War games to take place off Sutherland coast with HMS Queen Elizabeth at centre
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HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first of the Royal Navy's new aircraft carriers, is to take part next month in Europe's biggest war games off the Scottish coast.
The second of this year's Exercise Joint Warrior military exercises is to go ahead off Scotland from October 4-15.
Eleven nations will take part, bringing 28 warships, two submarines, 81 aircraft and over 6000 military personnel – including 130 ground troops – to military ranges across the country and to maritime exercise areas off the east, west and north coasts of Scotland.
The first of the exercises was held in spring, with a reduced number of Nato members taking part and the training taking place out at sea.
Usually Joint Warrior, which is held twice a year, is Europe's largest military exercise and can involve more than 10,000 personnel and dozens of warships and aircraft.
Ten United States F-35B fighter jets recently arrived in the UK ahead of joining HMS Queen Elizabeth for the war games.
The US Marine Corps Squadron will be working alongside 617 Squadron as they prepare to embark HMS Queen Elizabeth for Exercise Joint Warrior.
The war games will form part of a wider “Groupex”, which will run to October 15. This is the UK Carrier Strike Group led by HMS Queen Elizabeth with training taking place mainly off the east coast of Scotland.
Naval units from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the UK and the USA are participating around the Scottish coast.
Aircraft will operate from RAF Lossiemouth, Prestwick Airport and Stornoway Airport.
Cape Wrath Weapons Range in Sutherland will be used for joint firing activity.
GPS denial off the west coast will also be carried out. The operations will be conducted at limited periods each day and the relevant authorities, especially those involving maritime and aviation, have helped put relevant safeguards in place.
The scenario of the exercise will mirror a broad range of crisis and conflict situations which could realistically be experienced in real-world operations, said the Royal Navy.
"Over the fortnight, participants will be faced with a period of increasing political and military tensions, along with a huge range of realistic military tasks such as: intelligence gathering and reconnaissance; anti-smuggling and counter-terrorism operations; humanitarian assistance and evacuation operations," it added.
"All units involved will observe current Covid-19 guidelines and a wide range of mitigation measures to reduce the impact and risks have been put in place, including limited port visits by UK and allied units and then only for operational and logistical reasons.
"Exercise planning staff have liaised with a wide variety of communities and organisations ahead of Joint Warrior in order to minimise the impact of military activity."