British Royal Navy declares IOC for Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group ahead of spring deployment

HMS Queen Elizabeth R08 returns to Portsmouth on July 2, 2020 after a period of operational training at sea. Photo by the British Royal Navy

The first British Royal Navy Carrier Strike Group in 38 years reached Initial Operational Capability (IOC) ahead of its first operational deployment later this year, the British government announced today.

The IOC statement means that all elements of the CSG – from the aircraft carrier itself, to the air wing, to surface fighters, and all their systems that operate in the air, surface and submarine domains – have been successfully assembled and operated.

“The air and naval elements of the CSG have now reached this milestone, which includes qualified pilots and ground crews retained short-term for carrier-based operations and trained to handle weapons and maintain equipment,” we read in the press release.
Another marker of success at this point includes the ability to deploy anti-submarine warfare capabilities such as frigates and destroyers, as well as fixed and rotary wing aircraft, including Merlin helicopters, to operate at sides of the aircraft carrier. “

The strike group, which includes a squadron of U.S. Marines with F-35B Joint Strike Fighter jets, has already gone to sea to train and participate in NATO Joint Warrior exercises in October. During these training events, the Royal Navy operated alongside 13 allies – Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Latvia, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Turkey, Japan, United Arab Emirates and United States – United – and was also notable for being the most aircraft on a Royal Navy aircraft carrier since 1983 as well as the most F-35Bs at sea in the program’s history.

This IOC decision keeps the CSG on schedule as it works towards deployment in 2021.

“This is an extremely important step for HMS queen elizabeth, the Royal Navy and the whole country, ”Defense Minister Jeremy Quin said in the press release.
“This achievement is a testament to the determination of our service personnel and industry workforce who provided this world-class military capability, a capability owned by only a handful of countries. I wish the entire Carrier Strike Group well in advance of their first operational deployment this year. “

From this spring, the Queen Elizabeth CSG will embark on a global deployment which is expected to cover Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific. The Royal Navy expects the Carrier Strike Group to reach full operational capability by December 2023.

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