The HMS Queen Elizabeth, affectionately known as ‘Big Lizzy,’ received a major sendoff Saturday from thousands of well-wishers as Britain’s flagship aircraft carrier sailed out of Portsmouth Harbour in Hampshire on its way to its first operational deployment to the Pacific. Earlier that day, two destroyers, HMS Defender and HMS Diamond, and a frigate, HMS Kent, which also form part of the nine-ship Carrier Strike Group (CSG), also set off from Portsmouth.
And so it begins….
— HMS Queen Elizabeth🇬🇧 (@HMSQNLZ) May 1, 2021
The relatively new 65,000-ton, 3-billion-pound sterling (US $4.2 billion), ship is the Royal Navy’s pride and joy. HMS Queen Elizabeth and its CSG will fully deploy to the Indo-Pacific region shortly after the completion of the Strike Warrior exercise off Scotland.
The exercises, notes the Daily Mail:
…mirror a broad range of crisis and conflict situations, will include 1,500 ground troops at military ranges across the country and maritime exercise areas off the west and north coasts.
Australia will join Nato nations the UK, the US, Denmark, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland in taking part with 34 naval units.
The Mail adds that part “of the CSG – though not the ‘Big Lizzy’ – will head to the Black Sea to support Nato maritime security operations at a time when tensions are rising tensions in Russia and Ukraine.”
However as the Express reported that:
just hours after leaving port – two Russian spy ships positioned in waters off Northern Scotland have intercepted the vessel, desperate to harvest any intelligence as HMS Queen Elizabeth, bristling with its state of the art F-35B jets.
The Auxiliary General Intelligence Gathering vessels, believed to belong to Russia’s Northern fleet and bristling with listening and interception equipment, were spotted by a US Navy P8 maritime patrol aircraft, based at RAF Lossiemouth, south of Iceland heading towards steaming towards the West coast of Scotland.
Russia is believed to have planted other spy ships along the CSG’s route, with the Ivan Khurs, a Project 18280 intelligence collection ship, spotted in Port Sudan.
A total of 3,700 sailors, aviators and marines are involved in the long-range deployment which will cover 25,000 nautical miles.
As I noted earlier, the CSG will include the US destroyer USS The Sullivans and the Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen, and will carry out visits to India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, as part of the UK’s new global role post-Brexit, and in a message to China.
Britain earlier announced the CSG would be accompanied by six Royal Navy ships, a submarine, 14 naval helicopters and a company of Royal Marines. This, in addition to the eight Royal Air Force (RAF) and 10 U.S. Marine Corps F35B stealth fighter jets on board reported by the Daily Mail.
A Royal Navy Astute-class submarine will also be deployed, armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The Daily Mail adds that as “well as the stealth fighters, four Wildcat maritime attack helicopters, seven Merlin Mk2 anti-submarine helicopters and three Merlin Mk4 commando helicopters will be embarked – the greatest quantity of helicopters assigned to a single UK Task Group in a decade.” ADN