Our poll asked ‘Do you think the Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier should set sail for trials amid the coronavirus pandemic?’; 58% of respondents said ‘Yes, but only after testing all crew’, 22% said yes and 20% said no.
The carrier setting sail has been called into question after outbreaks onboard the French Navy aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle, and US Navy carrier USS Roosevelt forced an early halt to both ships’ deployment.
In the case of the USS Roosevelt, the debate around the handling of the outbreak on board ended with the firing of the ship’s captain, and the resignation of the acting Secretary of the US Navy.
One sailor from the USS Theodore Roosevelt passed away after contracting the virus. The ship’s crew of over 4,000 were moved off-board to isolate and monitor sailors for symptoms.
Sea training aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth is seen as a crucial step on the ship’s path to deployment in 2021.
Commenting on the deployment a Ministry of Defence (MOD) spokesperson told Army Technology: “HMS Queen Elizabeth is sailing to conduct sea training, required as preparation for further training later this year and which together will ensure that she is ready for deployment in 2021.
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“The continuation of this training has been agreed by senior leaders across Defence. She will be operating in waters close to the UK coast and the Commanding Officer has the discretion to cease the training if deemed necessary.”
All three branches of the UK’s armed forces – the Royal Air Force (RAF), Royal Navy, and British Army – have played a key role in the country’s response to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic assisting civilian authorities in logistics, building temporary hospitals and using RAF aircraft to bolster the availability of air ambulances.
The British military has also been continuing to conduct training for future operations, however, changes have been made to ensure these activities can be conducted safely.
The MOD spokesperson added: “We continue to conduct sensible and proportionate planning to ensure the welfare of our personnel is protected while maintaining essential operational duties.”