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‘Indo-Pacific tilt’ in the UK’s foreign policy? UK Carrier Strike Group will sail to India next month

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HMS Queen Elizabeth. (Twitter - HMS Queen Elizabeth/ @HMSQNLZ)HMS Queen Elizabeth. (Twitter - HMS Queen Elizabeth/ @HMSQNLZ)HMS Queen Elizabeth. (Twitter – HMS Queen Elizabeth/ @HMSQNLZ)

Royal Navy ships participating in the HMS Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier Task Force form a potent deterrent in any of the seas globally. Interestingly, the final destination of the Carrier based Task Force is the Philippine Sea, presence of a strong naval force shall surely be an area of apprehension for the Chinese PLAN. The flotilla shall be traversing through the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean to reach the East Asia waters.

Apart from the planned Naval Exercise, UK-India partnership shall be also focused towards collaborating on Cyber security, modernization of Indian Army, various maritime technology and the future Combat Air Systems.

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In an earlier interaction with Financial Express Online, Brigadier Gavin Thompson, UK Defence Adviser to India, had confirmed the visit of HMS Queen Elizabeth later this year.

He has said that HMS Queen Elizabeth will be leading a British and allied task group on its most ambitious deployment through the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean and on to East Asia.

Adding, “The deployment is a sign of the UK’s commitment to regional security. And, is natural for the inaugural deployment of our Carrier Strike Task Group to include a visit to the region.”

Also Read: India-UK Military Ties: Huge potential for co-operation, says UK Defence Adviser to India

According to an official issued by the British High Commission, New Delhi, “The ship will conduct a series of joint exercises with Indian Military Forces in the Indian Ocean. These will expand our interoperability and enhance our capabilities to defend against shared threats and protect our democratic values.”

The UK will support freedom of passage through vital global trading routes throughout the deployment and will demonstrate commitment to a recognised international system of norms and behaviours that benefit all countries.

Expert View

“Overall, the Naval Task Force is aimed towards showcasing the UK’s serious commitment towards Indo-Pacific since it has a range of security interests in the region and many important bilateral defence relationships,” opines C4I & Strategic Analyst, Milind Kulshreshtha.

According to him “The Type 45 destroyers, HMS Defender and Diamond, are primarily to provide the Anti-air warfare capabilities. These have modern integrated anti-aircraft warfare system Principal Anti Air Missile System (PAAMS), collaboratively developed by the UK with France and Italy. The Type 23 Frigates are specialized for the Anti-submarine using the highly sensitive Towed Array sonars, which usually have better hostile submarine detection capabilities.”

The HMS Queen Elizabeth shall be operating the latest generation F-35B Lightning II deck launched fighter jets.

What will HMS Queen Elizabeth have on board?

“We may get to see their joint operations with Vikramaditya launched MIG-29Ks during the Naval Exercise with Indian Navy. The aircraft carrier also has the complement of maritime attack helicopters and Merlin Mk2 submarine hunter and airborne Early Warning helicopters, capable of round the clock maritime patrol. The Merlin Mk 4 are also called Commando helicopters as these are mainly used by the Royal Marines for their operations. The main arsenal in the rotary complement on board the aircraft carrier is the Wildcat helicopters, which are the latest generation multi-role attack helicopters specifically designed for deck launched maritime role for the anti-surface warfare, force protection and the counter-piracy duties,” says Milind Kulshreshtha.

Which is the critical element of the deployment?

“The two auxiliary ships HMS Fort Victoria and RFA Tidespring are critical elements of the deployment. These ships have the capability to maintain the fleet through replenishment of fuel, ammunition and other submarine support for an extended sea deployment far away from home port.”

“The new outlook evolving in the Indo-pacific shall be a driving factor in the long-term approach in the India-UK defence industry-to-industry partnership for technology sharing. Handling of these India-UK partnerships in the strategic role shall be a trendsetter for the future of India’s capability enhancement in Defence through the Western origin equipment,” the C4I expert concludes.

More about the HMS Queen Elizabeth Carrier

As reported earlier by Financial Express Online, the Carrier Strike Group will travel over 26,000 nautical miles from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, and from the Gulf of Aden to the Arabian Sea. From the Indian Ocean to the Philippine Sea.

It is the largest ship ever built by the Royal Navy at a whopping cost of £3billion and going to sail to India, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and the wider region. It will also be visiting West Coast Ports and engage in a series of events which will further enhance bilateral relations benefitting both countries’ trade and political alliances.

Also Read: India-UK military ties: Both sides keen to expand ties to face challenges

According to the official statement of the BHC, New Delhi, UK Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace MP, has said: “The deployment is a symbol of Global Britain in action. It powerfully demonstrates our commitment to India, the Indo-Pacific region, and confronting threats to international order.”

Both countries are natural defence partners, especially in world class research, development and training. According to him, “The Carrier Strike Group’s collaboration with India will build the foundations for this relationship to flourish even further.”

The Strike Group will also comprise

Type 45 destroyers HMS DEFENDER and HMS DIAMOND

Type 23 anti-submarine frigates HMS KENT and HMS RICHMOND

Tanker and storage ships FORT VICTORIA and RFA TIDESPRING.

Eight F-35B Lightning II fast jets, four Wildcat maritime attack helicopters, seven Merlin Mk2 anti-submarine and airborne early warning helicopters, and three Merlin Mk4 commando helicopters. These will be on the flight deck.

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