Hundreds celebrate departure of Royal Navy flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth from Portsmouth
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The £3.2bn aircraft carrier left Portsmouth Naval Base this afternoon for planned trials and training ahead of her first deployment in May.
The warship, which took over the role of fleet flagship in June, will return to the city after completing a brief stint of ‘shakedown’ tests at sea later this month.
Then her crew will begin preparations for their first operational deployment, which will see the 65,000-tonne vessel spearheading a naval task group to the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and into the Pacific.
Among the crowds seeing off the mighty warship from Portsmouth today was mum Hannah Chalmers and her two children, India, nine, and Joseph, eight.
Hannah said: ‘We have only just moved back down to Portsmouth and we couldn’t wait to see the ship set sail.
‘I remember doing this as a child and watching the aircraft carriers leave. So I wanted to give my children the chance to experience this.’
Joseph added: ‘We’re really excited to see the ship leave.’
Matthew Peakes, traveled down from Havant to watch the ship leave. The 35-year-old, who’s dad served in the Royal Navy said: ‘She is such an incredible sight to see. She really is huge.’
When Queen Elizabeth begins her first mission in May, she will be escorted and supported by two Type 45 destroyers, two Type 23 frigates, a nuclear submarine and support tankers from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. An US Navy destroyer will also accompany the task group.
The vessel will also have an embarked squadron of F-35B stealth jets from 617 Squadron – the famed ‘Dambusters’ – as well as a detachment of F-35s from the US Marine Corps.
Ahead of her deployment, the carrier and its strike group will first take part in a war-fighting exercise with other Nato navies during Exercise Strike Warrior off Scotland in May before then sailing for the Mediterranean.
Last month, following talks with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, Japan welcomed the decision to send the carrier to the Indo-Pacific region amid growing tensions with China over navigation rights.
Mr Wallace said: ‘The most significant Royal Navy deployment in a generation demonstrates the UK’s commitment to working with our partners in the region to uphold the rules-based international system and promote our shared security and prosperity.’
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said it was part of the UK’s “tilt” towards the Indo-Pacific region following Brexit.