Jan. 4 (UPI) -- The Carrier Strike Group centered on the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth achieved Initial Operating Capability, the British government said on Monday.
The group includes ships, aircraft and trained personnel organized in October 2020 after the Queen Elizabeth's commissioning in 2017 and several training and shakedown exercises. Its first operational deployment is scheduled for May 2021.
The rating, regarded as a milestone, indicates that all elements of the group are fully functional.
"Both the air and naval elements of the CSG have now met this milestone, which includes qualified pilots and ground crews being held at short notice for carrier-based operations and trained to handle weapons and maintain the equipment," the British government said Monday in a press release.
The group includes the aircraft carrier, capable of launching 60 aircraft -- including the F-35B fighter plane. The CSG is rounded out by the escort vessels HMS Diamond and HMS Defender, both destroyers; frigates HMS Kent and HMS Richmond, tanker RFA Fort Victoria and one attack submarine.
Full operating capability of the group is expected by 2023.
In September, 10 U.S. Marine Corps F-35B aircraft arrived on the deck of the carrier to begin exercises in the North Sea with U.S. and Dutch warships.
"This is a hugely significant milestone for HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Navy and the whole country," British Defense Minister Jeremy Quin said on Monday.
"This achievement is a testament to the determination of our service personnel and industry workforce who have delivered this first-rate military capability, a capability held by only a handful of nations," Quin said.