Westlant 19 offers first look at a UK Carrier Strike Group

Harry Lye 24 September 2019 (Last Updated September 24th, 2019 13:33)

HMS Queen Elizabeth, the UK’s first supercarrier, has been joined at sea by the HMS Northumberland, HMS Dragon and RFA Tideforce, offering the first look at the UK’s Carrier Strike capabilities.

Westlant 19 offers first look at a UK Carrier Strike Group
HMS Queen Elizabeth (centre), HMS Northumberland (right), HMS Dragon (left) and RFA Tideforce (back) form a Carrier Strike Group. Credits: Royal Navy Crown Copyright via Twitter.

HMS Queen Elizabeth, the UK’s first supercarrier, has been joined at sea by the HMS Northumberland, HMS Dragon and RFA Tideforce, offering the first look at the UK’s Carrier Strike capabilities.

The ships formed the group while in North America for the Westlant 19 deployment, designed to put the HMS Queen Elizabeth through its paces, including launching F-35B aircraft from its decks.

The Carrier Strike Group formation allows the ships to reach deep into international waters while protecting each other leveraging the different vessels’ strengths. Combined the ships have a total displacement of almost 100,000 tonnes

The HMS Northumberland Type 23 frigate provides the formation with anti-submarine and ship power, HMS Dragon Destroyer provides air cover and the RFA Tideforce is a tanker designed to keep the group at sea for longer deployments.

Before the deployment, the Royal Navy outlined the goals of Westlant 19 saying: “The aim of Westlant is simple: to push both the F-35 and HMS Queen Elizabeth to their limits.

“Having gathered the data and experiences required to ‘write the manual’ for safely operating the F-35, the focus of Westlant now shifts to developing combat techniques for exploiting the fighter’s awesome capabilities in action and working as part of a carrier task group.”

The exercise will see both UK and US F-35 fighter jets taking off the aircraft carriers deck and involve personnel from the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, British Army, US Navy, US Air Force and US Marine Corps.

Earlier this month at DSEI, the First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin pledged to utilise the UK’s carrier capabilities saying: “We need to shift the whole Navy to being a Carrier Task Group Navy. This will allow us to project our power around the world. And at a level alongside our American and French allies.

On Twitter, RFA Tideforce, part of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, shared images of the ship being used to refuel HMS Dragon.

HMS Northumberland joined the Carrier Strike Group after participating in NATO exercise Cutlass Fury where the ship participated in a mock submarine hunt alongside other allied navies.

Westlant 19 also showcased the interoperability of the Royal Navies’ Destroyers and the HMS Queen Elizabeth with Merlin helicopters from the aircraft carrier being used to resupply the HMS Dragon yesterday.

Last week the Royal Navy’s second supercarrier the HMS Prince of Wales left its dock in Rosyth to being sea trials, meaning the Royal Navy has two aircraft carriers in the water simultaneously.