Royal Navy's aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth launches helicopters' first sorties at sea ahead of international exercise

THE Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth has launched its hi-tech surveillance helicopters at sea for the first time as it prepares for a major international exercise this weekend.

Saturday, 8th May 2021, 1:54 pm
Updated Saturday, 8th May 2021, 2:34 pm

The aircraft carrier left Portsmouth last Saturday ahead of a major international exercise at sea and then its deployment around the globe.

The 65,000 tonne vessel has now marked a first with the launch of its Merlin Crowsnest helicopters for their first sorties at sea.

The News revealed in January last year that there problems with Crowsnest as it was said to be ‘too sensitive to use’.

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The full UK Carrier Strike Group, pictured during its first assembly for Group Exercise 2020 on October 4.

The system is the ‘eyes and ears’ for Britain’s two £6.2bn aircraft carriers when on operations, adding an extra dimension to the ships’ regular radar systems.

IT problems with the sensors delayed the programme, but Lockheed Martin engineers came up with a fix.

With their distinctive large radar dome sticking out from its side, the Merlin helicopters are responsible for airborne surveillance and reconnaissance.

During operations, they will fly up to a mile and a half above the task group to look for possible threats.

A Merlin helicopter pictured with the Crownest system fitted underneath it. Photo: Lockheed Martin

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It comes as HMS Queen Elizabeth prepares to join more than 20 warships, three submarines, and 150 aircraft from 11 nations in Exercise Strike Warrior this weekend.

Naval crews supporting the aircraft carrier are ‘absolutely buzzing’ to be working alongside the Royal Navy’s flagship as it prepares for operations, according to Captain Karl Woodfield, whose ship has been charged with resupplying HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The captain of Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ship RFA Fort Victoria said: ‘This is a significant moment for both the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and the Royal Navy as we proved the critical capability which enables the Carrier Strike Group to deploy globally.

HMS Queen Elizabeth leaves Portsmouth on May 01, 2021 in Portsmouth.

‘The ship’s company are buzzing after seeing HMS Queen Elizabeth up-close-and-personal for the first time.’

Commander Steve Harman, HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Commander Logistics, added: ‘One of the things which makes our carrier strike capability so special is our ability to operate anywhere in the world and to sustain those operations at sea for as long as is necessary.’

After taking part in this weekend’s exercise, HMS Queen Elizabeth will begin a deployment that involve visiting 40 nations around the world.

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