The US Navy and Great Britain’s Royal Navy are forging more ties through interoperability. As the world is obsessed with the Chinese Plague, the UK and US are part of the core alliance that will assure freedom of navigation on Earth’s oceans. 90% of all commerce travels by ocean.

HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first of the Royal Navy’s two 65,000-ton aircraft carriers, is scheduled to undertake its first operational deployment in 2021. It will carry F-35B squadrons of the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, and U.S. Marine Corps squadron—VMFA-211.

Combining a joint air strike group in an operational setting allow for both interoperability and interchangeability – a force multiplier for the British.

The 2021 deployment of an HMS Queen Elizabeth battle group into the Indo-Pacific region in concert with the U.S. Seventh Fleet and other allies will demonstrate the intention of Washington and London to maintain international order in keeping with the principles and mandates of strength through deterrence and forward-deployed persistent presence.

The British have been struggling to keep their navy in specific and their military in general, valid. The budgetary push and pull between generous social programs and the expense of defense continues and will continue. The Royal Navy and Marines combined strength was 29,000 in 2019. In contrast, the US Coast Guard ALONE had 57,000. The US Navy had 337,000 active duty personnel 279,471 civilian employees 101,583 ready reserve personnel 290 deployable ships (U.S. Navy operates 2,623 manned aircraft and the U.S. Marine Corps operates 1,304 manned aircraft).

Personnel numbers matter beyond mere strength because they are indicative of room to promote, room to move from command to command and increase skills, and experience, etc.  The US Navy’s Special Warfare Command (more than just absolute number of SEALs) alone is 9,000 military personnel. And people in that community complain that it would be nice to have more mobility.

So you see the problem that the Royal Navy faces. A navy is not just hardware, its people who want careers, who want to achieve and who want to see what they do contribute in a meaningful way. As numbers shrank, that human factor has been stressed.

The U.S. Navy ships participating in the Royal Navy’s flag-officer sea training (FOST) and Royal Navy ships participating in U.S. composite training unit exercises (CompTuEx) underscores the new interoperable doctrine as does the long-term relationship of the UK and U.S. nuclear-powered submarine forces.

Britain is undergoing its five year Strategic Defense and Security Review (SDSR). As part of that review, Britain needs to assess its position in the world post BREXIT and how it can defend its trading role and its key values which are under threat (see the reason for BREXIT).

Interoperability with the US Navy and even interchangeability would seem to be part of that way forward.


  1. Marine Corp Squadron under British Command? I thought we didn’t allow foriegn officers to command troops?

    • There is some flexibility in that doctrine. We and the Brits have exchange officers for one thing. It won’t be total command of our troops but cooperative command.

      • I served as a young US Naval officer, seconded first to 42 Commando (Royal Marine Commandos 1974-76) – Bickleigh Barracks, Plymouth and then to the 22 Special Air Service Regiment (1977-78) – Hereford. In both cases, I deployed operationally to Northern Ireland (42 Commando) and elsewhere (SAS). Technically I fell under the command of NATO – Allied Forces North (Norway). There were a lot of rules, but in that time and place, they were substantively relaxed. I was (and still am) subject to the British Official Secrets Act as well as to US classification. I’m sure that in the case of USMC squadrons embarked on a British aircraft carrier, that there are similar complex rules, but there is a lot of precedent. British officers have also been seconded to US Military units from time to time, and more particularly on US Navy submarines.

        • During my stint as a lowly enlisted intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, the main consumer of my section’s product was the Brit intel organization GCHQ. They issued the goals and operational mandates that we followed. NSA was carbon copied on all of our stuff, but GCHQ called the shots. Essentially, I had fell under British operational control. Give or take…

  2. Very interesting information. I worked on the F-35 Program as part of the team designing the total logistics system. The interoperability should be excellent as that was part of the CONOPS and was carried forward.

    As to British Military manpower, I am glad that Boris and the Conservatives were elected. The Leftist Labor party would have dug Britain into an even deeper hole of bad.

  3. There are specific CONOPS that allow forces to crossdeck. The task force will have a ‘joint’ command element, which allows the Brits to ‘command’ US Ops. BTDT more than once. The Brits have finally realized that the Russians haven’t gone away, and ASW is coming back to the fore, so the ‘seedcorn’ they’ve had stashed at US commands for the last 10 years are finally paying off with the new P-8s and the ability to immediately become operational assets!

    • Exactly.

      There are perishable skills with flying and with running an Aircraft carrier. There are a number of US Navy Chiefs, Senior Chiefs and Master Chiefs on the Queen Elizabeth who are working with the current generation of Royal Navy types, who will in turn train their replacements.

      I don’t know when the new Royal Navy P-8’s will go active, Old NFO, but soon – maybe this summer. Things were let go and Parliament is struggling to pay beyond the 2% NATO commitment to get HM forces back to credible. The Royal Army deployed to Kuwait/Saudi Arabia (Gulf War 1), to Irag (Gulf War 2) and were constantly deployed in Afghanistan over that nearly twenty year war.

  4. Interesting. The last two decades saw a new British Maritime Strategy (BMS). It went like this, “We’re an island, so it’s obviously stupid to have a functioning Navy.”

    Perhaps the BMS is shifting gears.

    • I wish that you’d served in HM Navy instead of the Royal Army. They could have used you.

      The Senior Service (Royal Navy) is there for a reason and if you can’t defend your sea lanes, somebody else will take the Island. Maybe the food at Le Ho Fook will be the national meal (instead of roast beef and yorkshire pudding and trifle).

  5. Is there any of this going on with other nations, say India? France? Japan?
    As I understand, operating an aircraft carrier is the most complex Navy war machine in existence. Institutional knowledge must be earned. Will China master the weapon system anytime soon?

    • The Chinese sail their aircraft carriers around and launch and recover helicopters, but they don’t launch and recover many jets. Moving a ship around the ocean, which the Chinese can do, is very different from fighting a squadron or squadrons from the deck of an aircraft carrier. They may be on the bottom before their operation is mastered.

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