As a special send-off, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II made a quick visit to the country's biggest warship before it set sail as the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 21 from Portsmouth naval base.
Named in her honor, the HMS Queen Elizabeth leads a fleet of British, American and Dutch naval ships to Asian waters on its maiden operational voyage.
The Queen spent her time aboard the massive ship "meeting crew members and wishing them luck in what will be an unforgettable life experience by being part of naval history," the British Defense Ministry said in a statement.
"A special farewell visit from Her Majesty The Queen," the Royal Navy said in a tweet, Saturday.
A special farewell visit from Her Majesty The Queen...
Her Majesty visited @HMSQNLZ as the aircraft carrier heads off on her #UKCarrierStrikeGroup deployment later today.
Read more: https://t.co/D0TD9xdASS pic.twitter.com/CuYseiipn7 — Royal Navy (@RoyalNavy) May 22, 2021
The HMS Queen Elizabeth will lead a 28-week deployment to Asia that Prime Minister Boris Johnson said will help to project British soft power and is not confrontational toward China, The Associated Press said.
The flotilla will be the biggest concentration of naval and air might to be deployed from the UK in a generation, British defense officials said.
According to the Royal Navy's official release, the task group will visit countries including Japan, India, Singapore and the Republic of Korea in a voyage covering 26,000 nautical miles.
Weighing 65,000 tons, the 3 billion-pound ($4.2 billion) HMS Queen Elizabeth has on its deck eight British F-35B warplanes, 10 U.S. F-35s, 250 U.S. Marines and a company of Royal Marines as part of a 1,700-strong crew. It is accompanied by six Royal Navy ships, a submarine and 14 helicopters.
The CSG21 will also participate in naval exercises with French carrier FS Charles De Gaulle in the Mediterranean as well as combat ships and jets from allies like the U.S., Israel, Japan, Canada, Greece, Denmark, Italy and the United Arab Emirates.