May 24 (UPI) -- The strike group led by the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth left for a seven-month deployment, after months of planning and a visit by the queen.
Queen Elizabeth II visited her namesake vessel, the flagship of the British navy, on Saturday, hours before the ship departed Portsmouth with six Royal Navy ships and one submarine, a Dutch frigate and the U.S. Navy destroyer The Sullivans as escorts.
The British Ministry of Defense, in a statement, called the assemblage "the largest concentration of maritime and air power to leave [Britain] in a generation."
The carrier strike group, which includes F-35B fighter planes of the U.S. Marine Corps, is expected to travel 26,000 nautical miles on a goodwill and show-of-strength tour around the world.,
The deployment includes over 70 engagements, exercises and operations scheduled with allies and partner nations along the way.
In the Mediterranean Sea the ship will be joined by the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle for dual carrier operations.
The carrier strike group will later travel eastward to participate in the 50th Exercise Bersama Lima with the navies of Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, and will also visit India, Singapore, Japan and South Korea.
The strike group earlier this month completed a two-week exercise, involving 20 warships, three submarines and 150 aircraft in preparation for the deployment.
It reached its initial operating capability, essentially its formal certification for involvement in the Royal Navy, in January.
In October 2020, U.S. Marines practiced takeoffs and landings aboard the aircraft carrier in advance of the deployment.