UK: Royal Navy's HMS Queen Elizabeth completes missions near Norway

According to information published by the UK MoD on October 3, 2023, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, the flagship of the UK Carrier Strike Group, has successfully completed a series of simulated strike missions in the North Sea and Norwegian Sea. This marks the completion of the first phase of the carrier's autumn deployment.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 The aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and the Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond. (Picture source: UK MoD)

Joining the aircraft carrier for this combat-style training were naval vessels from Norway, the Netherlands, and Belgium, including the HMS Diamond, RFA Tideforce, HNoMS Otto Sverdrup, HNoMS Maud, HNLMS De Zeven Provincien, HNLMS Van Amstel, and BNS Louise Marie.

The training exercises, part of the Royal Air Force's Exercise Cobra Warrior, saw the F-35 Lightning fighter jets from 617 Squadron, Merlin helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron, and Wildcat helicopters from 815 and 847 Naval Air Squadrons engage in a variety of simulated missions. These ranged from air defence to strike attacks against enemy positions.

One of the key scenarios involved the F-35s identifying and neutralising surface-to-air threats, ensuring a safe path for subsequent strikes. The jets also simulated close cover operations to deter hostile fighters.

The next phase of the deployment will see the inclusion of HMS Portland and collaboration with the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) nations. The JEF, a high-readiness task group, includes member nations such as Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. Joint air operations into Norway, Sweden, and Finland are on the agenda.

The initial weeks of the ship's deployment also witnessed the Wildcat helicopters achieving their Carrier Deck qualifications and the US Air Force Ospreys honing their skills on the carrier's deck. The ship also engaged in surface warfare exercises, targeting potential threats.

Additionally, the carrier's medical team demonstrated their readiness to handle serious medical emergencies, supported by Merlin helicopters equipped for casualty evacuations.

Norwegian Sea

The Norwegian Sea is adjacent to Russia's Kola Peninsula, home to the Northern Fleet's naval bases and a significant portion of Russia's nuclear submarine arsenal.

By conducting operations in the Norwegian Sea, NATO directly monitors and potentially counters any naval movements from these bases. Additionally, the Barents Sea, connected to the Norwegian Sea, is a known route for Russian naval vessels heading into the Atlantic.

NATO's presence in the Norwegian Sea can track and, if necessary, intercept any vessels moving towards the North Atlantic.