The UK’s largest ‘signal of maritime and air power’ in a generation will set sail next month as the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth departs for its first operational deployment that will also infuriate Russia and China.
The £3billion warship, with eight RAF F35B stealth fighter jets on board, will set off for Asia on May 24 accompanied by six Royal Navy ships including HMS Defender and HMS Diamond, a submarine, 14 naval helicopters and a company of Royal Marines.
Prior to leaving the UK, the CSG led by ‘Big Lizzie’ will take part in a major exercise, Strike Warrior, off the coast of Scotland, where it sprung a leak last month, before departing for the Mediterranean.
Part of the CSG will then head to the Black Sea to support Nato maritime security operations at a time when tensions are rising tensions in Russia and Ukraine. HMS Queen Elizabeth will not sail into the Black Sea because it would breach an international treaty.
The aircraft carrier will also head to the Pacific via India, Singapore and then to Japan, via the South China Sea, in a move that will cause a row with China. In 2019 China warned Britain against sailing anywhere near them, claiming it would be a ‘hostile’ move.
HMS Queen Elizabeth departs for its first operational deployment on May 24 and will attempt to stand up to Russia and China
This is the route the Carrier Strike Group (CSG) will take from next month, reaching Japan this summer after travelling via a number of hotspots that will upset Russia and China
HMS Defender, based at the Portsmouth Naval Base, will also sail with ‘Big Lizzie’ on its world tour
Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond will also form part of the Carrier Strike Group (CSG)
During the voyage, the Navy will avoid the Taiwan Strait as Big Lizzie sails towards Japan in the final leg of the trip to avoid provoking China
President Xi has warned the shop to keep a distance from the contested Spratly Islands, especially with the US Navy, with China’s Ambassador to the UK saying previously Britain ‘should not do this dirty job for somebody else’.
Spratly is at the heart of an ongoing territorial dispute between China, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Brunei.
But the Royal Navy will avoid the Taiwan Strait as Big Lizzie sails towards South Korea and Japan in the final leg of the trip to avoid provoking China further.
Accompanying HMS Queen Elizabeth will be a surface fleet made up of 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.
The Royal Navy Astute-class submarine will also be deployed, armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles.
As well as the stealth fighters, four Wildcat maritime attack helicopters, seven Merlin Mk2 anti-submarine helicopters and three Merlin Mk4 commando helicopters will be embarked – the greatest quantity of helicopters assigned to a single UK Task Group in a decade.
A squadron of 10 US Marine Corps F35B Lightning II jets will also be embarked on the carrier in what the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is describing as the ‘largest concentration of maritime and air power to leave the UK in a generation’.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who will reveal details of the deployment to Parliament, said: ‘When our Carrier Strike Group sets sail next month, 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.
‘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.’
During the 28-week deployment, ships from the Carrier Strike Group are expected to visit more than 40 countries and undertake more than 70 engagements, including sailing alongside the French carrier Charles De Gaulle in the Mediterranean.
The deployment has been organised as part of the ‘UK’s tilt to the Indo-Pacific region’ in a bid to ‘bolster deep defence partnerships’ as well as to take part in an exercise to mark the 50th anniversary of the Five Power Defence Arrangements with Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
Big Lizzie – the Royal Navy’s largest ever warship – will sail through the South China Sea on her first major voyage with the UK’s Carrier Strike Group
Inside Britain’s most powerful warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth
At 280 metres long, with a lifespan of half a century and a flight deck of four acres, HMS Queen Elizabeth is Britain’s largest and most powerful warship ever built.
Here are the facts and figures behind the vessel which was officially commissioned into the Royal Navy December 7, 2017
HMS Queen Elizabeth, pictured, weighs some 65,000 tonnes and has a top speed of 25 knots and a four-acre flight deck
- The aircraft carrier weighs 65,000 tonnes and has a top speed in excess of 25 knots.
- A number of ship building yards around the country were involved in the build – these include Govan and Scotstoun in Glasgow, Appledore in Devon, Cammell Laird in Birkenhead, Wirral, A&P on the Tyne in Newcastle and Portsmouth.
- A total of 10,000 people worked on construction of the ship, made up in sections at yards around the UK and transported to Rosyth, Fife, where it was assembled.
- It is the second ship in the Royal Navy to be named Queen Elizabeth.
- The ship has a crew of around 700, that will increase to 1,600 when a full complement of F-35B jets and Crowsnest helicopters are embarked.
- There are 364,000 metres of pipes inside the ship, and from keel to masthead she measures 56 metres, four metres more than Niagara Falls.
- Facilities onboard include a chapel, a medical centre and 12-bed ward, staffed with GPs, a nurse and medical assistants, as well as a dentist and dental nurse.
- There are also five gyms on the warship which include a cardiovascular suite, two free weight rooms and a boxing gym.
- Regular fitness circuit sessions and sporting activities such as basketball and tug of war are held in the hangar and on the flight deck, with weights and other items stored inside the flight deck ramp.
- The Captain of the ship was Angus Essenhigh
- There are five galleys on the warship which is where the food is cooked and those on board eat their meals everyday. This includes two main galleys, the bridge mess and an aircrew refreshment bar.
- The distribution network on board manages enough energy to power 30,000 kettles or 5,500 family homes.
- Its flight deck is 280 metres long and 70 metres wide, enough space for three football pitches.
- The entire ship’s company of 700 can be served a meal within 90 minutes, 45 minutes when at action stations.
- Recreational spaces enjoyed by the crew feature televisions and sofas, as well as popular board games including the traditional Royal Navy game of Uckers.
- Each of the two aircraft lifts on HMS Queen Elizabeth can move two fighter jets from the hangar to the flight deck in 60 seconds.
- The warship has a range of 8,000 to 10,000 nautical miles, and has two propellers – each weighing 33 tonnes and with a combined 80MW output of power – enough to run 1,000 family cars or 50 high speed trains.