Royal Navy warships leave Britain for landmark Pacific deployment

Hong Kong (CNN)Two Royal Navy patrol ships left the United Kingdom on Tuesday for a five-year deployment that will see them act as “the eyes and ears” of Britain from the west coast of Africa, to the west coast of the United States, according to a British Defense Ministry statement.

“Two-thirds of the world is our playground,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ben Evans, commanding officer of HMS Spey, a 2,000-ton, 300-foot-long offshore patrol vessel that will team with HMS Tamar for a mission that is not expected to see them return to their Portsmouth home port until 2026.

While patrolling the waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans, the warships will venture as far north as the Bering Sea and as far south as New Zealand and the Australian state of Tasmania.

    In the center of that region is China, with whom tensions have been heating up with Britain’s top ally, the United States.

      “They will act as the eyes and ears of the Navy — and nation — in the region, working alongside Britain’s allies, carrying out security patrols to deal with drug-running, smuggling, terrorism and other illegal activities, joining in exercises with other navies and armed forces, and flying the flag for Global Britain,” the Defense Ministry statement said.

      Global Britain is the country’s post-Brexit blueprint to exert British influence around the world in a number of areas, including in the case of the two warships, military security.

      Britain in March released a sweeping review of its military and foreign policy, in which it recognized a tilt toward the Indo-Pacific in the coming decade and warned of the challenges coming from China.

      HMS Spey and HMS Tamar each carry a crew of 46, members of which the Royal Navy says will be swapped out as frequently as every few weeks as the service tries to get regional experience to its crews, while not burning them out on the far-flung mission. That will also allow the ships to spend up to nine months at a time at sea, the navy said.

      ‘2,000-ton Swiss Army knives’

      The ships will not have a permanent base in the Pacific. Instead, they’ll call in bases and ports of allies and partners as best suits their mission, the navy said.

      Along with their normal crews, the ships will host up to 52 Royal Marines or other troops, who can help with specific missions, “a versatility which makes the vessels ‘2,000-ton Swiss Army knives,'” according to the navy statement.

      The ships headed west into the Atlantic from Portsmouth to begin their deployment Tuesday. They will go through the Panama Canal to make their way to their new Pacific patrol area.

      Spey and Tamar have gotten World War I-era “dazzle paint” for their Pacific mission. The paint scheme was meant to make warships harder to track a hundred years ago, at time when the British fleet was regarded as the best in the world.

      “With our paint schemes, we stand out — we look different. We’ll be flying the White Ensign together in the Indo-Pacific region. People will know that the Royal Navy is back,” said Evans, Spey’s commander.

      UK allies and partners around the region have already gotten a taste of the modern Royal Navy this summer with the deployment of Britain’s largest warship, the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, to the region.

      The UK’s Carrier Strike Group 21, which also includes American and Dutch warships, left Britain in May on a seven-month deployment that has seen it go as far as South Korea, where it completed three days of exercises with the South Korean Navy last week.

      That followed the first-ever exercises between US and British carrier strike groups as the carrier USS Carl Vinson and its escorts held combined exercises with the Queen Elizabeth in the Pacific. F-35 stealth fighter jets from both carriers conducted training operations during those exercises.

      UK-Japan defense cooperation

      The Queen Elizabeth visited the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan this week, with senior Japanese defense officials and military officers visiting the carrier on Monday.

      “The visit of the British carrier strike group holds great significance, to maintain and strengthen a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said after his visit to the Queen Elizabeth, according to a Reuters report.

      Yokosuka is also the homeport of the American carrier USS Ronald Reagan, the only one of the US Navy’s 11 aircraft carriers that is based outside the United States.

      That is seen as a symbol of the strong US defense commitment to Japan, the kind of ties Britain wants to promote in the Pacific with the Queen Elizabeth and its other warships.

      “The visit to Japan of HMS Queen Elizabeth and other UK vessels of the Carrier Strike Group is a confident embodiment of the close and deepening relationship between the UK and Japan,” British Ambassador to Japan Julia Longbottom said in a statement.

      “The UK-Japan relationship has a long history. We believe this visit marks the elevation of our defense and security relationship to a new level,” she said.

      All three partners, Japan, the UK and the US, have been vocal about what they term the increasing Chinese threat to security around the Asia-Pacific.

      In its defense white paper released this summer, Tokyo took a strong stance against what it called China’s “unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas,” and it mentioned Britain as a key partner in sharing its vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific.”

