Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite traveled to the United Kingdom (UK) Sept. 29 – Oct. 2 where he met with senior defense and military leaders to discuss continued maritime efforts between the two nations, reaffirming the strong bilateral relationship between the U.S. and UK.
While in the UK, Braithwaite joined senior leaders from the U.S. and UK aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) to observe U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) F-35B operations aboard a partner nation vessel. The visit aboard the Queen Elizabeth culminates efforts between the two countries to restore the UK’s aircraft carrier strike capability and increase interoperability while establishing interchangeability between the two navies in accordance with a 2012 bilateral effort to ensure that, should the need arise, both nations can operate jointly and seamlessly in contingencies well into the future.
“In this era of global connectedness, the strength of our international alliances, partnerships, interoperability, and most especially inter-changeability are imperative,” said Braithwaite. “Once again they are as important today as they were 75 years ago during World War II. On a daily basis, our coalition forces come together to defend freedom, deter war and maintain the rules which allow for a free and open international order.”
Braithwaite, along with Commandant of the Marine Corps General David H. Berger and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Sergeant Major Troy Black, met with UK military leadership to discuss the technological advances of the F-35B and integration of a U.S. Marines Corps squadron aboard the British aircraft carrier.
“In today’s operating environment, success will require unity of effort, operational flexibility, and the integrated application of Navy and Marine capabilities in the maritime domain,” said Berger. “The United States and United Kingdom forward-deployed forces remain ready to respond to crises globally as a combined maritime force-in readiness.”
Braithwaite also met with U.S. Navy Sailors and Marines assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 based in Yuma, Arizona, who embarked Queen Elizabeth in September as part of Group Exercise (GROUPEX). Prior to receiving USMC F-35B aircraft onboard, Queen Elizabeth conducted operational testing requirements and integration of the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) F-35Bs while anchored in the Chesapeake Bay outside Annapolis, Maryland, last year.
Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander UK Carrier Strike Group said aligning U.S. and UK carrier capabilities sends a clear message to friends and adversaries that the UK is ready to stand by their allies and protect shared interests wherever they are threatened.
“Over the past decade, Royal Navy aviators, handlers, engineers and others have been embedded with U.S. Navy and Marine Corps ships and squadrons, learning the skills required for big deck carrier operations,” said Moorhouse. “With USMC and UK fifth generation fighters operating in tandem from HMS Queen Elizabeth, Carrier Strike is not only a new capability for Britain, but also for NATO and the United States too.”
The relationship between the maritime partners has formed the cornerstone of the international rules-based order and it remains equally important as the two nations confront this era of great power competition.
“While the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps will always maintain a forward presence to help provide global security and stability, the interchangeability we celebrate today with such a close ally as the United Kingdom is key to ensuring future success,” said Braithwaite.
When Queen Elizabeth embarks on its first deployment in 2021, its airwing will include a mix of U.S. Marine Corps and Royal Navy F-35B fighters, as well as a support team comprised of U.S. Navy aviation ordnance personnel from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), a communications specialist from Norfolk's Navy Computer and Telecommunications Master Station Atlantic, and a Personnel Exchange Program (PEP) officer attached to the UK CSG staff as a Strike Warfare Plans Officer. The Arleigh-Burke destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) is also scheduled to deploy to support the UK’s CSG.
“This deployment shows all you need to know about the Special Relationship,” said the U.S. Ambassador to the UK, Robert W. Johnson IV. “What America and Britain have together is a level of trust and collaboration that goes beyond any other partnership in the world.”
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