British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) and its escorts are now operating in the Red Sea after transiting the Suez Canal on Tuesday, according to U.K. officials.
The carrier passed through the canal as part of the 28-week maiden deployment of the carrier with an air wing made up of both Royal Air Force and U.S. Marine F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters, the strike group announced.
The escorts included Type 23 anti-submarine frigates HMS Richmond (F239) and HMS Kent (F78); Type 45 guided-missile destroyers HMS Defender (D36) and HMS Diamond (D34); Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s RFA Fort Victoria and RFA Tidespring; U.S. destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG-68), Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen (F805); and the nuclear attack boat HMS Artful (S121).
The entrance into the Red Sea marks the second phase of the deployment that began in May 22 and will take the carrier into the Western Pacific via the South China Sea.
On June 22, F-35s from the Royal Air Force 617 Squadron, “The Dambusters” and The “Wake Island Avengers” of U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 flew combat operations in support of U.K. anti-ISIS effort Operation Shader and U.S. Operation Inherent Resolve – marking the first aerial combat operations from a U.K. carrier since 2010.
Defender and Evertsen operated as part of the Sea Breeze series of exercises in the Black Sea. Both warships were reportedly harassed by Russian ships and aircraft.
Also this week, the U.K.’s second carrier HMS Prince of Wales (R09) made its first foreign port visit after pulling into Gibraltar for a logistics stop.
“The visit comes as the Royal Navy’s forward basing program continues, with HMS Trent operating from Gibraltar where she will support operations in the Mediterranean, work with our African partners including maritime security operations in the Gulf of Guinea, and the French Navy as part of the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force,” the Royal Navy said in a statement.
— Douglas Gonzalez (@Lefistro) July 7, 2021
Prince of Wales is embarked with Apache attack helicopters of the U.K. Army Air Corps’ 656 Squadron and Wildcat maritime attack helicopters of 825 Naval Air Squadron as part of its sea trial period.
On Wednesday, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) and its escorts left the Mediterranean Sea for the Atlantic after its own Suez Canal transit on July 1. The strike group spent three months in U.S. Central Command supporting the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.