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HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier is the new Fleet Flagship of the British Royal navy.

| 2021

According to information published by the British Navy on January 27, 2021, the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft assumed the role of Fleet Flagship as the British Royal Navy moves closer to deploying the world’s most technologically advanced carrier strike group.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 The HMS Queen Elizabeth is the new Fleet Flagship of the British Navy, having taken from the HMS Albion Amphibious Assault Ship. (Picture source British Navy)

The role of Fleet Flagship was transferred from the HMS Albion Amphibious Assault Ship by the Fleet Commander Vice-Admiral Jerry Kyd to the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier. It was announced last week that the UK’s new Flagship and Lightning Force of F-35B stealth strike fighters will also be complemented by a detachment of the fifth-generation aircraft from the US Marine Corps, and a US Navy destroyer during her first operational strike group deployment.

In the British Royal Navy, the Fleet Flagship is, technically, the ship that would host the 2* maritime battle staff headquarters (such as COMUKMARFOR, a Rear Admiral who normally is based ashore) for operations, but more practically is considered to be the warship designated as the fleet's most prestigious vessel.

HMS Queen Elizabeth and her strike group will spend time developing collective war-fighting skills when NATO navies gather for exercise Strike Warrior off Scotland during the spring, before departing for the Mediterranean.

Last year, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, confirmed that HMS Queen Elizabeth will be at the center of a Carrier Strike Group deployment to the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and East Asia. She will embark F-35B from 617 Squadron (the “Dambusters”), Royal Navy Merlin helicopters, and be escorted and supported by Royal Navy Type 45 destroyers, Type 23 frigates and support ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

Assault ship HMS Albion had been flagship since March 2018, deploying to the Indo-Pacific for 10 months; to the Baltic for major multi-national exercises; and latterly to the Mediterranean leading NATO security patrols and experimental warfare trials. Her sister, HMS Bulwark, previously led the Fleet for four years.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth is the first of the two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers in service with the British Navy. The ship began sea trials in June 2017, was commissioned on 7 December 2017 and entered service with the British Navy in 2020.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier is able to carry up to forty aircraft, with a normal maximum load of thirty-six F-35s and four helicopters, but she has also a theoretical surge capacity of up to 72 aircraft. The aircraft carrier can be also used as a Maritime Force Protection package with nine anti-submarines Merlin HM2 and five Merlin Crowsnest able to conduct airborne early warning missions. The ship can also carry a mix of Royal Navy Commando Helicopter Force Merlin HC4, Wildcat AH1, RAF Chinooks, and Army Air Corps Apaches.

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