F-35B jets from 617 Squadron RAF launched from the 65,000-tonne warship in support of joint American and British missions to destroy terror groups in the war-torn nation.
Spearheading the largest flotilla of warships to leave the UK since the Falklands conflict in 1982, the 28-week voyage will span 26,000 miles, taking Queen Elizabeth and her carrier strike group to the Far East and back.
Commodore Steve Moorhouse, commander of the UK task group, said the first aerial mission of the F-35s was a massive milestone for the ship and for Britain.
Speaking from the flight deck of the Portsmouth-based carrier, Cdre Moorhouse said: ‘HMS Queen Elizabeth’s first missions against Daesh will be remembered as a significant moment in the 50-year lifespan of this ship.
‘It also marks a new phase of our current deployment. To date we have delivered diplomatic influence on behalf of the UK through a series of exercises and engagements with our partners – now we are ready to deliver the hard punch of maritime-based air power against a shared enemy.
‘The involvement of HMS Queen Elizabeth and her air wing in this campaign also sends a wider message. It demonstrates the speed and agility with which a UK-led carrier strike group can inject fifth generation combat power into any operation, anywhere in the world, thereby offering the British government, and our allies, true military and political choice.’
The aircraft carrier currently has eight UK jets and 10 F-35s from the US Marine Corps embarked on board.
It is the largest number of the stealth jets – touted as the most advanced, fifth generation warplanes in the world – to ever take to sea.
Equipped with advanced sensors, mission systems and stealth technology, the jets can carry out a wide range of missions, from bombing runs and strikes, to reconnaissance behind enemy lines.
Captain James Blackmore, commander of the carrier air wing, said: ‘The Lightning Force is once again in action against Daesh, this time flying from an aircraft carrier at sea, which marks the Royal Navy’s return to maritime strike operations for the first time since the Libya campaign a decade ago.
‘With its fifth generation capabilities, including outstanding situational awareness, the F-35B is the ideal aircraft to deliver precision strikes, which is exactly the kind of mission that 617 Squadron has been training for day-after-day, night-after-night, for these past few months.’
Defence secretary Ben Wallace added: ‘The ability to operate from the sea with the most advanced fighter jets ever created is a significant moment in our history, offering reassurance to our allies and demonstrating the UK’s formidable air power to our adversaries.
‘The carrier strike group is a physical embodiment of Global Britain and a show of international military strength that will deter anyone who seeks to undermine global security.’
Looking for the latest Royal Navy updates from Portsmouth? Join our new Royal Navy news Facebook group to keep up to date.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
You can subscribe here for unlimited access to our online coverage, including Pompey, with 70 per cent fewer adverts for less than 20p a day.