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Opinion

UK ‘Carrier Strike Group’ begins global voyage

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Daniel Pruce - The Philippine Star

On 22 May, nine ships, 32 aircraft and 3,700 personnel set sail from Portsmouth in the United Kingdom. Together they make up the UK’s Carrier Strike Group: the largest concentration of maritime and air power to leave the UK in a generation.

The Carrier Strike Group is led by HMS Queen Elizabeth – the largest and most powerful surface vessel in the Royal Navy’s history – on her maiden operational deployment. In a true success story for British industry, she was built by a cast of more than 10,000, including more than 800 apprentices, in six dockyards from the banks of the Clyde in Scotland to the River Torridge quaysides in Devon.

Her Majesty the Queen visited her namesake vessel – which she commissioned in 2017 – before the aircraft carrier set sail, meeting crew members and wishing them luck in what will be an unforgettable life experience by being part of naval history.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also visited HMS Queen Elizabeth ahead of her departure.

The ambitious journey ahead for those men and women will be truly global. Over seven months, the Carrier Strike Group will travel over 26,000 nautical miles, from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, from the Gulf of Aden to the Arabian Sea and from the Indian Ocean to the Philippine Sea. The Group aims to interact with 40 nations during its tour and to undertake over 70 engagements, exercises and operations with allies and partners.

The deployment comes after Prime Minister Johnson announced an increase in defence funding of over £24 billion across the next four years. It will will be an impressive display of the UK’s world-leading defence capabilities – the Carrier Strike Group offers unique strategic flexibility, from countering state threats and non-state threats, through to humanitarian and disaster relief.

But the voyage is about so much more than that. The Carrier Strike Group embodies Prime Minister Johnson’s vision for the UK as an outward facing, modern, responsible international actor who also takes its global defence and security responsibilities seriously and invests in them accordingly.

The UK is a problem-solving and burden-sharing nation with a global perspective – creating new foundations for our own and others’ prosperity in a competitive world through an integrated approach. The Carrier Strike Group brings together some of the UK’s key strengths – diplomatic, military, economic and cultural – to increase people’s security and living standards, both at home in the UK and across the world.

We are strong on our own, but even stronger with our allies. We will use this deployment to show solidarity with our international allies and partners, reinforcing old friendships and forging new ones. The Carrier Strike Group will lead several NATO exercises and two of our oldest and closest partners in the US and the Netherlands will be fully integrated into the deployment.

For us in the Indo-Pacific, the Carrier Strike Group’s visit is an important symbol of the United Kingdom’s “Indo-Pacific Tilt:” our commitment to pursuing deeper engagement in the Indo-Pacific in support of shared prosperity and regional stability, with stronger diplomatic and trading ties.

The Indo-Pacific is the fastest-growing economic region in the world, a crucial transit point for global trade and home to many UK allies and trading partners. The UK already has a deeply integrated regional presence, which we will build on to work ever closer, in support of stronger trading links, shared security and shared values and priorities, from climate and biodiversity to maritime security. As part of the Indo-Pacific tilt, the UK is seeking ASEAN Dialogue Partner status, supporting ASEAN’s role in regional stability and economic development.

The four major stops on the Indo-Pacific leg of the Carrier Strike Group’s deployment will be Singapore, the Republic of Korea, Japan and India and escort units from the strike group will engage with other ASEAN partners as part of our commitment to a more enduring regional defence and security presence.

The Carrier Strike Group underlines UK commitment to an open and resilient international order in which open societies and economies continue to flourish and the benefits of prosperity are shared through free trade and global growth.

Here in the Philippines, our bilateral relationship has strong foundations, close connections between our citizens and a comprehensive agenda of practical collaboration on shared priorities such as health, economic recovery, climate change, security and defence. This year, we celebrate the step change in our bilateral relationship to an “Enhanced Partnership” as well as the 75th anniversary of our bilateral relations. The proximity of the Carrier Strike Group in this special year is a welcome contribution to our close friendship.

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Daniel Pruce is the British Ambassador to the Philippines.

Twitter: @danielpruce

UNITED KINGDOM

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