HMS Queen Elizabeth: Royal Navy carrier docks in Portsmouth with F-35B fighter jets on board
The Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has docked in Portsmouth with F-35B jets on board amid its autumn deployment
The £4 billion aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth was spotted docked in Portsmouth harbour on Monday morning (30 October) with eight F-35 fighter jets on board. It comes after the nation’s flagship has been deployed on an operation known as Operation Firedrake, patrolling the North Sea, Norwegian Sea and North Atlantic with NATO to provide a demonstration of UK strike power to the Kremlin.
Users on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, have been sharing photos of the 920-ft long vessel in Portsmouth’s harbour. One user said: “A rare sight in Portsmouth harbour indeed.” While another user wrote: “The carriers only occasionally enter port with F35s on board.”
Navy Lookout, an Independent Royal Navy news and analysis platform, posted on X that the aircraft carrier had returned to Portsmouth to “fix a lift”. It posted: “@HMSQNLZ returned to Portsmouth in order to fix a lift defect and also conducting store ship ahead of returning to sea at end of this week. Likely to resume participation in #UKCSG23 planned exercises but as always, other options are open. No official comment as yet.”
A user named Martin Entwisle replied to one of Navy Lookout’s post about the carrier saying: “Quick re-supply and out to the Med I suspect”. On Monday the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak chaired an emergency Cobra meeting amid fears that the conflict between Hamas and Israel could have increased the domestic terror threat in Britain. Education minister Robert Halfon stressed before the meeting that the government has to ensure British citizens are “safe and secure from the threat of terrorism”.
HMS Queen Elizabeth sailed on 8 September to lead its first major carrier strike group deployment since 2021. The reasons as to why the carrier has stopped in Portsmouth and where she is off to next is yet to be confirmed.
It comes after the carrier was slammed as an “embarrassment” for only operating with eight F-35 fighter jets when it has the capacity to accommodate 36 stealth jets. On the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, John Ganges said it was the “UK’s latest embarrassment” that the “sparkling new carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth which has the capacity to carry 36 stealth jets, has left port to patrol with fellow NATO ships, with just eight fighters aboard.”
Pete Sandeman of navylookout.com also told NationalWorld the number of F-35 fighter jets onboard the aircraft carrier is “obviously disappointing” however he added that there are “several good reasons for this”. Mr Sandeman said: “ More jets could go on the carrier right now if there was an emergency but this would disrupt the training pipeline for new pilots and engineers. The build-up to the 2025 deployment is being prioritised when 24 UK jets will embark on HMS Prince of Wales. Even if we have more aircraft, the problems with the UK military Flying Training System means only a limited number of new pilots are qualifying each year to begin training to fly the F-35.”