Carrier Strike Group units settle into roles ahead of exercise

Topic: Fighting armsSurface Fleet Storyline: HMS Queen Elizabeth

Ships and aircraft of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group have wasted no time in settling into their roles and getting ready for two weeks of intense training.

Since sailing from their home ports at the weekend, the ships have been busy preparing for Exercise Strike Warrior which starts this weekend.

That includes Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ship RFA Fort Victoria which met up with HMS Queen Elizabeth to carry out a replenishment-at-sea (RAS). She supplied the carrier with stores and ammunition in a moment that was unique for Fort Vic’s commanding officer Captain Karl Woodfield.

He said: “The ship’s company are buzzing after seeing HMS Queen Elizabeth up-close-and-personal for the first time.

“On a personal note, with this RAS I completed a unique career double. Having undertaken the first fuel RAS with HMS Queen Elizabeth while in command of RFA Tidespring in 2019, I have now completed the first ammunition and stores RAS too.

“This is a significant moment for both the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and the Royal Navy as we proved the critical capability which enables the Carrier Strike Group to deploy globally.”

Fort Victoria is joined by fellow RFA ship Tidespring in supplying the Carrier Strike Group with essential stores and fuel.

Commander Steve Harman, HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Commander Logistics, added: “One of the things which makes our carrier strike capability so special is our ability to operate anywhere in the world and to sustain those operations at sea for as long as is necessary.

“While HMS Queen Elizabeth is enormously self-sufficient by design, our ability to replenish supplies of fuel, food, general stores and, if necessary, ammunition from our Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships massively increases our capacity in this area, allowing us to traverse the globe with ease and stay at sea almost indefinitely.”

Meanwhile, Merlin Crowsnest helicopters of 820 Naval Air Squadron have lifted off for sorties from HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time at sea.

The specialist Mk2 helicopters, distinctive thanks to the large radar dome or ‘bag’ which sticks out from the fuselage, are responsible for airborne surveillance and control. During operations, they will fly up to a mile and a half above the task group to look for possible threats.

For a lot of the sailors involved in the Carrier Strike Group, it will be their first time visiting many of the 40 nations planned for the deployment.

Able Seaman (Above Water Tactical) Chris Parsons is currently on Type 23 frigate HMS Kent after qualifying as a warfare specialist in December. The 36-year-old said: “For my first deployment I’m looking forward to being able to see different parts of the world and integrating with different people in the task group.”

Kent sailed from Portsmouth last weekend, in what was a hectic 36 hours of departures for the naval base. She has been busy preparing to deploy with HMS Queen Elizabeth for the past year with multiple anti-submarine warfare exercise and two maintenance programmes.

Commander Matthew Sykes, the ship’s commanding officer, said: ‘The ship’s team and support organisations ashore have worked incredibly hard to get us ready to deploy in support of the Carrier Strike Group.

“I am immensely proud of all that my sailors have achieved and I am confident we are ready for any challenges ahead.”

One of the things which makes our carrier strike capability so special is our ability to operate anywhere in the world

Commander Steve Harman, HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Commander Logistics