Biggest deployment of UK naval firepower since the Falklands war will set sail next month

The full UK Carrier Strike Group assembled for the first time during Group Exercise 2020 on 4th October.  - LPhot Belinda Alker /Royal Navy 
The full UK Carrier Strike Group assembled for the first time during Group Exercise 2020 on 4th October. - LPhot Belinda Alker /Royal Navy

Britain’s biggest deployment of UK naval and aerial military firepower since the Falklands war will set sail next month in a 28-week voyage which will be closely watched by China.

This move, which includes the first operational deployment of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, will see Britain use its power to bring other nation’s forces together such as the US and Netherlands.

The £3 billion warship, with eight RAF F35B stealth fighter jets on board, will depart for Asia accompanied by six Royal Navy ships, a submarine, 14 naval helicopters and a company of Royal Marines.

The Carrier Strike Group (CSG), which will carry out visits to India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, will include the US destroyer USS The Sullivans and the Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen.

It comes after Iceland became the 10th nation to join the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), a defence group of northern European countries intent on maintaining the security of the region.

A squadron of 10 US Marine Corps F35B Lightning II jets will also be embarked on the carrier in what the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is describing as the "largest concentration of maritime and air power to leave the UK in a generation".

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who will reveal details of the deployment to Parliament, said: "When our Carrier Strike Group sets sail next month, it will be flying the flag for Global Britain - projecting our influence, signalling our power, engaging with our friends and reaffirming our commitment to addressing the security challenges of today and tomorrow.

"The entire nation can be proud of the dedicated men and women who for more than six months will demonstrate to the world that the UK is not stepping back but sailing forth to play an active role in shaping the international system of the 21st century."

During the 28-week deployment, ships from the Carrier Strike Group are expected to visit more than 40 countries and undertake more than 70 engagements, including sailing alongside the French carrier Charles De Gaulle in the Mediterranean.

The work is expected to be watched closely by China, the US and its allies.

The deployment has been organised as part of the "UK's tilt to the Indo-Pacific region" in a bid to "bolster deep defence partnerships" as well as to take part in an exercise to mark the 50th anniversary of the Five Power Defence Arrangements with Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

Accompanying HMS Queen Elizabeth will be a surface fleet made up of Type 45 destroyers HMS Defender and HMS Diamond, Type 23 anti-submarine frigates HMS Kent and HMS Richmond, and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary's RFA Fort Victoria and RFA Tidespring.

The Royal Navy Astute-class submarine will also be deployed, armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles.

As well as the stealth fighters, four Wildcat maritime attack helicopters, seven Merlin Mk2 anti-submarine helicopters and three Merlin Mk4 commando helicopters will be embarked - the greatest quantity of helicopters assigned to a single UK Task Group in a decade.

Prior to leaving the UK, the CSG will take part in a major exercise, Strike Warrior, off the coast of Scotland before departing for the Mediterranean.