The United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group – Providing choice to the Nation

03 Aug 23

“Carrier Strike offers Britain choice and flexibility on the global stage; it reassures our friends and allies and presents a powerful deterrent to would be adversaries. Protected by advanced ships, submarines and equipped with fifth generation F-35B fighters, the United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group is able to strike from the sea at a time and place of our choosing and with our allies at our side, we will be ready to fight and win in the most demanding circumstances”.

– Cdre Steve Moorhouse OBE RN, Commander United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group, Operation FORTIS (CSG20)

The United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group (UKCSG) is commanded by a 1* Commander, Commander UKCSG (COMUKCSG), from a Queen Elizabeth Class with a standing-headquarters of just under 50 specialist staff drawn from across Defence and allies. The Headquarters is permanently maintained at Very High Readiness and surges to an overall size of approximately 115 when activated, but with the staff footprint disaggregated and delivering some enabling activity from the homebase.

The UKCSG is centred on a Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier with its over-riding mission to provide air superiority over its associated Strike Group; without air superiority, against modern threats the force is forever vulnerable. While organic ship-based air defence systems are valid, they are no substitute for the organic air-power delivered by the F35B Lightning II fighters. From 2025 this air superiority will be guaranteed by 24 F35B operating in two frontline squadrons with an inherent capacity within the Queen Elizabeth Class to surge this number further. With protection assured the embarked squadrons can concurrently deliver deep strike exploiting the F35B’s low-observability (stealth) technology to defeat an adversary’s defences and enable the mass of follow-on forces.

Measured by the sum of its parts, the UKCSG employs T45 destroyers, T23 frigates, Astute Class attack submarines, Royal Fleet Auxiliary supporting shipping, and a suite of helicopters, to deliver a world-leading warfighting solution capable of spanning waters at home and far afield, either on a sovereign footing or employing international contributors.

If the Continuous At Sea Deterrent (CASD) offers the Nation nuclear deterrence, then Carrier Strike affords the Government of the day credible sovereign conventional deterrence. Equally, the sight of the UKCSG operating organically on the limits of territorial waters can exert significant diplomatic influence, consistent with international law without further escalating a situation. Beyond this, the convening and cohering effect of a Carrier Strike Group cannot be under-estimated; ‘international by design’, the UKCSG has totemic qualities around which partners and allies can aggregate and deliver an amplified message to potential adversaries.

In sum, the UKCSG provides a potent mix of capability able to range across competition, crisis, and conflict to present choice to the Nation. This choice continues to grow as the collective capability evolves through the decade and the Royal Navy normalises CSG operations at the heart of Europe’s leading Task Group navy.

Last updated Aug 23

Pictured L-R: USS America, HNLMS Evertsen, HMS Queen Elizabeth, HMS Kent, JS Asahi, JS Ise, USS New Orleans, HMS Defender, USS Sullivans.<br /> UK, Netherlands, United States and Japan complete intensive joint exercises in the Pacific<br /> A powerhouse naval force of warships, aircraft, sailors and marines from the UK, the Netherlands, United States and Japan converged for milestone exercises in the Pacific Ocean.<br /> The UK Carrier Strike Group’s warships led by aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth worked with the USS America-led United States Expeditionary Strike Group 7 and two ships from Japan’s Maritime Self Defence Force to prove the ability of the navies to operate effectively together.

HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH EMBARKS F35-B LIGHTNING JETS<br /> Pictured: A pair of F35-B jets land on the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth.<br /> On 11th November 2022, A day after sailing from Portsmouth, HMS Queen Elizabeth embarked the first F-35-B Lightning jets of 617 Squadron, based at RAF Marham. Over the coming days carrier qualifications will be conducted as the Carrier Strike Group (CSG) begins it's autumn deployment.<br /> Operation ACHILLEAN is a proof-of-concept deployment of NATO’s 5th generation maritime strike capability, comprising of F-35 carrier strike, Merlin and Wildcat helicopters. All elements of OP ACHILLEAN will be complementary of NATO and JEF activity, as the UK underscores its commitment to safeguarding European security.<br /> HMS Queen Elizabeth will be at the centre of the Carrier Strike Group, with the Commander UK Carrier Strike Group, Commodore Angus Essenhigh OBE Royal Navy and his staff commanding from the aircraft carrier.