Sea vessels

Carrier Strike Group 21 Will Project UK's Military 'Hard Power', PM Says

Boris Johnson also said the formation's deployment to the Far East would not be "confrontational".

Boris Johnson says the Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 21 deployment will project Britain's military "hard power", as well as the country's values.

The Prime Minister was speaking in Portsmouth during a tour of Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth which will lead the Strike Group during the deployment.

He said: "The people who will be going on this mission will be doing a number of things.

"They'll be projecting not just Britain's hard power – our military capabilities which are obviously extraordinary – but also our soft power: our values, what we stand for, our belief in democracy, in the rule of law."

The Royal Navy's flagship will depart for her first operational deployment at around 21:30 on Saturday – earlier than originally planned due to the weekend's poor weather forecast.

PM Boris Johnson with HMS Queen Elizabeth crew members in Portsmouth ahead of ship's maiden operational deployment 210521 CREDIT NUMBER 10/FLICKR
The PM spoke to members of the ship's crew during the visit (Picture: Number 10/Flickr).

The 65,000-tonne warship had been scheduled to leave Portsmouth on Sunday morning, but the prospect of heavy winds prompted the Navy to change plans.

It will be the first time the carrier has left the Hampshire port at night, although it has sailed into Portsmouth in the early hours previously.

Part of the fleet's route will take it through the disputed South China Sea. 

Mr Johnson said: "One of the things we will be doing clearly is showing to our friends in China that we believe in the international law of the sea, and in a confident, but not confrontational way, we will be vindicating that point.

"We don’t want to antagonise anybody, but we do think that the United Kingdom plays a very important role, with friends and partners – the Americans, the Dutch, the Australians, the Indians, many, many others – in upholding the rule of law, the international rules-based system on which we all depend, and that’s one of the many things that this Carrier Strike Group will be doing."

View of HMS Queen Elizabeth's flight deck with F-35Bs on board 190521 CREDIT MOD
Eighteen F-35Bs are embarked on HMS Queen Elizabeth during the deployment (Picture: MOD).

HMS Queen Elizabeth, with eight RAF and 10 US Marine Corps F35B stealth fighter jets on board, will depart for Asia accompanied by six British military ships, a submarine, 14 naval helicopters and a company of Royal Marines.

The CSG, which will visit India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, will include the US destroyer USS The Sullivans and the Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen.

A total of 3,700 sailors, aviators and marines are involved in the deployment which will cover 25,000 nautical miles.