The Royal Navy’s future flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth has sailed back into its home port as a “fully trained” aircraft carrier.
The 65,000-tonne warship has completed sea trials and flight tests with the F-35B Lightning jets, clearing it for frontline duties.
1ï¸â£2ï¸â£0ï¸â£0ï¸â£0ï¸â£ nautical miles— HMS Queen Elizabeth🇬🇧 (@HMSQNLZ) July 1, 2020
1ï¸â£6ï¸â£6ï¸â£0ï¸â£ launches & recoveries
6ï¸â£1ï¸â£7ï¸â£ squadron fully integrated
All while protecting the ship against an invisible real enemy, #Covid19.
Time for #TeamQE to come #home.
To our families; #PompeyRevs initiated. pic.twitter.com/adYQHOmiOV
Families of the crew were unable to give the £3 billion ship the traditional quayside welcome at Portsmouth Naval Base because of Covid-19 restrictions, but some waved home their loved ones from the harbour walls.
Before sailing, the crew, who had spent a period in isolation, were tested for coronavirus and two sailors were taken off after testing positive.
The first of the Navy’s two Queen Elizabeth class carriers will undergo further training in the autumn alongside Nato and US allies as the final stage before it can sail as part of a carrier strike group.
Armed forces minister James Heappey said: “HMS Queen Elizabeth is an extraordinary ship crewed by extraordinary people from both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.
“They deployed at the height of the Covid-19 outbreak and have remained at sea for over 10 weeks so that they could complete their operational training with the minimal risk of infection.
“They’ve put their duty to our country ahead of spending time with their families during the pandemic and, in the process, they’ve taken us a step closer to once again having a carrier strike capability with the capacity to project British influence across the globe.”
The ship set sail from Portsmouth in April for sea trials, then returned briefly to base before setting off again for flight trials in the North Sea with the F-35 stealth jets from 617 Squadron, better known as The Dambusters.
Captain Angus Essenhigh, HMS Queen Elizabeth’s commanding officer, said: “The ship’s company have worked incredibly hard over the past 70 days, making every effort to surpass the high standards set by our assessors.
“They have come through with flying colours which means HMS Queen Elizabeth has taken a huge step towards sailing on her maiden deployment, flying the flag for the United Kingdom and demonstrating that we are a global naval power with global ambitions.”