The UK Royal Navy (RN) aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth sailed from Portsmouth on 30 August to undertake operational trials off the east coast of the United States.
Known as 'Westlant 19,' the deployment will see the carrier conduct operational testing (OT-1) with UK F-35B Lightning aircraft. 'Westlant 19' will also 'operationalise' the UK Carrier Strike Group (CSG) construct ahead of a first deployment planned for 2021.
Building on last year's 'Westlant 18' deployment, during which Queen Elizabeth completed development testing (DT-1/DT-2) with the F-35B, OT-1 will see the carrier conduct five weeks of testing with F-35Bs and pilots drawn from No 17(R) Test and Evaluation Squadron, and the Lightning Force at Royal Air Force (RAF) Marham (No 207 Squadron and No 617 Squadron).
Queen Elizabeth is being escorted by the Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon and the Type 23 frigate HMS Northumberland , with the Tide-class fleet tanker RFA Tideforce providing tanker support to the strike group. Lima Company, 42 Command Royal Marines, and a Role 2 medical team afloat are also embarked on the carrier.
Commodore Mike Utley, Commander UK Carrier Strike Group, told Jane's , "This is not just about operating jets from the carrier. It is about starting to realise the capability we will get from a fifth-generation carrier and a fifth-generation aircraft and it's about how we will develop the wider capability afforded by the Carrier Strike Group in all its constituent parts."
He added, "A huge amount of work has gone on between the Air Warfare Centre, the Maritime Warfare Centre, the Lightning Force, Air Command and ourselves to put a package together that best stresses the command and control, the communications systems, and the supporting systems and infrastructure, in order to support the jets at sea on operations.
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