First of Royal Navy carrier strike group arrives home signalling imminent arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth to Portsmouth

THE first of the Royal Navy’s carrier strike group deployed to the Far East has returned to the UK – signalling the imminent arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth to Portsmouth.

By Tom Cotterill
Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 4:09 pm

RFA Tidespring sailed back into her home in Portland having spent months providing the Portsmouth-based carrier and her escort warships fuelled.

The ship is the first of the UK carrier strike group – touted by the navy as the most powerful naval force in Europe – to arrive home following seven months at sea.

Hopes are now high that the navy’s £3.2bn flagship, Queen Elizabeth, will make her triumphant return to Portsmouth before Christmas.

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RFA Tidespring returns from the carrier strike group deployment. Here she is pictured with HMS Queen Elizabeth, which is now on her way home to Portsmouth,

The Royal Navy has not yet confirmed when the mighty carrier will arrive in Portsmouth. However, the milestone event is expected to take place in a matter of weeks.

Tanker Tidespring, along with her Royal Fleet Auxiliary sister RFA Fort Victoria, kept the task group – nine ships, one submarine, 32 aircraft and more than 3700 personnel – supplied with everything from fuel to ammunition and food during their 49,000 nautical-mile mission.

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Tidespring carried out an impressive 111 replenishment at sea tasks – one every two days while away – supplying fuel and stores to ships from Canada, Denmark, France, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States in addition to the UK.

RFA Tidespring refuelling HMS Queen Elizabeth during the aircraft carrier's mission to the Far East

Captain Karl Woodfield said: ‘As Tidespring sights UK landfall for the first time in eight months the ship’s company are hugely proud of what they have achieved in supporting the first global deployment of the carrier strike group.

‘Tidespring has provided fuel and stores support from the Northwest of Scotland to the Pacific Ocean during the deployment completing 111 replenishments of fuel and stores at sea.

‘This has enabled the UK carrier strike group to operate at a range and scale from the UK not seen in a generation.

‘I am particularly proud of my ships company which includes RFA, Royal Marines and Royal Navy personnel who have worked tirelessly during a global pandemic to deliver operational success.

‘We have been in the vanguard of ships which has made the inaugural carrier strike group global deployment a success. A brilliant sustained effort by my ship’s company.’

Tidespring steamed 43,136 nautical miles during her mission, having departed from the UK in May.

She spent 176 days attached to the carrier strike group, spending 136 days at sea. She filled up ships with the equivalent of 23 Olympic-sized swimming pools of fuel and fed more than 14 million litres of aviation fuel to keep the task group ticking.

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