The United States military has committed aircraft, surface support, sailors and marines to backstop the Royal Navy’s first carrier strike group deployment in a generation.
The new carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth will be getting under way for the Asia-Pacific later this year, accompanied by a full complement of escorts. As seen during maneuvers with HMS Queen Elizabeth last year, the U.S. Marine Corps will be contributing a squadron of F-35B fighter jets and pilots on her flight deck. The planes are identical to those flown and maintained by the Royal Navy.
Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) deployed aboard Queen Elizabeth off Scotland last fall, demonstrating the two services’ interoperability on each others’ platforms.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS The Sullivans will also be joining to provide anti-air, anti-submarine and land attack support. She was also present for the last year’s exercises off Scotland and will be reprising her earlier role.
“I am delighted that the UK now possesses a 21st-century carrier strike capability, which has been greatly assisted by the unswerving support and cooperation of the United States at all levels over the past decade,” said UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace. “This deployment embodies the strength of our bilateral ties and reflects the depth and breadth of this vital defence and security partnership.”
In addition to the purchase of HMS Queen Elizabeth and sister ship HMS Prince of Wales, the UK is embarking on a procurement program to acquire more dry stores auxiliaries, an essential component of power projection for a large carrier strike group. At present, the Royal Navy only has one in active service, the 26-year-old RFA Fort Victoria. The service has already replaced its fleet oilers with four new South Korean-built hulls, and a new tender for a Fleet Solid Support Ship is currently under way. Controversially, it is open to proposals that include a foreign build element, so long as “a significant portion of the build and assembly work” is retained in the United Kingdom.
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