- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 23, 2020

A squadron of U.S. Marine Corps stealth jet fighters is now aboard the Royal Navy’s flagship aircraft carrier as part of their multi-month deployment to the United Kingdom for training.

The “Wake Island Avengers” of VMFA 211 are embarked aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth along with another F-35B stealth jet unit, “The Dambusters” of the Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron. It is the largest air group of fifth-generation fighters at sea anywhere in the world and will serve as part of a UK Carrier Strike Group, officials said.

“Led by the Royal Navy and backed by our closest allies, this new Carrier Strike Group puts real muscle back into NATO and sends a clear signal that the United Kingdom takes its global role seriously,” said Commodore Steve Moorehouse, commander of the Royal Navy strike group.

The Carrier Strike Group with its new contingent of U.S. Marines will take part in Joint Warrior, NATO’s largest annual exercise, off the northeast coast of Scotland in preparation for HMS Queen Elizabeth’s inaugural global deployment next year. The aircraft carrier will be joined by seven Royal Navy destroyers, frigates and other support units during the mission, officials said.

“The ‘Wake Island Avengers’ are ready in all respects to work with the British sailors and aircrew aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Joseph Freshour, the squadron commander. “We are looking forward to deploying alongside our British counterparts.”

In addition to those forces, warships from the U.S. Navy and the Netherlands will join to form the largest U.K.-led multi-national force in recent memory, officials said.

The Wake Island Avengers are assigned to Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz. In 2018, the squadron completed its first combat F-35B mission while supporting ground operations in U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility, officials said.

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