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Published: 02 Sep 2019

HMS Queen Elizabeth left HMNB Portsmouth bound for the USA today where she will conduct Operational Testing with UK F-35B jets for the first time ably supported by two Fleet Air Arm Squadrons from Somerset.

Wildcat HMA2 and Merlin Mk4 helicopters have left to support HMS Queen Elizabeth (HMZQNLZ), bound for the USA for operational trials. The deployment known as ‘WESTLANT 19’ will see the state-of-the-art-ship move closer to her first operational deployment in 2021.

Operational Testing is designed to put the jets, ship and supporting units through their paces. The tests allow the equipment and crew to operate under realistic warfighting scenarios to ready them for their first operational deployment. From planning campaigns, briefing, preparing and arming the jets and pilots, to flying and sustaining them on their ‘mission,’ the trials ensure that the units can fight as one.


Wildcat Flight 201 from 815 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton left earlier this week to embark in RFA Tideforce. They will assist the provision of tanker support to the Strike Group for HMSQNLZ, which will be joined by ships and air assets from other nations throughout the deployment, WESTLANT19. 212 Flight will follow shortly to embark in HMS Dragon as part of Carrier Strike Force Protection. Commanding Officer of 815 NAS, Commander Scott Simpson said:

Two Flights will deploy from 815 to support the next step in the HMS Queen Elizabeth’s journey to fully operational status as the UK’s new aircraft carrier.  One Flight will be embarked in the Type 45 Destroyer HMS Dragon and one in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, RFA Tideforce.  These deployments also mark a key milestone for 815 as the Wildcat HMA Mk2 plays its part in the Royal Navy and the UK regaining our carrier strike capability.”

Three Commando Merlin Mk 4 lifted from RNAS Yeovilton today to embark in the carrier and will ensure they are ready to essential movement of military personnel, passengers, cargo, mail and equipment around the carrier group and from land to sea known as Maritime Intra Theatre lift (MITL). They will also provide safety back up for the trials aircraft and practice Deployed Search and Rescue (DSAR) operations.

The deployment represents the continued positive relationship between the UK and US. Units from the United States Navy, US Air Force and US Marine Corps will all take part in the ‘WESTLANT 19’ deployment, further demonstrating the close partnership between the two NATO allies

While at sea, HMS Queen Elizabeth will be accompanied by other units of the Commander UK Carrier Strike Group (COMUKCSG) including a Type-45 destroyer, a Type-23 frigate and air assets from the Carrier Air Wing. This provides vital warfighting skills and training for each element to the Royal Navy’s potent carrier strike capabilities.


The ‘WESTLANT 19’ Strike Group will return to the UK at the end of the year. HMS Queen Elizabeth’s sister ship HMS Prince of Wales is in her final stages of build at Rosyth Dockyard. She is expected to commence her sea trials in the coming weeks.


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