HMS Queen Elizabeth: 'No Decision' Over Aircraft Carrier's First Deployment

The Ministry of Defence's comments follow reports the aircraft carrier will be sent to the Far East for exercises with Japan and the US.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has said there has been "no decision" made over where the Royal Navy's HMS Queen Elizabeth will be sent on her maiden deployment.

It comes amid reports the £3 billion aircraft carrier could be sent to the Far East region to counter growing Chinese assertiveness. 

According to a piece by The Times, plans were being drawn up for HMS Queen Elizabeth to take part in exercises in the region with the US and Japan.

Last year, then-Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson suggested the aircraft carrier could visit the South China Sea during her first operational deployment in 2021. 

The Chinese Ambassador to the UK warned the deployment to the region could be seen as a "hostile action".

China claims almost all of the politically-complicated waters and have begun building military bases on coral atolls - however, five other governments also claim all or part of the sea.

Speaking on Monday, Vice Admiral Jerry Kyd, Royal Navy Fleet Commander, suggested HMS Queen Elizabeth could be sent to the region.

The aircraft carrier sailed back into Portsmouth earlier this month after a period of sea and flight trials (Picture: MOD).

"The centre of gravity for me as Fleet Commander is the Atlantic against the Russian threat set - that's where I'm focused...but yes, we are going to come back to the Indo-Pac[ific]," he said.

"Our ambition is to be absolute persistent and forward-based there, maybe with Carrier Strike Group, or maybe not, we'll have to see. 

"But we have choices to make politically so we'll see where we go but the ambition is to remain combined and joint and to flex the UK very modest levels of ambition and forces, in a NATO context primarily, but that's not going to limit us moving around the world in the future."

He added: "I certainly see the ambition as flexing out in a persistent and purposeful manner out to the Indo-Pac area." 

HMS Queen Elizabeth returned to her home base of Portsmouth earlier this month as a "fully-trained aircraft carrier" following flight trials in UK waters.

The ship, which weighs 65,000 tonnes and can carry up to 72 aircraft, is due to be deployed on operations for the first time next year. 

Cover image: Royal Navy.