New face leads nation’s most powerful Naval force – the UK Carrier Strike Group

Topic: Operational activityInternational partnership Storyline: HMS Queen Elizabeth

One of the nation’s most senior aviators is at the helm of the UK’s most potent naval forces.

Commodore James Blackmore is now in charge of the UK Carrier Strike Group – flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth and her air group spearheaded by F-35B Lightning stealth fighters, plus destroyers, frigates, support vessels – after taking over from Commodore Angus Essenhigh, who’s been in charge for the past 18 months.

With additional ships, aircraft from the UK’s allies, the Carrier Strike Force can comprise of ten ships and submarines or more and in excess of 30 F-35s and helicopters, operated by around 3,700 personnel, deploying for six months or longer.

It’s the task of the Portsmouth-based staff of the strike group, who move aboard the carrier when she deploys, to coordinate and choreograph the task force’s actions and movements.

Under Commodore Essenhigh’s direction, the group deployed on Operation Achillean last autumn, including the first visit by HMS Queen Elizabeth to Oslo.

Promoted to Rear Admiral, he now moves on to take over as the National Hydrographer at the UK Hydrographic Office in Taunton – following in the footsteps of his father who was the Royal Navy’s senior hydrographer in the 1990s.

“It’s been a huge privilege and very fulfilling to command the UK Carrier Strike Group – the apex of the UK’s conventional warfighting capability,” said Admiral Essenhigh.

“My time in post has seen us exercising to maintain our very-high readiness status, enhancing our interoperability with NATO and codifying the outputs of the core staff. My personal highlight was Operation Achillean which was an excellent opportunity to bring together the complex array of capabilities that make up the UK Carrier Strike Group and to operate with like-minded allies and partners.

“I’m looking forward to my next venture at the UK Hydrographic Office; this will be a compete change of direction and will bring new challenges in an exciting new role.”

Superseding him, Cdre Blackmore is one of the most experienced naval aviators, a Harrier pilot who has also flown F/A-18 Super Hornets with the US Navy, been in charge of air operations on HMS Queen Elizabeth, then commanded the entire air wing which deployed with the carrier strike group to the Pacific in 2021.
“I am honoured and privileged to today take command of the United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group.

“We are in a time more than ever when the Royal Navy must be ready to face increasingly competitive and modern challenges across the globe, and I am truly confident in our ability to project British sea and air power from our the Strike Group centred on our Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers,” Commodore Blackmore said.

“Having previously served with the Carrier Strike Group as Strike Warfare and Air Wing Commander (CAG) during Operation Fortis in 2021, this will be an exciting opportunity to see Carrier Strike capability grow under my tenure over the next three years.”
He takes charge of the force as it gears up for an annual autumn deployment, this year in the waters of northern Europe with the UK’s allies in the Joint Expeditionary Force.

That will be followed by Steadfast Defender 2024, one of the largest and most important workouts in the NATO calendar as the carrier strike group begins preparations for a global deployment in 2025.