Royal Navy on track to building battlegroup to protect new carriers

NAVY top brass are looking to the future as they prepare to craft the nation's new maritime battlegroup.

Thursday, 17th August 2017, 9:10 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 11:36 am
HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in her home port of Portsmouth Harbour for the first time Picture: Steve Reid/Blitz Photography

Britain’s future carrier strike group will be vital in protecting the Royal Navy’s £6.2bn supercarriers from enemy attack.

The group, made up of frigates, destroyers, submarines and aircraft, will operate alongside the Queen Elizabeth-class warships.

The first of the two new 65,000-tonne behemoths, HMS Queen Elizabeth, arrived in Portsmouth on Wednesday.

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HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in her home port of Portsmouth Harbour for the first time Picture: Steve Reid/Blitz Photography

Commodore Andrew Betton is the commander of the UK carrier strike group.

He said: ‘This is the rebirth of carrier strike operations. But this a different beast from the aircraft carriers of the 1960s in terms of its flexibility and scale.

‘HMS Queen Elizabeth is one bit of the complex process that makes up the carrier strike group.’

To prepare, Cdre Betton took the reins of a US Navy battlegroup, led by the 100,000-tonne supercarrier USS George HW Bush.

HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in her home port of Portsmouth Harbour for the first time Picture: Steve Reid/Blitz Photography

The test saw him and his naval battle staff operating the group as part of Exercise Saxon Warrior, a series of war games off the UK coast.

Captain Ken Houlberg, chief of staff to the UK carrier strike group commander, said the exercise had been an invaluable lesson.

‘We have had a bit of a gap in our carrier capability since 2010,’ he said. ‘We have had to look to others to restore our capability – the Americans specifically have been more than generous in helping to guide us, teach us, show us the ropes again help us to restore our capability.’

Capt Houlberg added: ‘This carrier is at the centre of our carrier strike group. This is the class of ship that we’re forming all of our plans and preparations around.’