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Britain’s Largest Warship Visits Annapolis

There’s something unusual anchored in Annapolis this week: a British Royal Navy aircraft carrier, the largest and most powerful warship the UK has ever had. And it created quite a buzz traveling up the Bay.

The aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has a four-acre flight deck and is capable of carrying 40 aircraft. It also has five gyms, a chapel, and a medical center on board.

This is the first time a Royal Navy ship has officially visited Annapolis in more than 60 years, since the HMS Bigbury was at the port. There have been no other Royal Navy visits in the past century. While in town, the carrier will host international leaders to plan cooperative defense strategies.

The British Embassy’s Chief Communications Officer of Military & Defence, Hannah Watkins, tells Bay Bulletin that the U.S. Naval Academy’s presence in Annapolis makes it a fitting place to gather UK and US defense communities and other NATO allies “to further strengthen the enduring collaboration which is a lynchpin of the Special Relationship.”

While Queen Elizabeth is anchored off Annapolis, it will host a Defence and Security Trade exhibition Wednesday, and on Thursday, the Atlantic Future Forum (AFF). The AFF brings together US and UK military, government, and private industry leaders to discuss Artificial Intelligence, technology, and robotics, known as the “fourth industrial revolution.”

During these events, there will be tours of the carrier, a demonstration of the world’s fastest body-controlled, jet-powered suit, and music from the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines. Among the lucky guests on board will be Bay Bulletin‘s own Cheryl Costello, and we’ll bring you her inside look in the next Bay Bulletin edition. (Click here to make sure you get it.)

Even some Naval Academy midshipmen will have a chance to step aboard the aircraft carrier, building an important future link, says U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck:

“By touring this mighty warship, today’s midshipmen will continue the long-time UK-US relationship well into the future, and the opportunity for some of them, as well as some of our faculty and staff, to learn first-hand about our partner capabilities is exceptional.”   

The Queen Elizabeth’s leaders are also looking ahead to the future:

“We’re delighted to be here for this historic visit to Annapolis. The UK-US relationship continues to go from strength to strength, as demonstrated by the support we have received from the US Navy, Marines and Air Force throughout our journey to bring our new carriers and jets in to service. It is events like these which help to reinforce, develop and bring new relevance to this vital relationship as we prepare together for any future threats we face,” says the carrier’s Commanding Officer, Commodore Steve Moorhouse.

The Annapolis visit caps the aircraft carrier’s deployment to the U.S. East Coast, during which she also spent time in Norfolk and New York City. During the deployment, Queen Elizabeth’s crew conducted operational trials with UK F-35B Lightning Joint Strike Fighter jets for the first time. They will deploy together “for real” in 2021.

The Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group will return to the UK next month.

-Meg Walburn Viviano