HMS Queen Elizabeth to return to Portsmouth to stock up on food before global deployment begins
AIRCRAFT carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to return to Portsmouth this evening to stock up on supplies ahead of her first operational deployment.
The 65,000-tonne behemoth – the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy – is expected to arrive back home at 5.45pm, docking at the Princess Royal Jetty.
The vessel had been earmarked for a return to the city at the weekend, where she was due to remain at anchor in Stokes Bay.
However, The News understands worsening weather has prompted officials from the navy to bring the £3.2bn warship home sooner than expected.
Queen Elizabeth’s return comes after she carried out her final exercise with her carrier strike group ahead of her maiden mission.
Known as Exercise Strike Warrior, the drill involved more than 20 warships, three submarines and 150 aircraft from 11 nations.
Following the completion of Exercise Strike Warrior, HMS Queen Elizabeth will return to Portsmouth Naval Base to complete final preparations prior the start of her first operational deployment.
The two-week exercise saw the task group being pitted against warships from Nato’s Standing Maritime Group 1 in waters off north-west Scotland.
Speaking of Queen Elizabeth’s return to Portsmouth, a spokesman from the Ministry of Defence told The News: ‘Following the completion of Exercise Strike Warrior, HMS Queen Elizabeth will return to Portsmouth Naval Base to complete final preparations prior the start of her first operational deployment.’
It is anticipated that Queen Elizabeth will set sail for next week to start the first leg of her 28-week mission, which will see the carrier sailing to the Mediterranean, Gulf and Indo-Pacific region.
HMS Queen Elizabeth will be accompanied by destroyers HMS Diamond and HMS Defender, frigates HMS Richmond and HMS Kent and US Navy destroyer USS The Sullivans, which will form a ring of steel around the 65,000-tonne carrier.
Embarked on board the naval leviathan will be a squadron of 18 F-35B Lightning stealth jets, drawn from the UK’s 617 Squadron, the Dambusters, and VMFA-211 of the US Marine Corps, better known as the Wake Island Avengers.
The carrier air wing also includes the largest concentration of helicopters in a Royal Navy task group in a decade, with three Merlin Mk4 from 845 NAS, four Wildcat from 815 NAS and seven Merlin Mk2 from 820 NAS.
Meanwhile, Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships Fort Victoria and Tidespring will keep the Strike Group supplied with fuel, food, stores and ammunition.
About 3,000 military personnel are expected to join the deployment – the biggest British naval mission since the Falklands.