F-35B lands on the HMS Queen Elizabeth
The first Marine Corps F-35B from Yuma lands aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth. Marine Corps photo

A Yuma-based squadron of Marine Corps F-35B stealth fighters has deployed aboard Her Majesty’s Ship Queen Elizabeth for a multi-month training exercise on the new British aircraft carrier.

Fighter Attack Squadron 211 embarked Tuesday on the carrier, which was designed to support a British version of the Lockheed-built, 5th-generation vertical-takeoff fighter.

The Marines joined a British F-35B squadron aboard the 65,000-ton carrier as she sailed for exercises with NATO allies in the North Sea along with six Royal Navy destroyers, frigates and auxiliaries.

“HMS Queen Elizabeth will be operating with the largest air group of 5th generation fighters assembled anywhere in the world,” said Commodore Steve Moorhouse, commander of the group. “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.”

The Queen Elizabeth strike group will be joined by warships from the Royal Netherlands Navy and U.S. Navy to form the largest British-led multinational force in recent years.

“This is the ‘special relationship’ in action,” said Robert Wood Johnson, U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom. “Our forces train, fight, and win — side by side — to protect our two countries.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the lead ship of a new class of aircraft carriers, the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy, and marks the renewal of carrier operations by the United Kingdom.

In early September, Fighter Attack Squadron 211 flew from Yuma to Beaufort, South Carolina, and then to Royal Air Force Station Marham for training before heading to the aircraft carrier.

“The Wake Island Avengers are ready in all respects to work with the British sailors and aircrew onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Freshour, commanding officer of the squadron. “We are looking forward to deploying alongside our British counterparts.”

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.