      For its part, China has scoffed at the presence of the UK carrier and other warships in the region.

      Writing in Chinese state media when the Queen Elizabeth transited the South China Sea in late July, Wu Shicun, president of China’s National Institute for South China Sea Studies, described the UK carrier deployment as an attempt to “relive the glory days of the British Empire.”

      “The South China Sea was a symbol of Britain’s glorious colonial past, through which the old-time empire that prided itself on its worldwide colonies shipped back the fortune and treasures it plundered in Asia,” Wu wrote.

        On Wednesday, Hu Xijin, editor of the state-run tabloid the Global Times, brushed off the significance of the pride of the UK fleet in Pacific waters.

        “The British aircraft carrier’s visit to Japan was regarded by Chinese netizens as a hug of two hired thugs of the US. In the eyes of Chinese netizens, Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier is useless as a dredger,” Hu said on Twitter.

        Source


        UK carrier commander: Japan visit underscores partnership – The Mainichi

        Commodore Steve Moorhouse, right, commander of the strike group centered on Britain’s aircraft carrier the Queen Elizabeth, talks with Japan Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi on the deck of British Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Sept. 6, 2021. (Pool photo)

        TOKYO (AP) — The commander of the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth said Tuesday that the first port call in Japan by his strike group underscores Britain’s aim to increase its presence in the Indo-Pacific region and its commitment to further strengthen its partnership with Japan.

        The visit comes as Japan is seeking to expand its military cooperation beyond its traditional alliance with the United States as China’s navy expands and increasingly presses its territorial claims.

        The Queen Elizabeth participated in a joint exercise with warships from the United States, the Netherlands, Canada and Japan before arriving in Yokosuka on Saturday. The exercise was part of efforts to achieve a “free and open Indo-Pacific” vision led by Washington and Tokyo.

        The strike group’s visit “embodies (Britain’s) tilt to the Indo-Pacific, marks a return to U.K.’s enduring presence in the region,” its commander, Commodore Steve Moorhouse, said in an online news conference. It demonstrates “the U.K.’s commitment to investing in our partnership with Japan,” he said.

        Moorhouse said they were “escorted and shadowed by Chinese units, which is as expected” during the joint exercise, but the encounter with China’s navy was “safe and professional.”

        British Ambassador to Japan Julia Longbottom said the Indo-Pacific tilt is not only about security.

        “We recognize the shift in world power and economic growth in the Indo-Pacific region and are adapting our posture,” she said at the same news conference. “We also want to work with the Indo-Pacific region to address global challenges” such as the pandemic and climate change.

        Japan has become increasingly worried about China’s growing military influence in the region as well as Beijing’s escalating tensions with Taiwan and rivalry with the United States. Japan has repeatedly protested to China over its increased activity near the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, which are also claimed by China, which calls them Diaoyu.

        Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, who visited Yokosuka on Monday and met with Moorhouse onboard the Queen Elizabeth, said the attention paid by Britain and other countries in Europe to China’s “unilateral” attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas contributes to peace and stability in the region.

        The strike group departed from Britain in May. Commissioned in 2017, the HMS Queen Elizabeth is Britain’s largest and most powerful warship. It is capable of carrying up to 40 aircraft such as F-35 stealth fighters, according to the Royal Navy.


        Source


        HMS Spey and Tamar leave Portsmouth for landmark Royal Navy deployment in the Pacific

        They will arrive in the Pacific on the back of the maiden deployment by HMS Queen Elizabeth

        Two Royal Navy vessels left Hampshire on Tuesday (September 7) as they embark on a landmark deployment to the Indo-Pacific region.

        HMS Spey and Tamar both left Portsmouth as they sailed on a mission which will see them deployed from the eastern shores of Africa to the west coast of the USA over the next five years.

        The Royal Navy warships were waved from HM Naval Base Portsmouth by crowds and Vice Admiral Jerry Kyd.

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        The duo will arrive in the Pacific on the back of the maiden deployment by HMS Queen Elizabeth and the UK’s Carrier Strike Group, which have spent several months working alongside the UK’s allies and partners in the region.

        The new ships will act as the eyes and ears of the navy in the region, working alongside Britain’s allies, carrying out security patrols to deal with drug-running, smuggling, terrorism and other illegal activities, joining in exercises with other navies and armed forces, and flying the flag for Global Britain.

        No permanent home has been assigned to the pair as they will instead make use of bases and ports in the Pacific region.

