In a turn of events, the United Kingdom’s flagship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, has assumed command of NATO forces, leading an international coalition in a display of collective defence. 

The move comes as warships from 21 nations join forces in the Mediterranean and North Sea for Exercise Neptune Strike.

In a moment for the United Kingdom and the NATO alliance, HMS Queen Elizabeth, along with the UK Carrier Strike Group (UKCSG), has been placed under NATO’s command, marking the first time a UK Carrier Strike Group has operated under NATO leadership.

The UKCSG, which includes the frigate HMS Kent, destroyer HMS Diamond, and a complement of aircraft such as F-35B Lightning jets, Wildcat, and Merlin helicopters, as well as support ships, has now become a task group capable of spanning the expanse from the Mediterranean to the Baltic Sea.

According to GlobaData’s “UK Defense Market 2022-2027” report, the UK stringently follows the NATO doctrine and is a key member of the organisation. As a key member of NATO, the UK will be driven to ensure high readiness levels across its fleet and troops.

This development occurs within Exercise Neptune Strike, an “enhanced vigilance activity” aimed at demonstrating NATO’s strength and relevance. The exercise combines the UK, Italy, and Spain forces, knitting together a shield protecting the alliance’s airspace, waterways, and territory.

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Warships from 21 nations are participating in the Neptune Strike, operating under the command and control of NATO’s Naval and Striking Support Forces, responsible for planning and executing operations as needed.

Commodore James Blackmore, Commander of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group, underscored the exercise’s importance, stating, “Deterrence and defence of the Euro Atlantic is at the heart of NATO, and our enhanced vigilance activity with Neptune Strike is a clear demonstration of that. 

This is the first time a UK Carrier Strike Group has been commanded by NATO in my memory, so this is momentous for the UK and the alliance. I look forward to a full week of activity ahead and much more in the future; we are stronger together.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth wasted no time engaging in Neptune Strike, participating in a mock game of cat and mouse with a Norwegian submarine, HNoMS Utstein, in the North Sea. Submarine-hunting Merlin helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron were tasked with intercepting the submarine.