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HMS Queen Elizabeth Attacks for the First Time

A display of ‘formidable air power.’
IMAGE ROB ATHERTON
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The British strike group sailing through the Arabian Sea did not hesitate to put the world’s newest supercarrier—the HMS Queen Elizabeth—to the test when America called for backup on its operations against Daesh, another name for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL. 

A Display of ‘Formidable Air Power’

Aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth is the most reputed squadron in the British military. Nicknamed the “Dambusters”, the 617 Squadron RAF pilot the most advanced jet fighters in the world—The F-35 Stealth Fighters. The Dambusters carried out operational sorties for the first time from HMS Queen Elizabeth in support of the U.K.’s Operation Shader and U.S. Operation Inherent Resolve.

Eight of the F-35Bs on the carrier are from the British Royal Air Force 617 Squadron, while another 10 are from the U.S. Marines Corps’ Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, the “Wake Island Avengers.” It is the first time since World War II that the U.S. has used a foreign aircraft carrier to launch sorties. 

F-35B Stealth Fighter

Photo by Michael Fitzsimmons.
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According to the Royal Navy, F35B combat sorties were launched from the HMS Queen Elizabeth on June 22. Other sources reported strikes began on June 18, a date that’s also reflected in official Royal Navy imagery releases. British defense officials confirmed that airstrikes had been flown, according to USNI News

“The involvement of HMS Queen Elizabeth and her air wing in this campaign also sends a wider message. It demonstrates the speed and agility with which a U.K.-led Carrier Strike Group can inject fifth-generation combat power into any operation, anywhere in the world, thereby offering the British government, and our allies, true military, and political choice,” Commodore Steve Moorhouse, commander of the U.K. Carrier Strike Group, said in a statement.

Ben Wallace, British secretary of defense, also released a statement. “The ability to operate from the sea with the most advanced fighter jets ever created is a significant moment in our history, offering reassurance to our allies and demonstrating the U.K.’s formidable air power to our adversaries,” he said.

The British Are Back on the World Stage

The U.K.’s participation in the assault operations was intended to project British power and global relevance through military operations. 

In the last two decades, much of the global policing was carried out by the U.S. The U.K. visibly languished behind the the Americans in terms of projecting its global power and might—an important facet of earning international prestige and respect—but now, it is at par with America in enforcing the world order.

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Back in April, Wallace noted that the deployment of Britain’s most powerful strike group is meant to show the world that Britain is back.

“Against a backdrop of growing instability and competition, it [carrier strike group] reflects the United Kingdom’s continued commitment to global security.”

Carrier Strike Group 21, which is led by the HMS Queen Elizabeth, is the largest and most advanced strike force that was deployed by the U.K. in the last 40 years. Once it is finished in its mission against Daesh, it will sail to the waters surrounding former British colonies, and then join the U.S. Seventh Fleet in freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) in the South China Sea. 

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Mario Alvaro Limos
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