        Their patrol area embraces both the Indian and Pacific oceans, extending as far north as the Bering Sea and south to the foot of Tasmania and New Zealand.

        They are currently sailing across the Atlantic before heading into the Pacific.

        “Two-thirds of the world is our playground,” said Lieutenant Commander Ben Evans, HMS Spey’s Commanding Officer.

        “We are going to places that the Royal Navy has not visited in a long time – that’s really exciting.”

        Lieutenant Thomas Adlam Royal Navy, HMS Tamar’s 1st Lieutenant, added: “The deployment will offer an array of challenges but also a number of opportunities for many of us to see new parts of the world. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this crew.”

        Each ship is crewed by 46 sailors, with half the crew trading places with shipmates from the UK every few weeks.

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        Royal Navy’s River-class OPVs begin 5-year Indo-Pacific deployment

        Royal Navy press release

        The two warships have sailed on a mission which will see them deployed across a vast area, from the eastern shores of Africa to the west coast of the USA, for the next five years.

        Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Jerry Kyd, was at HM Naval Base Portsmouth to wave them off as they begin final preparations on the south coast.

        Spey and Tamar will arrive in the Pacific on the back of the maiden deployment by HMS Queen Elizabeth and her strike group which have spent several months working alongside the UK’s allies and partners in the region.

        They will act as the eyes and ears of the Navy – and nation – in the region, working alongside Britain’s allies, carrying out security patrols to deal with drug-running, smuggling, terrorism and other illegal activities, joining in exercises with other navies and armed forces, and flying the flag for Global Britain.

        No permanent home has been assigned to the pair – instead they will make use of bases and ports in the Pacific region which best meets their needs and mission.

        Their patrol area embraces both the Indian and Pacific oceans, extending as far north as the Bering Sea and south to the foot of Tasmania and New Zealand.

        They are sailing across the Atlantic and into the Pacific from where their patrols of their new ‘home’ will begin in earnest.

        “Two-thirds of the world is our playground,” said Lieutenant Commander Ben Evans, HMS Spey’s Commanding Officer. 

        “We are going to places that the Royal Navy has not visited in a long time – that’s really exciting.”

        Lieutenant Thomas Adlam Royal Navy, HMS Tamar’s 1st Lieutenant, added: “The deployment will offer an array of challenges but also a number of opportunities for many of us to see new parts of the world. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this crew.” 

        The crews will be joined by extra personnel – up to 52 Royal Marines or troops in a dedicated mess – or mission-specific equipment to deliver humanitarian aid or help with evacuations, depending on their mission, a versatility which makes the vessels “2,000-tonne Swiss Army knives”.

        Each ship is crewed by 46 sailors, with half the crew trading places with shipmates from the UK every few weeks.

        The constant rotation allows the Navy to get the most out of the ships, with the crews at sea for up to nine months of the year, while the vessels themselves ready for operations all year round.

        All are excited by the prospect of the Pacific mission.

        “A lot of the Navy’s current deployment focus has been based around the Gulf,” said Leading Weapons Engineer Alex Twidell, serving in HMS Tamar.

        “The opportunity to go to the Indo-Asia Pacific offers an exciting opportunity that very few in the newest generation of Royal Navy sailors have had the chance to partake in. It will be an amazing experience.”

        His Commanding Officer, Commander Teilo Elliot-Smith, added: “I am incredibly proud to be given the opportunity to join HMS Tamar and sail with such a talented ship’s company on the Ship’s maiden deployment, extending the global reach of the Royal Navy to the Indo-Asia Pacific.

        “I have served in this region before, but it is an exciting new endeavour for us as the lead echelon of the RN’s new permanent forward presence.

        “The ship will operate in this part of the world for the foreseeable future, working closely to strengthen our existing alliances in the region, whilst also embracing the opportunity to support the development of newer relationships along the way.”

        The hulls of both Tamar and Spey have received retro World War era ‘dazzle paint’ – making them distinct from most other warships around the globe. 

        Lt Cdr Evans said: “With our paint schemes, we stand out – we look different. We’ll be flying the White Ensign together in the Indo-Pacific region. People will know that the Royal Navy is back.”

        The sister ships are the last of five in the River class at the forefront of the Navy’s programme of deploying its vessels for several years at a time in key strategic regions of the globe.

        HMS Forth patrols around the Falklands and South Atlantic, HMS Medway is part of the UK naval task group in the Caribbean and HMS Trent conducts security patrols of the Mediterranean and off West Africa.

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        By HitNews