The UK’s Royal Navy is making the final arrangements for the departure of the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier next weekend in its maiden trip that has been described as a show of military strength following London’s exit from the European Union, government officials confirmed on Wednesday.
“This deployment is a major strategic moment for the UK,” Angus Lapsley, director-general for International and Strategy at the Ministry of Defence, said at an online press briefing.
The fifth-generation 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier will be escorted on its maiden trip by a strike group made up of two destroyers, two frigates and tanker and storage ships. More than 30 aircraft will also embark across the task group including F-35 jets, helicopters as well as Royal Marines commandos.
The fleet is expected to visit 40 nations, including India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore, in a deployment covering 26,000 nautical miles. This has been described by the Ministry of Defense as “the largest concentration of maritime and air power to leave the UK in a generation.”
Although the carrier strike group will sail across the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea, where it will take part in joint exercises and security operations with NATO, its final destination will be the Indian and Pacific oceans, as part of the UK’s post-Brexit tilt towards the region.
“There is a very clear signal here that Britain wants to play a bigger part in that region. That’s a role which is not just military, but it’s also about political engagement, it’s about multilateral engagement, it’s about economic engagement, but definitely, it is a role for UK’s defense,” Lapsley admitted.
Meanwhile, vice-admiral Ben Key, who is the Chief of Joint Operations at the Ministry of Defense, described the carrier deployment as a “really tangible demonstration of a different way of understanding how the contemporary operational and security space is now … and the manner we need to operate within it.”
Foreign Office’s director for Defense and International Security, Samantha Job, said that showing military strength is part of the agenda of “Global Britain,” and that the government wanted to project the UK as a leading member of the North Atlantic Alliance.