During the final test of the UK’s new maritime force, the F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters fired missiles ahead of its deployment this weekend. This marked the first time missiles had been fired at sea by British aircraft in 15 years.
The F-35’s were launched from HMS Queen Elizabeth’s flight deck to intercept Mirach target drones.
The exercise involved three submarines, 20 warships and 150 aircraft.
According to the Telegraph, Britain’s two new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales met for the first time at sea.
The task group – led by HMS Queen Elizabeth – will set sail for its eight-month deployment this weekend.
The group will interact with 40 nations in the Indo-Pacific region including India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore.
Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, said: “The UK Carrier Strike Group is a great symbol of collaboration, both across the Armed Forces and our industry partners.
“Sailing together through a number of different environments, the partnership will uphold British values and international order.
“By leading a large international exercise, practicing its wide range of capabilities, and demonstrating its formidable size, Strike Warrior 21 has proved that years of hard work, training and planning have paid off.
“The UK Carrier Strike Group is ready to promote Global Britain and confront future security threats of the twenty-first century.”
Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander UK Carrier Strike Group, said: “Having previously commanded both HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, it was hugely exciting to be present as the two met at sea for the first time.
“I know that sense of pride and accomplishment is shared by thousands of others, military and civilian, who have contributed to the Royal Navy’s carrier renaissance over the past decade or more.
“The strategic significance is profound.
“Building one aircraft carrier is a sign of national ambition.
“But building two – and operating them simultaneously – is a sign of serious national intent.
“It means Britain has a continuous carrier strike capability, with one vessel always ready to respond to global events at short notice.
“Few other navies can do that.
“Britain is back in the front rank of maritime powers.”
While details of the exact route are not known, it is believed the British Strike Group will not journey through the Taiwan Strait, a move which would be considered a provocation by China.
Recently, Beijing accused the US of “provocation” after a guided-missile destroyer passed through the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan has faced a longstanding conflict with mainland China since a separate government was established on the island following the Chinese Civil War in 1949.
The nation remains an important ally of Western countries due to its close proximity to Communist China.