On 23 May the UK Carrier Strike Group (CSG21) set sail on her maiden operational deployment and has now completed the first phase. The Strike Group’s route has taken them through the eastern Atlantic, the Mediterranean and in the final weeks of June, they were operating in the Black Sea and delivering combat missions from the eastern Mediterranean concurrently.
During the first phase CSG21 has undertaken an impressive array of exercises working with NATO allies and key international partners. Exercise Steadfast Defender was the principal NATO exercise during this period, but we also participated in dual-carrier operations with our French allies, with HMS Queen Elizabeth sailing in company with the FS Charles de Gaulle.
The carrier air wing has undertaken a range of air exercises including Atlantic Trident and Gallic Strike with the US and France; Falcon Strike with Italy, the US and Israel; and Tri-Lightning with the US and Israel.
This was also a period of concentrated operational activity and development of the carrier strike capability. We provided support to ongoing NATO operations in the Black Sea and NATO’s maritime security operation (Sea Guardian) in the Mediterranean. For around two weeks, CSG21 provided support to Operation SHADER, the UK contribution to the Coalition effort to defeat Daesh in Iraq and Syria. While in the Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean we had to deal with persistent and often irresponsible harassment by Russian forces. This unfortunate continuation of Russian aggression was dealt with exceptionally by our forces, demonstrating not only the capabilities of the CSG, but also the professionalism and restraint of our Service personnel.
Ships from the Strike Group have conducted port visits to Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Georgia, Israel, Italy, Montenegro, Romania, Spain, Turkey and Ukraine. The programmes and ministerial attendance around those visits helped enhance security, diplomatic and trade relationships that will make the world safer, and will protect and promote prosperity and the rule of law.
We extend our enormous thanks and our great respect to all those nations and armed forces with whom we have engaged and worked alongside. This deployment is the Integrated Review in action and demonstrates the friendships and alliances that we have in place across the globe. Together with our allies we are developing a joint capability that is cutting-edge.
Whilst operating in the eastern Mediterranean HMS Diamond experienced some technical issues and has detached from the Task Group for maintenance, inspection and defect rectification. She is expected to re-join the Task Group during the Indo-Pacific phase of the deployment.
During phase one, as part of routine testing, Covid 19 cases were detected on four vessels within the Strike Group. All deployed personnel on CSG21 are fully vaccinated, tested regularly and appropriate protocols were put in place to isolate the cases where possible.
All personnel who are symptomatic are experiencing mild symptoms only and to date there has not been a single COVID-19 admission to sickbay. The Strike Group is currently at sea, has only contactless activity planned for the coming weeks, and will have had at least two weeks at sea before its next planned visits. We take nothing for granted in that regard and are working closely with partners to understand how we can balance engagement and interaction with safety for all concerned.
It is also with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence can confirm that a Royal Navy sailor from HMS Kent died on 10 July 2021. The individual’s next of kin have been informed and have requested privacy at this difficult time. The Ministry of Defence offers its profound condolences to the individual’s family and friends. The Ship’s Company of HMS Kent are in our thoughts during this difficult time.