Britain’s largest warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, has left Portsmouth to embark on its maiden voyage.
Navy chiefs have pledged to protect the 70,000-ton carrier from the “eye-watering” threat of Russian submarines as it sails to the US.
Two F-35 fighter jets will be flown on to her deck for the first time during the 11-week trip across the Atlantic.
The voyage will include flight trials and a stop at New York.
The honour of landing the first of the training jets on to the carrier will go to one of three British pilots taking part in the US deployment.
They are a Royal Navy commander, an RAF squadron leader and a civilian test pilot accompanied by a major from the US Marine Corps.
HMS Elizabeth has already undergone training with helicopters which have carried out more than 1,000 take-offs and landings.
The carrier is expected to embark on its first operational deployment in 2021.
Commodore Andrew Betton, commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group, said the carrier would be provided full protection in the face of threats from Russia during its maiden voyage.
He said: “Russian submarines are more active in the North Atlantic than they have been since the Cold War and we take that very seriously, the ship will be well protected as she makes her transit across the Atlantic.
“We will seek to operate professionally and within the standard laws of the high seas operating in international waters going about our business.
“We are not seeking confrontation, we are heading to the east coast of the United States to conduct trials.”
Captain Jerry Kyd, the carrier’s commanding officer, said: “The increase in Russian activity we have seen in the last couple of years is frightening and for national security reasons it just underlines why we need to maintain a balanced, strong and able, capable fleet.
“It’s been quite eye-watering what we have seen in the last couple of years.”
When the carrier arrives in the US, two F-35B test aircraft based in Maryland are expected to carry out 500 landings and take-offs.
Capt Kyd said: “This deployment to the United States will be another first for my ship.
“Crossing a major ocean with 1,500 sailors, aircrew and marines embarked and the spectre of the first F-35B Lightning landing on the deck in September is very exciting for us all.
“It has been an incredible journey since we left Rosyth just over a year ago and we are all looking forward to this next seminal chapter in HMS Queen Elizabeth’s life.”
He added: “People are looking forward to seeing the jets because we have been talking about them for flipping years.
“There’s a lot of excitement on board.”
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “HMS Queen Elizabeth is a true statement of our national power and the whole country can be proud to see this magnificent symbol of our engineering prowess and international ambition leaving port to sail on to the world stage.
“Her voyage to America not only shows her global reach but strengthens our special relationship with the US forces who we have worked hand-in-hand with on this iconic programme.
“As she sails along the east coast of the USA, she will signal our determination to keep fighting alongside our allies in all corners of an ever more complex and uncertain world.”
HMS Elizabeth will be joined by support ship RFA Tiderace and Plymouth-based Type-23 frigate HMS Monmouth, as well as Merlin MK2 helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron, RNAS Culdrose, Mk 4 Merlins from 845 Naval Air Squadron, RNAS Yeovilton, and Royal Marines from 42 Commando, Plymouth.
(c) Sky News 2018: HMS Queen Elizabeth warship sets off on maiden voyage to the US