More than 60 Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines are on board the USS George HW Bush honing their carrier strike skills ahead of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s entry into service.
During the exercise UK staff have been working with their American counterparts to fight off a series of simulated threats from enemy forces, using all the air, surface and sub-surface assets of the entire task group.
Commodore Andrew Betton, Commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group, and his team have been directing jets and firepower for the last ten days as they practise their skills.
The £3 billion HMS Queen Elizabeth, the largest and most powerful ship ever built for the Royal Navy, set sail for the first time in June from Rosyth in Fife and is due to enter her new home in Portsmouth in around two weeks.
Captain Jerry Kyd, her Commanding Officer, said: “The USS George HW Bush battle group is an awesome embodiment of maritime power projection.
“And given that the United Kingdom’s Carrier Strike Group Commander and his staff are embedded on board the US carrier for Saxon Warrior shows the closeness of our relationship with the US Navy and the importance that both nations place on the delivery of the UK’s Carrier Strike programme.
“HMS Queen Elizabeth is at the start of her journey to generate to full warfighting capability, but we are working hard to ready ourselves to take our place in operations and the line of battle alongside our closest allies.”
The new 280-metre, 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier met up with the USS George HW Bush and her carrier strike group off the coast of Scotland during a brief pause in the exercise’s activities.
The group includes two Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigates, HMS Westminster and HMS Iron Duke, destroyer USS Donald Cook, missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the Norwegian frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad.
Captain Ken Houlberg, Chief of Staff to the Commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group, said: “The US Navy, out of huge generosity, has given us the whole of their carrier strike group so that we can practise the command and control of a carrier doing these operations in British waters so that when HMS Queen Elizabeth comes into service later this year we will be well on the way to forming our own carrier strike capability.”
There are 15 ships from across NATO taking part in the exercise, called Exercise Saxon Warrior, with more than 100 aircraft and nearly 10,000 people.
HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is set to be the nation’s future flagship, and her 700-strong ship’s company have been taking part in maiden sea trials over the summer.
The second ship in the class, HMS Prince of Wales, is being fitted out in the Rosyth dock in Fife.