The UK, USA, Dutch and Japanese navies have completed “intensive” exercises in the Pacific Ocean and they ended training on a high note with the HMS Queen Elizabeth leading the final formation in an impressive demonstration of naval might.
The Royal Navy called the exercises a “milestone” in a statement posted to their website, adding: “The UK Carrier Strike Group’s warships led by aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth worked with the USS America-led United States Expeditionary Strike Group 7 and two ships from Japan’s Maritime Self Defence Force to prove the ability of the three navies to operate effectively together.”
A number of American sailors joined the HMS Queen Elizabeth to “get a taste of life on the fleet flagship” while a British destroyer, the HMS Defender, was also allowed to temporarily go under American command.
The exercises also saw an F-35B Lightning fighter jet from the British aircraft carrier land on the USS America as “UK and US squadrons from both ships worked closely together”.
The Royal Navy also said that helicopters belonging to all of the participants “learnt to operate seamlessly with ships from allied nations”.
Captain Angus Essenhigh, the HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Commanding Officer, said: “Conducting exercises with ships of the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force and the US Expeditionary Strike Group 7 is another milestone for HMS Queen Elizabeth.
“We have shown our ability to work with our allies and as we get accustomed to operating in the Indo-Pacific again these relationships will be important for all future Royal Navy ships operating in the region.”
The 12th and final day of the training exercises concluded when the vessels from all for participating nations headed into Philippine waters in formation in “a demonstration of naval might”.
The HMS Queen Elizabeth “took up the lead position flanked by Japanese Hyuga-class helicopter destroyer JS Ise and amphibious assault ship USS America”, according to the Royal Navy statement.
The statement added: “Frigates and destroyers of the UK Carrier Strike Group, HMS Defender, HMS Kent, USS The Sullivans and Dutch ship HNLMS Evertsen, followed closely behind with Japanese destroyer JS Asahi and ship USS New Orleans.
The ships then bade each other farewell, with sailors from HMS Queen Elizabeth lining the carrier’s upper deck and giving a ‘three cheers for the Japanese ship JS Ise’ as they sailed past.
US personnel had joined HMS Queen Elizabeth two weeks’ earlier in Guam and as the ships reunited for the exercises, Merlin helicopters of 820 Naval Air Squadron flew to USS America to return the American sailors as part of flight operations between the ships.”
Lieutenant Matthew James, pilot in 820 Naval Air Squadron, said: “It was great to work with the USS America and operate from a different deck, as well as mixing it with different aircraft such as the SH60 Seahawks.”