Ten of the Marine Corps’ newest aircraft – the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters – are onboard the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and will 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 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing in San Diego – will represent the Marine Corps and the U.S. while they serve as part of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group. The Marine Corps planes and pilots went aboard the ship on Tuesday, Sept. 22.
With the Marine Corps jets, the 65,000-ton aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy, will host the largest group of fifth generation fighters in the world, said Commodore Steve Moorhouse, commander of the UK strike group, in a statement.
The deployment will also include six Royal Navy destroyers, frigates and auxiliaries as well as warships from the Royal Netherlands Navy and U.S Navy. This forms the largest UK-led multi-national force in recent years.
“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,” Moorhouse said in a statement.
First, the strike group will train off the northeast coast of Scotland as part of Joint Warrior – NATO’s largest annual exercise. Marine fighter pilots will train in their F-35 fighters and test the planes’ radar-evading capabilities.
This exercise builds a stronger relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States, officials said. For the UK, it will be the largest air group to operate from a Royal Navy carrier since HMS Hermes in 1983. For the U.S., it is the first time a squadron of F-35s will deploy aboard a foreign vessel.
The Marine squadron of “Wake Island Avengers” left for training at the Royal Air Force Station Marham earlier this month. The pilots flew from the West Coast to South Carolina and then to England.
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