The United Kingdom’s newest aircraft carrier is set to sail to the U.S. eastern seaboard for the second year in a row to train with U.S. forces, the U.K. government said June 3.
The HMS Queen Elizabeth is the U.K.’s future flagship. While on the U.S. East Coast, the ship will have a port visit where it will host the Atlantic Future Forum. This deployment will be called WESTLANT 19.
The forum seeks to bring the U.S. and U.K. military and industry together to address the changing nature of warfare and shared threats, the Ministry of Defense said.
The Queen Elizabeth will also make other port visits in the region before traveling back to the U.K. before Christmas.
The ship previously left the U.K. in August 2018 and the first F-35Bs conducted short takeoff and vertical landing exercises from its deck in September 2018 (Defense Daily, Oct. 1, 2018).
“HMS Queen Elizabeth represents the best of British innovation and is a true embodiment of our international ambition. The fact that this important ship will have visited the U.S. twice within her short service thus far is testament to our enduring transatlantic defense relationship,” Defense Secretary Penny Mordaunt said in a statement.
During WESTLANT 19, the carrier and its crew will conduct deck and warfare trials with U.K. F-35 jets from the 17th Test and Evaluation Squadron, based in the U.S.; F-35s from the 617th Squadron based at Royal Air Force (RAF) Base Marham; and rotary training with Merlin and Wildcat helicopters.
The Queen Elizabeth will also have U.S. Marine Corps F-35Bs land on the deck, “further developing the deep and historic tradition of the U.K. and U.S. armed forces operating seamlessly side by side,” the ministry said.
The U.K. plans to deploy the carrier for global operations in 2021. It will later have a sister ship in the fleet, the future HMS Prince of Wales, which is due to be commissioned in 2020.
These carriers feature Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing aircraft and will accommodate the F-35B.
Separately, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said on May 4 the Queen Elizabeth will be made available to deploy as part of NATO’s multinational force in the ‘Readiness Initiative.’
“I’m pleased to announce that NATO will soon be able to call on the U.K.’s Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers and F-35 fighter jets to help tackle threats around the world,” May said in a statement.
The Readiness Initiative seeks to improve ally forces’ readiness to deploy and move across the Atlantic and within Europe.
The U.K. carriers are built by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance team of BAE Systems, Thales, Babcock, and the Defense Ministry.