The UK Carrier Strike Group flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth enters Portsmouth Harbour for the first time since May as her historic global deployment concludes. Photo: Royal Navy.

Another chapter in the Royal Navy’s illustrious, centuries-spanning history has been written with the return home of the various ships and aircraft of the UK Carrier Strike Group (UK CSG) and their people.

Across the span of seven months (starting in May) they voyaged from British waters to the far side of the world and back. It was a major milestone, showing the Senior Service is well and truly back in the business of global power projection via its aircraft carriers after a decade-long capability gap.

The frigate HMS Richmond receives a watery salute from a tug as she makes her way through Plymouth Sound, bringing her own carrier escort mission to a close. Photo: Steve Jagger.

In our latest video news special (click here to view on our YouTube channel), which charts the second phase of the deployment – from waters off Japan then across the Pacific, the Indian Ocean and into the Mediterranean before the joy of entries to home ports and landings at naval air stations – we see the UK CSG units exercising with key Allies and then complete the final miles of their passage to be waved in by friends and loved ones.

This was the UK core of the CSG, for the US Marine Corps (USMC) aviators and support personnel of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMFA-211) had departed prior to the homecomings in Britain, as had the US Navy (USN) destroyer USS The Sullivans and Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) frigate HNLMS Evertsen. They peeled away some weeks ago, making their own homecomings back in the USA and The Netherlands.

In this action-packed video news special we also see the UK CSG exercise with the USN, USMC, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), Italian Navy (Marina Militare) and Italian Air Force.

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The destroyer HMS Defender returns home to Portsmouth after acting as an escort for the strike carrier during the CSG 21 mission. Photo: Royal Navy.

It includes the remarkable meetings at sea staged by the RN strike carrier and flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth (across various exercises) with the American aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan and USS Carl Vinson, Japanese helicopter carrier JS Ise, the large-deck amphibious assault ships USS America and USS Essex, as well as the light carrier ITS Cavour. The latter is flagship of the Italian Navy. There is also a triple Replenishment-at-Sea (RAS) between HNLMS Evertsen, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) tanker RFA Tidespring and Queen Elizabeth.

In addition to strike jets from the UK’s (joint RN-RAF) F-35B force, US and Italian militaries, we see the Venom and Viper helicopters of the USMC, Merlin and Wildcat helicopters of the UK Fleet Air Arm (FAA), NH90 ‘copters of Italy’s fleet, plus also MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft of the USMC.

We also see the second British carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, conducting flying tests and trials off the UK with the F-35B and operating Army, Navy and Air force (Apache, Wildcat and Chinook) helicopters, as she prepares for front line operations next year.

Merlin helicopters of 845 Naval Air Squadron and a Wildcat support ‘copter in UK skies as they make their return to RNAS Yeovilton. Photo: Royal Navy.

Representing the all-domains flavour of the UK CSG, are the carrier escorts HMS Diamond and HMS Defender (both Daring Class/Type 45 destroyers) along with HMS Richmond and HMS Kent (Duke Class/Type 23 frigates).

Video: Courtesy of the UK MoD and Royal Navy plus SJ Media.

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  • For more news and imagery of the UK CSG return home, see the forthcoming February 2022 edition of WARSHIPS IFR (out on January 21 2022) which will be available in both hard copy and digital formats.
  • For other UK CSG news and much more on global navies, get the January 2022 edition, which is out on December 17 2021.
  • An inside perspective on the Carrier Strike Group 21 deployment is provided by some of its senior officers in our ‘Guide to the Royal Navy 2021’, which profiles all aspects of today’s British fighting fleet
  • More video footage of CSG 21 can be found HERE

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