UK's Carrier Strike Group to 'build foundations' of India relationship

Next month's 28-week deployment will be the largest concentration of maritime and airpower to leave the UK in a generation.

The UK's Carrier Strike Group will allow defence relations with India to "flourish", the Defence Secretary has said, as further details about the naval grouping's maiden deployment were confirmed.

Next month's 28-week deployment, spanning 26,000 nautical miles, will be the largest concentration of maritime and airpower to leave the UK in a generation.

During the deployment, the Carrier Strike Group, led by HMS Queen Elizabeth, will visit India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore.

Ben Wallace said the group "will be flying the flag for Global Britain" when it deploys in May.

"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," he said.

As part of a greater strategic focus on the Indo-Pacific region, the maiden deployment will see the UK conduct joint exercises with India, secure passage through trade routes and attend trade events at West Coast Ports.

The Defence Secretary said: "The UK and India are natural defence partners, particularly in world-class research, development and training.

"The Carrier Strike Group's collaboration with India will build the foundations for this relationship to flourish even further.

"The deployment is a symbol of Global Britain in action, and powerfully demonstrates our commitment to India, the Indo-Pacific region, and confronting threats to international order."

Alongside HMS Queen Elizabeth, six Royal Navy ships, one Navy submarine, 14 naval helicopters, eight RAF fast jets and a company of Royal Marines will make up the UK Carrier Strike Group 2021 deployment.

WATCH: Ben Wallace says "we are not going to the other side of the world to be provocative".

This includes 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.

A Royal Navy Astute-class submarine will also be deployed in support, as well as eight RAF F-35B Lightning aircraft.

Four Wildcat maritime attack helicopters, seven Merlin Mk2 anti-submarine helicopters and three Merlin Mk4 commando helicopters will also be deployed – the largest quantity of helicopters assigned to a single UK Task Group in a decade.

The Carrier Strike Group will work alongside NATO allies, including a US Navy destroyer, a frigate from the Netherlands and a squadron of 10 US Marine Corps F-35B jets.

On the Mediterranean leg of the deployment, the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle will also sail alongside HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Eight F-35B Lightning II fast jets will be deployed as part of the UK Carrier Strike Group deployment next month (Picture: Royal Navy).

Elsewhere, air and maritime forces from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Israel, India, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Oman, the Republic of Korea, Turkey and the UAE will operate alongside the Carrier Strike Group.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast on 26 April, Mr Wallace highlighted the importance of allies and said HMS Queen Elizabeth would also act as a "floating trade centre" – displaying the best of British engineering.

He mentioned the "soft power" capability of the carrier, echoing the British Army's ambition to bring stabilisation to "hard places".

Units from the group will visit more than 40 countries and undertake in excess of 70 engagements, visits, air exercises and operations. 

This will see ships from the Carrier Strike Group participate in Exercise Bersama Lima to mark the 50th anniversary of the Five Powers Defence Agreement between Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Cover image: HMS Queen Elizabeth during Exercise Joint Warrior surrounded by other vessels as Carrier Strike Group forms (Picture: Royal Navy).