Royal Navy flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth's crew tackle global crisis drills

SAILORS on Britain’s new naval flagship have been put through their paces on how to handle a global crisis.

Wednesday, 10th February 2021, 7:00 am

The crew of HMS Queen Elizabeth tackled the simulated disasters as part of their pre-deployment training ahead of their maiden mission later this year.

The two-week-long Virtual Warrior is one of two final assessments the ship and command staff must pass before the 65,000-tonne warship leads her task force on deployment.

The digital workout picks up where the carrier strike group disbanded last autumn at the end of exercises off Scotland.

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Pictured: Above Water Warfare Specialist LS Doe during an air defence exercise on HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2018

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It will be followed by a live-action assessment during this spring’s Joint Warrior war game, ‘Strike Warrior’, after which the force can head to Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia-Pacific region on maiden global mission.

Run from the computer training suite at HMS Collingwood in Fareham, Virtual Warrior allows various scenarios to be played out – testing the ability of the carrier strike group staff to respond to multiple incidents and issues, across a vast area.

At its largest the task group will comprise more than a dozen warships, support vessels and squadrons, including three dozen F-35B jets and helicopters – around 3,700 military personnel in all.

The operations room of HMS Queen Elizabeth during an exercise in 2018

But there will be times when some vessels and aircraft break away from the force for specific missions – so the team on HMS Queen Elizabeth must be able to direct and advise their actions, as well as the core carrier group.

‘Virtual Warrior is about command and control – it may not be as exciting as being at sea, but it’s just as important,’ said Lieutenant Commander Jeremy Olver of the carrier strike group staff.

‘The carrier group will consist of numerous ships and squadrons, some operating at considerable range. It’s crucial that they are all thinking and operating in the same way and information is shared around them.

ABWS Mathew North at his console during a simulated missile attack in the Collingwood trainer. Photos: Royal Navy

‘Each one of the “warrior” exercises is more sophisticated and demanding with Strike Warrior the final “tick in the box” before we sail.’

Commodore Steve Moorhouse, who will lead the impending deployment with his staff, says such tests are vital to ‘master the complex art of strike group operations’.

‘The success of our deployment rests on our ability to harness and direct different capabilities in the strike group for military, political and diplomatic effect. Virtual Warrior helps ensure we think, act and operate as a cohesive and focused force,’ he added.

A specialist team has been established to advise and gauge how the strike group personnel perform collectively.

Virtual Warrior runs until Friday. As for HMS Queen Elizabeth, she’s undergoing maintenance in Portsmouth Naval Base to prepare for her mission.

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