Royal Navy flagship returns home without £100m fighter jet

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She is to return home after the first operational deployment of the Royal Navy flagship Carrier Strike Group (CSG), which has been scuttled by incidents including the loss of a £100 million fighter jet at sea.

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The aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by seven battleships and a submarine, departed from Portsmouth Naval Base in May following the Queen’s visit to the Far East.

But the 3,700 sailors of the ships and their combined crew suffered numerous incidents, both diplomatic and technical, during their voyage of 25,000 nautical miles.

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The carrier was originally expected to return to Portsmouth on 10 December, but due to concerns about the weather, the arrival was pushed back a day.

The narrow entrance to Portsmouth Harbor meant that the 65,000-ton battleship would not enter regularly during heavy winds.

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The crew of the three warships will be welcomed home by family and friends just in time for Christmas to make a traditional homecoming at the pier at the naval base.

The most serious deployment incident occurred in November when an F35B Lightning jet crashed in the Mediterranean Sea after falling off the side of the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth.

An RAF F35B Lightning jet prepares to take off from the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth (Belinda Alker/MoD Crown copyright/PA) , PA Media

The pilot was ejected and found safe, but the state-of-the-art fighter jet was lying on the ocean floor and was recently recovered.

A member of the £3 billion carrier’s crew has been arrested on suspicion of leaking video footage of the incident.

The jets are operated by the famous 617 Squadron, also known as the “Dumbusters” squadron.

The carrier’s visit was canceled a few days after the incident by Prince Charles.

Earlier in the voyage, the Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender was involved in a standoff with the Russian Navy after sailing close to Crimea in June.

The Kremlin claimed warning shots were fired at the destroyer by Russian ships as it passed through a disputed part of the Black Sea last week – a claim rejected by the UK government, which it said was only a routine “gun exercise”. happened.

Dramatic eyewitness accounts showed that the defender, who is returning to Portsmouth on 9 December, was buzzing from the Russian military jet and naval gunfire could be heard as it sailed from Odessa in Ukraine to Georgia.

In July, its sister ship HMS Duncan, also arriving at Hampshire naval base on Thursday, suffered a mechanical problem with its engine, causing it to undergo repairs before returning to CSG six weeks later.

In the same month, several ships in the CSG, including the carrier, experienced a COVID-19 outbreak despite double vaccination of all crew.

A sailor aboard the Type 23 battleship HMS Kent was also confirmed to have died in July. The investigation has been started.

The voyage culminated in a carrier participating in joint exercises with warships from the US, Netherlands, Canada and Japan before arriving at Yokosuka.

The exercise was part of efforts led by Washington and Tokyo to achieve a “free and open Indo-Pacific” approach.

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