16:38 GMT16 May 2021
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    During the 28-week deployment, ships from Britain's carrier strike group are expected to call at ports of more than 40 countries and conduct over 70 engagements, including sailing alongside the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle in the Mediterranean Sea.

    UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has touted the HMS Queen Elizabeth's first operational deployment, slated for May and will see the aircraft carrier with eight stealth fighter jets on board depart for a mission in the Indo-Pacific.

    "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", Wallace underscored on Monday.

    The strike group he referred to includes at least six Royal Navy ships, an Astute-class submarine armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, 14 naval helicopters, and a company of Royal Marines.

    People watch as Britain's new flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in Portsmouth, Britain, Wednesday Aug. 16, 2017
    © AP Photo / Victoria Jones/PA
    People watch as Britain's new flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in Portsmouth, Britain, Wednesday Aug. 16, 2017

    As for the ships, these will comprise Type 45 destroyers HMS Defender and HMS Diamond, as well as Type 23 anti-submarine frigates HMS Kent and HMS Richmond. Additionally, the HMS Queen Elizabeth will be accompanied by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA)'s Fort Victoria and Tidespring.

    The helicopters will include four Wildcat maritime attack copters, seven Merlin Mk2 anti-submarine vehicles, and three Merlin Mk4 commando helicopters.

    When asked if it was relevant to send the mission to the region where China is located, Wallace said that HMS Queen Elizabeth's deployment was not "provocative", but aimed to indicate Britain's readiness to "play an active role in shaping the international system of the 21st century".

    The remarks came amid ongoing regional tensions over South China Sea territories, which apart from Beijing are claimed by an array of countries, such as the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

     USS Nimitz, USS Chosin, USS Sampson, and USS Pinkney in South China Sea (File)
    © CC0
    USS Nimitz, USS Chosin, USS Sampson, and USS Pinkney in South China Sea (File)

    The US has no claims to the territories, but it has repeatedly sent its warships to the South China Sea to fulfill "freedom of navigation" missions. They draw harsh criticism from Beijing who describes such acts as "provocations" and is often involved in holding war games in the area.

    The UK Ministry of Defence, in turn, described the Carrier Strike Group as the "largest concentration of maritime and air power to leave the UK in a generation".

    In March, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed parliament, presenting the country's new foreign and defence policy review. The document dubbed the Indo-Pacific region "increasingly the geopolitical centre of the world" and highlighted a planned British aircraft carrier deployment to the area.

    Johnson, for his part, stressed that the region should become the focus of the UK's defence and foreign policy amid London's efforts to review its place in the world order after Brexit.

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