Dramatic moment HMS Queen Elizabeth sets sail from Portsmouth for first deployment

Rebecca Speare-Cole
·3-min read

Watch: Navy ships leave Portsmouth on HMS Queen Elizabeth's first deployment

This is the dramatic moment HMS Queen Elizabeth embarked on her maiden deployment from Portsmouth.

Crowds gathered along the harbour walls to wave off the massive £3.2 billion warship on Saturday afternoon.

The ship is leading the UK's Carrier Strike Group in an exercise off Scotland before departing for the Indo-Pacific region for the Royal Navy's biggest deployment in more than a decade.

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The fleet will tour 40 countries in total, more than a fifth of the world's nations, over 28 weeks and will travel to areas of geopolitical tension like the South China Sea.

HMS Queen Elizabeth sets sail from Portsmouth on Saturday afternoon. (SWNS)
HMS Queen Elizabeth sets sail from Portsmouth on Saturday afternoon. (SWNS)

The ship first left the Portsmouth naval base in March for trials and training ahead of its debut deployment.

At 280 metres long, HMS Queen Elizabeth is the same length as 20 double-decker buses or 2.6 football pitches.

The ship’s width at deck level is 90 metres – almost the same as the height of the Statue of Liberty or Big Ben.

At 56 metres-tall, it is the same as the height of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The £3.2bn aircraft carrier leads the UK Carrier Strike Group. (SWNS)
The £3.2bn aircraft carrier leads the UK Carrier Strike Group. (SWNS)

During the voyage, it will carry 1,700 people on board, 250 of which will be US personnel.  

The ship will also carry eight RAF and ten US Marine Corps F35B stealth fighter jets.

They will be accompanied to Asia by six Royal Navy ships, a submarine, 14 naval helicopters and a company of Royal Marines.

US destroyer USS The Sullivans and the Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen will join them on visits to India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

The ship began sea trials in 2017 after replacing HMS Illustrious which was scrapped in 2014.

Watch: HMS Queen Elizabeth heads carrier strike group for first time

HMS Defender is joining the HMS Queen Elizabeth as the UK Carrier Strike Group sets sail. (SWNS)
HMS Defender is joining the HMS Queen Elizabeth as the UK Carrier Strike Group sets sail. (SWNS)

Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander UK Carrier Strike Group, said: "The advent of the UK Carrier Strike Group represents a substantial new injection of fifth-generation combat power into the defence of the Euro-Atlantic region.

"It is therefore fitting that our final and most demanding test prior to deployment involves so many of Britain's allies.

"As the ships and aircraft of the Carrier Strike Group assemble over the coming days, Exercise Strike Warrior is an opportunity prove to ourselves, and to the world, that we have what it takes to act as cohesive and potent fighting force at sea, under the water, in the air and over the land."

HMS Kent also sails from Portsmouth as part of the carrier group. (SWNS)
HMS Kent also sails from Portsmouth as part of the carrier group. (SWNS)

Colonel Simon Doran USMC, the US senior representative to the UK Carrier Strike Group, said: "Strike Warrior represents the final opportunity for the US Marines, sailors and coastguardsmen to refine years of planning and training."We will validate our synergy with the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and other NATO allies.

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"Through this interoperability, we will demonstrate the carrier power projection capabilities of the UK Carrier Strike Group."

Squadron Leader Stew Campbell of 617 Squadron added: "617 Squadron are delighted to be back on board HMS Queen Elizabeth alongside our US Marine Corps counterparts.

"Exercise Strike Warrior will put the finishing touches on the robust work up package already completed, assuring our readiness to deploy as the centrepiece of a hugely capable and diverse Carrier Strike Group."

Watch: Introducing Britain's biggest-ever warship