The close relationship shared by the United Kingdom and Canada was on display as the Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier arrived in Halifax on Thursday.
HMS Queen Elizabeth drew many onlookers from land, sea and air as the vessel pulled into Halifax Harbour, anchoring just off of George’s Island.
Despite the cold wind sweeping over the deck, many of the warship’s 800 sailors stood at attention along the perimeter of the vessel — part of a tradition used to show that the vessel comes unarmed and means no harm.
The carrier made Halifax its first port of call after crossing the Atlantic Ocean from her home port of Portsmouth, England, last month.
Cmdre. Mike Utley is in charge of the carrier’s strike group and told Global News that the warship’s arrival was a sign of the United Kingdom’s close ties with Canada.
“We’ve got incredibly close ties. We work very, very closely with the Royal Canadian Navy,” said Utley from the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth.
“We’re both NATO allies, we’re both part of Five Eyes, and we’ve operated across the world together for decades. So it’s a natural choice for us.”
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It was a sentiment echoed by Rear Adm. Craig Baines, Commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic, who stressed that the two navies have been working side by side for over a century.
He said the sailors under his command were happy to welcome some of Canada’s oldest allies.
“When we look at the world’s situation today, there is no question that when you look at some of the instability that it’s going to be really important that allies work together,” said Baines.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest warship ever built for the Royal Navy, weighing 65,000 tonnes and measuring taller than Niagara Falls and nearly as long as the height of the Eiffel Tower.
When fully staffed with sailors, pilots and royal marines it can comfortably house 1,600 people.
Despite its massive size, the vessel’s lengthy corridors sometimes felt cramped as steep stairways allow for crewmen to traverse the ship.
On the vessel’s bridge, officers called out commands as the vessel made its way into Halifax Harbour.
Cdr. Phil Harper called the bridge the “living heart” of the ship.
Harper, who is responsible for navigating HMS Queen Elizabeth, called the warship a top-of-the-line vessel that will give the Royal Navy options for decades to come.
“She allows us to protect the UK at range,” he said.
“She’s a strike carrier so she allows us to play a full role in maintaining the rule-based system that keeps you, me and everybody else in our society safe.”
HMS Queen Elizabeth will stay in Halifax until Monday, where it will continue down the eastern seaboard of the United States to conduct trials of its F-35B Lightning II fighter planes.
The $3-billion carrier was commissioned in 2017 and is still in its trials and testing phase.
Once completed, the warship will house a squadron of F-35B Lightnings and be capable of deploying an air group of as many as 40 aircraft, including Merlin, Chinook, and Apache helicopters, as well the MV-22 Osprey.
The carrier is expected to be put into service with the British navy in 2021.