Naval exercise will be a key training group for navy’s carrier strike team

USS George HW at anchor off Stokes Bay
USS George HW at anchor off Stokes Bay

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A FORCE of about 1,000 British military personnel will be taking part in one of the largest war games at sea in recent years.

Hundreds of sailors from Portsmouth are among those joining Exercise Saxon Warrior.

Vessels from the city taking part include Type 23 frigates HMS Iron Duke and HMS Westminster, who will be backed by Royal Fleet Auxiliary fast fleet tanker Wave Ruler.

The operation has already seen a number of British naval personnel embed on USS George HW Bush in the run-up to it.

Commodore Andrew Betton said this was a key stepping stone for the Senior Service in preparing for the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth and her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales.

He added the placement of British carrier strike group battle staff on board the USS George HW Bush for the past week in preparation for the exercise has been a ‘fantastic training opportunity’.

‘We have already prepared for this exercise, which starts in earnest on Monday, we are going to be embarking with 60 UK, largely navy but navy, air force and army personnel, to command this exercise on behalf of Admiral Whitesell,’ he said.

‘It is his task group, but he is letting me run the show for two weeks, in preparation for running our own Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group in a couple of years time.’

During the past six months, Cmdr Betton said small groups of British personnel have been embedded on USS George HW Bush to ‘learn and build their individual and ultimately collective skill sets’, adding that it has been a ‘key building block’ ahead of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s arrival.

‘We have been out of carrier strike operations for several years, so the opportunity to learn from our American cousins is extremely welcome, and has been really important in enabling us to accelerate that programme,’ he said.

‘So that we, as the formation commanders, are ready to support the introduction to service of HMS Queen Elizabeth.’

The exercise involves 15 warships from five different nations, submarines, more than 100 aircraft and 9,000 personnel.

During the operation, US naval personnel will train side-by-side with UK pilots, engineers and deck handlers to develop maritime and aviation skills.