HMS Queen Elizabeth arrived in New York on the 19th October. Besides offering a great photo opportunity and a good run ashore, the visit demonstrated that beyond her obvious hard-power capabilities, how she can serve as a platform to promote Britain’s diplomatic and trade interests.
Anchoring an iconic ship in one of the most famous harbours in the world gets attention. QE’s arrival makes a statement of about UK confidence, self-belief and the close relationship with our US ally. The primary role of the carrier will always be to deliver violence to the enemy but is also an important soft-power tool. Royal Navy aircraft carriers have made many visits to New York through the years but this was the first chance for QE to be used in this diplomatic role.
On Sunday 21 Oct the Defence Secretary and the First Sea Lord attended a traditional Trafalgar Night Dinner aboard before welcoming US diplomats and business figures to the ship the following day. Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, hosted a series of events designed to secure trading deals between UK and US businesses and it was the first time the Board of Trade flag had been flown on a British warship in more than 200 years. QE will continue to be used as a venue to promote British trade and deepen trade and political relationships around the world in years to come. There is an argument that we should build a new Royal Yacht, primarily to serve in this diplomatic role but the arrival of the carriers may prove to be more than worthy replacements for HMY Brittania. An aircraft carrier also has the advantage of size and a hangar that makes for a great auditorium and reception room. The ship can comfortably host large numbers of people in a way that other warships or yachts cannot.
Journalists and photographers from the US media were welcomed on board and the ship’s arrival was given good coverage, especially in the New York media. The week-long visit also provided a chance for the ship’s company to have a memorable run ashore. In the US, service personnel tend to be treated with special respect and US hospitality was in evidence. Groups of sailors invited to attend matches at the New York Jets American football team and New York Islanders Ice Hockey team.
Progress made during the first phase of F35 flying trials has significantly exceeded expectations. Conducted over 21 days, the aircraft achieved 98 take-offs, 96 vertical landings and 2 SRVLs. This equates to an average of 4.66 sorties per day using two aircraft. Night flying and dummy bomb drops were completed successfully and there was also flying conducted in some rough weather and a very wet flight deck.
QE will leave New York today and return to Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia to re-embark stores and equipment for the next phase of flying trials. With the flying programme so well advanced, there may be some time available after DT-2 before returning home. It is possible there could be another opportunity to visit another port in North America.