyers and supply ships, enabling the air wing to project influence and power at range.

“The exercise has allowed us to prove our national operating concept and build invaluable experience, competence and credibility alongside our closest strategic ally.”

The fortnight-long exercise required COMUKTG staff to work alongside their American counterparts and fight off a series of simulated threats from enemy forces. The threats were specifically designed to test the UK personnel’s reactions and were coordinated from Clyde Naval Base in Faslane, Scotland.

Supporting aircraft also simulated air raids with 29 Commando and Swedish tactical air controllers providing forward observation to ships and aircraft dropping ordnance on Cape Wrath to the far north of Scotland.

“We also had the great opportunity to fly over and land on HMS Queen Elizabeth, our new aircraft carrier,” said COMUKCSG Strike Warfare Commander Colonel Phil Kelly.

“It was emotional – this has been a long time coming and something we will never forget – that seminal moment that you step out on the deck at sea of the UK’s newest aircraft carrier after having landed on for the first time.

“We look forward to her arriving in Portsmouth so we can deepen the COMUKCSG links with her crew and settle in to working with her as a matter of routine – exciting times.”

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