Aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has set sail from Portsmouth as the UK Carrier Strike Group prepares to join allied forces for its largest and most demanding exercise to date.
Warships HMS Defender, HMS Diamond and HMS Kent also sailed from the city while HMS Richmond is due to sail from Plymouth. Meanwhile Wildcat helicopters from 815 Naval Air Squadron have departed their base in Yeovilton to join the exercise.
Exercise Strike Warrior will involve more than 20 warships, three submarines and 150 aircraft from 11 nations and is a final test for the Carrier Strike Group ahead of its first operational deployment to the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and Asia Pacific.
The exercise, which will run for two weeks, will see the task group pitted against warships from NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 1 in waters off north-west Scotland to prove it is capable of undertaking high intensity operations against the most demanding adversaries.
The culmination of Strike Warrior will see the Carrier Strike Group certified ready for deployment, at which point operational command will pass from the Royal Navy’s Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Jerry Kyd, to the Chief of Joint Operations, Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key.
Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander UK Carrier Strike Group, said: