The UK’s largest “signal of maritime and air power” in a generation will set sail next month as the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth departs for its first operational deployment.
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.
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.”
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.