Members of Britain’s new carrier strike group are engaged with the US Navy and other international allies in Exercise Saxon Warrior, aboard American aircraft carrier the USS George HW Bush.
The 97,000-tonne and 1,092ft Nimitz class aircraft carrier was off the coast of Scotland on Sunday in the latest phase of the war game, ahead of the UK’s carrier strike group setting up on the Queen Elizabeth in the coming months.
Commander Betton, commander of the Royal Navy’s carrier strike group, told the Press Association the two new carriers marked a huge step for UK defence that would “usher in a new era of carrier strike activity”.
Speaking aboard USS George HW Bush, he added: “Carrier enabled power projection, which is the formal term for this capability, offers strategic choice to Her Majesty’s Government.
“The ability to scale from humanitarian assistance, response to natural disasters, through to a poise to try and deter a potential conflict and if necessary to engage as a serious tier one partner in the international coalition to take our place at the top table.
“As a United Nations permanent security council member, I feel it’s firmly the right thing for the United Kingdom to be doing.”
The Royal United Services Institute recently warned that the £3 billion carrier could be disabled with a single strike from a relatively cheap missile costing less than £500,000, and sunk by multiple missiles.
Other recent warnings around the Queen Elizabeth have concerned its technology and vulnerability to cyber attack, as well as the number of ships and maritime aircraft available to protect it.
Captain Ken Houlberg, the UK carrier strike group chief of staff, said the capability delivered by an aircraft carrier and strike group “sets that nation on the world map – it’s a player”.
He added: “It’s got hard power tools that can deliver capability across the spectrum of conflict, from humanitarian and disaster relief through defence engagement to full high-end war fighting with our coalition allies.
“It sets Britain apart.”
Both men were also confident the UK’s two carriers could compete with the American fleet, with the USS George HW Bush one of 10 in the US Navy.