UK’s strike group to engage UAE, India in 28-week military exercises

Prasun Sonwalkar/London
Filed on May 28, 2021


CSG21 sets sail for a journey of over 26,000 nautical miles that ends in December.

A Carrier Strike Group 2021 (CSG21) comprising British destroyers, anti-submarine frigates, jets and attack helicopters has set sail for a 28-week deployment through the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, among other seas, for military exercises with the UAE, India, Japan and other countries.

The United Kingdom’s (UK) Ministry of Defence said the deployment from May to December will see the strike group travel over 26,000 nautical miles including passage through the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.

The deployment is part of post-Brexit Britain’s tilt towards the Indo-Pacific recently announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson following a major review.

Besides Japan, CSG21 will visit three other key partners: Singapore, the Republic of Korea and India. It will be joined by vessels from the US and a frigate from the Netherlands and operate with air and maritime forces from international partners including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, the UAE, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Israel, India, Oman, and the Republic of Korea.

Led by HMS Elizabeth – the most powerful surface vessel in the Royal Navy’s history – the strike group comprises Type 45 destroyers HMS Defender and HMS Diamond, Type 23 anti-submarine frigates HMS Kent and HMS Richmond, and tanker and storage ships Fort Victoria and RFA Tidespring.

On the flight deck, there are 18 F-35B Lightning II-fast jets (eight from the UK Lightning Force and 10 from US Marine Corps), four Wildcat maritime attack helicopters, seven Merlin Mk2 anti-submarine and airborne early warning helicopters, and three Merlin Mk4 commando helicopters.

Officials said that in an era of systemic competition and changing threats, CSG21 will bolster the UK’s ability to deliver its defence, foreign policy and trade objectives alongside key allies.

Its deployment to the Indo-Pacific will enhance the enduring defence relationships it holds there as the UK looks to pursue deeper engagement in the region in support of shared prosperity and regional stability, with stronger diplomatic and trading ties, they added.

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “When our Carrier Strike Group sets sail, 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”.

He added: “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.”

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