The amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conducted bilateral interoperability training with the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R 08) and embarked Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 in the Gulf of Oman, Nov. 8. VMFA-211 cross-decked F-35B Lightning II’s from HMS Queen Elizabeth to Essex displaying the strategic advantage of the United Kingdom’s Carrier Strike Group as well as the integration of the F-35Bs. VMFA-211’s F-35B Standard Take-off and Vertical Landing (SVOTL) capabilities make them uniquely qualified to support distributed maritime operations. In addition to the F-35Bs, the Royal Navy cross-decked Merlin MK4’s, attached to 845 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), accomplishing routine deck landings aboard Essex.
Commodore Steve Moorhouse, commander of the United Kingdom’s Carrier Strike Group, stated, “The force development work we have been undertaking with the U.S. Navy has been ground breaking. We are all comfortable with helicopters lilly-padding from one deck to another but doing it with fixed wing aircraft is a whole new game.”
“We are privileged to have had this opportunity to train alongside a longstanding NATO ally in the Middle East. Our integrated aircraft training with HMS Queen Elizabeth has helped demonstrate our efficacy in the region and our commitment to maritime security and stability world-wide,” said Captain DeWayne Sanders, commodore of Amphibious Squadron One (CPR 1).
UH-1Y Venoms and MV-22B Ospreys, attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 165 (Reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), conducted cross-deck landings on HMS Queen Elizabeth. Essex and the 11th MEU are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region. The U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The expanse is comprised of 20 countries and includes three chokepoints, critical to the free flow of global commerce.