It was impossible not to feel a sense of pride as we watched the Carrier Strike Group (CSG21) return: pride at seeing the vessels enter harbour; pride at seeing families reunited; and the pride of a successful national achievement. But unlike most, BAE Systems employees can feel proud to see history in the making, knowing that we played a huge role in ‘making it happen’.
Not only did BAE Systems help to design and build many of the vessels that formed CSG21, but over a thousand employees in Portsmouth Naval Base have been responsible for maintaining and preparing the ships for their departure, and improving the base to support the group. Thousands of employees across our Maritime sector have contributed to the design, build and support of the ships and submarines, the radar systems, torpedoes, small boats and combat systems, while colleagues in our Air business have supported the aircraft and aircraft infrastructure throughout. Teams across BAE Systems have been involved in training sailors, submariners and pilots. And many more have contributed in other ways.
It’s the extraordinary breadth of capabilities across BAE Systems, and the global reach of our international network, that allowed us to prepare the ships and armed forces personnel for trials, make sure they were ready for deployment, and support them so effectively while abroad.
Delivering deployed support around the world
Any long deployment will involve unplanned repairs and maintenance. Following CSG21’s departure in May, our teams have reacted quickly to deal with the unexpected, including traveling to Italy to support HMS Diamond. Working with local partners and equipment manufacturers, we completed the work ahead of schedule, allowing Diamond to quickly re-join the group.
In early September, BAE Systems led a team of 100 highly qualified and skilled operatives to deliver the final planned maintenance period in the Indo-Pacific region. This was a complex exercise, requiring months of careful planning, ordering and forward-dispatch of materials, the creation of numerous new supplier relationships, and coordination with local authorities. And, again, we proved we could move quickly, moving the maintenance to Guam at short notice because of COVID impacts elsewhere.
Supporting a carrier group with multiple warships, submarines, aircraft and supply vessels for nine months requires a massive co-ordination effort. As well as directly supporting the Portsmouth-based ships, including the Royal Navy’s carrier flagship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, BAE Systems also provided the team which oversaw the co-ordination of maintenance planning, the provision of essential materials and other resources, and liaison with government officials and local shipyards, for the entire group, both ships and aircraft. This cross-industry enterprise involved the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), Defence Munitions, and multiple manufacturers and support providers.
Looking to the future
The ships of CSG21 will now be home-based for a little while for planned maintenance, with Portsmouth Naval Base, as always, remaining open and busy over the Christmas period.
Regular CSG deployments will be central to how the Royal Navy operates in the future. Our country’s ‘Global Britain’ approach requires a global navy, with more ships deployed around the world for longer. These ships will need support wherever they are. CSG21 has proved our ability to provide this support as the Royal Navy’s strategic industry partner. We stand ready to contribute to future deployments as successfully as this one.
For now, our employees can take a step back, and, having watched the ships and aircraft return, consider what we’ve achieved together. We can all be incredibly proud of what we’ve contributed.