Ten F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma’s (VMFA) 211 are currently onboard the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth to participate in a multi-month deployment with forces from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the U.S. Navy.
“The Wake Island Avengers” – part of the San Diego-based 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing – will represent the Marine Corps and the U.S. while they serve as part of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group.“
“HMS Queen Elizabeth will be operating with the largest air group of 5th generation fighters assembled anywhere in the world,” said Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander UK CSG. “Led by the Royal Navy, and backed by our closest allies, this new Carrier Strike Group puts real muscle back into NATO; and sends a clear signal that the United Kingdom takes its global role seriously”
The Wake Island Avengers deployed to Royal Air Force Station Marham in the United Kingdom from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma on Sept. 3. The flight included a stopover at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, and covered a distance of 5500 nautical miles.
Prior to boarding the 65,000-ton aircraft carrier on Sept. 22, VMFA-211 conducted realistic, relevant training at RAF Marham with the UK’s 617 Squadron “The Dambusters,” which is also taking part in the massive multi-country exercise.
The UK-led Group Exercise, which will take place in the North Sea, will see VMFA-211, 617 Squadron and HMS Queen Elizabeth joined by six Royal Navy destroyers, frigates and other auxiliary vessels.
In addition to these forces, the UK CSG will be joined by warships from the Royal Netherlands Navy and US Navy to form the largest UK-led multi-national force in recent years.
“This is the Special Relationship in action.” said Robert Wood Johnson, U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, “Our forces train, fight, and win – side by side – to protect our two countries.”
VMFA-211 joined the UK’s 617 Squadron “The Dambusters” onboard the 65,000-ton carrier on Sept. 22 prior to the ship’s departure for the exercise with NATO allies.
Before the deployment, the CSG will be put through its paces off the north east coast of Scotland as part of Joint Warrior, NATO’s largest annual exercise.
Joint Warrior will be an opportunity for the CSG to exercise the capabilities of 15 F-35Bs flown by VMFA-211 and Squadron 617.
The F-35B combines next-generation fighter characteristics of radar-evading stealth, sensor fusion, fighter agility and advanced logistical support with the most powerful and comprehensive integrated sensor package of any fighter aircraft in history, providing unprecedented lethality and access to highly contested environments.
The training for Squadron 211, while aboard Queen Elizabeth will include a variety of drills meant to determine if the F-35s from both squadrons can function interoperably.
“This deployment demonstrates that our forces are more than interoperable–we are integrated,” said Col. Simon Doran, Senior National Representative to the UK CSG. “During this special partnership, the US Marine Corps and US Navy will conduct carrier strike group operations, training to maritime power projection, and ultimately supporting shared security. Our alliance is stronger because we can deploy and fight together as truly integrated NATO allies”
This exercise is also a historic moment for both the United Kingdom and the United States and strengthens the special relationship between the two countries.
For the UK, it will be the largest air group to operate from a Royal Navy carrier since HMS Hermes in 1983; as well as the next step leading toward HMS Queen Elizabeth’s worldwide deployment in the Spring of 2021.
For the United States, it is the first time a squadron of F-35 aircraft will be deployed aboard a foreign vessel, and will prove that the “Wake Island Avengers” are ready to conduct operations in support of NATO.
The “Wake Island Avengers” made history in 2018 when the squadron completed the first F-35B combat deployment, successfully supporting ground operations in Central Command’s area of responsibility.
“The Wake Island Avengers are ready in all respects to work with the British sailors and aircrew onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Freshour, the commanding officer of VMFA-211. “We are looking forward to deploying alongside our British counterparts.”
While serving as part of the UK Carrier Strike Group, VMFA-211 will use innovative techniques to combine efforts and resources while collaborating on complex mission sets to maintain the United States’ global maritime military advantage.