MERLIN HELICOPTERS FROM 820 AND 845 NAVAL AIR SQUADRONS EMBARK ON CARRIER Pictured: A Merlin Mk4 from 845 NAS lands on the flight deck. On 9th November 2022 three Merlin Mk2 from 820 NAS and two Merlin Mk4 from 845 NAS joined HMS Queen Elizabeth alongside in HMNB Portsmouth as the ship prepares to sail on Op Achillean.

Royal Navy flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth left Portsmouth today bound for operations in northern European waters with F-35 Lightning jets.

The aircraft carrier recently returned from the United States where she hosted a high-profile security conference between the UK and US in New York.

Following a pause in Portsmouth, HMS Queen Elizabeth has now sailed for the next phase of her autumn programme, which will see her lead a powerful Carrier Strike Group of warships, helicopters and F35B stealth jets on Operation Achillean.

Commodore John Voyce, Portsmouth’s Naval Base Commander, said: “We wish HMS Queen Elizabeth and all the Carrier Strike Group the best of luck on their upcoming deployment. All at Portsmouth’s Naval Base are proud to support the Royal Navy’s flagship and prepare her for Operation Achillean. We look forward to welcoming her home when it is complete.”

The Carrier Strike Group will work closely with NATO and Joint Expeditionary Force allies as the UK underscores its commitment to safeguarding European security. 

The Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) is a coalition of ten like-minded nations, which are dedicated to maintaining the security of northern Europe.

This latest deployment builds on a range of operations and exercises with JEF allies this year for the Royal Navy, including maritime patrols in the Baltic Sea.

HMS Queen Elizabeth will be at the centre of the Carrier Strike Group, with the Commander UK Carrier Strike Group, Commodore Angus Essenhigh, and his staff commanding from the aircraft carrier. 

F-35B Lightning jets from 617 Squadron will carry out flying operations, while helicopters from 820, 845, 815 and 825 Naval Air Squadrons will be undertaking sorties from a bustling flight deck.

The deployment is part of the UK’s Operation Achillean, which also includes a task force led by HMS Albion in the Mediterranean.

More than a thousand sailors and Royal Marines have been operating with NATO allies and partners across the Med as part of the Littoral Response Group (North) this autumn.

The task force – which also includes RFA Argus, RFA Mounts Bay and HMS Defender – have most recently worked in Montenegro, forging closer bonds as the Balkan nation celebrates five years of NATO membership. 

They have also visited Libya, Cyprus and Egypt and worked closely with forces from Turkey, Greece and the United States.

This group are operating separately from HMS Queen Elizabeth, but their mission is the same as they work to protect the security and prosperity of Europe.