Royal Navy’s £3 billion aircraft carrier sets sail to US to deploy fighter jets for first time

Joe Gamp
Contributor, Yahoo News UK
HMS Queen Elizabeth is waved off as she sets sail from Portsmouth Naval Base (GETTY)

The Royal Navy’s new £3 billion aircraft carrier has set sail for the US where it will deploy British fighter jets from its flightdeck for the very first time.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Navy’s largest-ever warship, departed from its home port of Portsmouth Naval Base on Friday at 1.05pm, for deployment to the US east coast.So

HMS Queen Elizabeth has been deployed to the United States for fighter jet exercises and trials (GETTY)

While there, the vessels crew will work with the US Navy for operational testing of British F35B Lightning jets.

A total of seven British jets will take part in the exercises along with up to four US jets.

A plan of the aircraft carrier (PA/ROYAL NAVY)

It follows a trip to the US last year, where US F35s tested the capability of the flightdeck.

The carrier is flanked by a Type 45 destroyer HMS Dragon and Type 23 frigate HMS Northumberland for the journey.

HMS Queen Elizabeth at Portsmouth, as her crew prepared to set sail to the United States for Westlant 19 (PA)

Together the ships will rehearse forming a “combat strike group”, ahead of fully operational deployment planned for 2021.

The group also deployed with nine helicopters, including the Merlin lift helicopter and the Wildcat attack helicopter, which will also be exercised using the carrier’s 900ft flightdeck at the same time as the F35B jets.

Commodore Mike Utley, commander of the UK maritime strike group, said: "This is a hugely exciting point in the carrier strike programme.

"It's a massive enterprise of thousands of people that will deploy on this next deployment who will take the next step from being able to operate Lightning aircraft from this ship and put that all together with the broader capability set."

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Commanding officer Captain Steve Moorhouse said: "From the captain down to the youngest sailor, it's about getting the people ready to do what they would ultimately do should we be called upon to do so."

The carrier faced problems in July, when the vessel had to return to Portsmouth during trials.

The ship suffered a burst seal, that caused a large volume of water to spill from a pipe.

But ahead of the vessel leaving dock on Friday, Captain Moorhouse insisted the technical fault was to be expected and insisted the vessel was ready for exercises.

The ship will take part in joint fighter jet exercises with the US Navy (GETTY)

He continued: "This is the sixth ship I have been the captain of, it's been a huge privilege for me in the Royal Navy, and I reckon the average is a flood a week in every ship I have been captain of.

"You shouldn't be surprised about that, you buy a new house or new car, bits and bobs of this ship were put together six/seven years ago, and the fact that a seal leaks and the amount of water you get on a ship like this is more than you get on a P2000.

Minister for Defence Procurement Anne-Marie Trevelyan, gives a speech on the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth (GETTY)

"The design is absolutely world class but it's inevitable that seals and valves can fail if you haven't run systems for years, it's not a surprise.

"Floods are part of the business, the really reassuring thing is that my sailors responded exactly as you would want them to, so all done and dusted, we are ready to sail."