The Royal Navy’s flagship aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R 08) has operated alongside multiple international warships during her maiden globetrotting voyage, and most recently that included a joint operation in the Gulf of Oman with the U.S. Navy's Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The two flattops carried out bilateral interoperability training that included Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 “Wake Island Avengers,” which is embarked on the British carrier.
During the training in the Gulf of Oman on November 7, VMFA-211 cross-decked F-35B Lightning IIs from HMS Queen Elizabeth to the USS Essex, which highlighted the strategic advantage of the United Kingdom’s Carrier Strike Group as well as the integration of the F-35B jets.
The U.S. Navy said that the VMFA-211's F-35B Standard Take-off and Vertical Landing (SVOTL) capabilities make them uniquely qualified to support distributed maritime operations.
“We are privilegeCopyd to have had this opportunity to train alongside a longstanding NATO ally in the Middle East,” Captain DeWayne Sanders, commodore of Amphibious Squadron One (CPR 1), said via a press statement. “Our integrated aircraft training with HMS Queen Elizabeth has helped demonstrate our efficacy in the region and our commitment to maritime security and stability world-wide.”
In addition to the F-35Bs, the Royal Navy also cross-decked Merlin MK4's attached to 845 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), accomplishing routine deck landings aboard Essex. UH-1Y Venoms and MV-22B Ospreys, attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 165 (Reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, further completed cross-deck landings on HMS Queen Elizabeth.
“The force development work we have been undertaking with the U.S. Navy has been ground-breaking,” Commodore Steve Moorhouse, commander of the United Kingdom’s Carrier Strike Group, said. “We are all comfortable with helicopters lilly-padding from one deck to another but doing it with fixed-wing aircraft is a whole new game. This level of interoperability goes far beyond anything we have exercised before with any partner and offers a degree of flexibility and agility that Commanders have long dreamt of.”
HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest and most powerful vessel ever constructed for the Royal Navy. She began her maiden deployment in May of this year. During the twenty-eight-week deployment, the warship made a historic transiting of the Suez Canal and the carrier strike group has visited India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore. The flagship carrier is expected to return to her homeport of Portsmouth in December.
The U.S. Navy’s USS Essex and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region. The U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The expanse is comprised of twenty countries and includes three chokepoints, critical to the free flow of global commerce.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.