Western pressure on emerging China has just intensified: the UK’s all-new aircraft carrier will make its first operational voyage into the disputed waters of Beijing in the Indo-Pacific.
It will be the Royal Navy’s largest international trip since the Falklands War (1982), when an expeditionary fleet crossed the Atlantic to expel Argentine invaders from the Falklands, an English name for the islands.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is the most powerful ship of its kind outside the United States Navy, which operates 11 nuclear-powered giants on its patrols around the world.
In May, after an exercise off the coast of Scotland, the aircraft carrier will command a strike group of 6 other ships – the UK Navy has 21 main surface ships. A submarine will accompany the training.
On board, 8 British fifth generation F-35B fighters and 10 of the same model from a detachment of the US Marine Corps, in addition to 14 helicopters.
On its way, it will stop over in India, Singapore, South Korea and Japan, with the exception of the ambiguous island-state, all countries are allies of the United States vis-à-vis China. .
The route itself, crossing straits vital to the Chinese economy and navigating waters Beijing calls its own, in the South China Sea, is already a message for the Communist dictatorship.
Since Donald Trump launched his Cold War 2.0 against the United States, Washington allies have come under pressure to choose sides. With the rise to power of Joe Biden, the continued aggressive rhetoric against the Chinese, and without the loathing his predecessor caused, it just got easier.
Germany sent a frigate to the South China Sea this month, for example. There are currently two groups of US aircraft carriers in the region, in addition to French ships, in addition to obviously Chinese ships.
Indeed, in the 28 weeks during which it will visit 40 countries, the attack group will maneuver with the four allies of the Quad (USA, Australia, India and Japan), a club which opposes Chinese interests in the ‘Indo-Pacific.
The United Kingdom, a military ally closer to the United States than the other NATO countries (Western alliance), has its own motivations in the dispute.
Owner of Hong Kong until 1997, London protested vehemently against the Chinese repression of the autonomy of the territory, in theory guaranteed until 2047 by treaty.
In practice, Beijing has killed local opposition and changed the rules on how elections and institutions work. The territory is still strongly marked by the British presence.
In addition, the trip is another demonstration of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s intention to seek to raise the British profile abroad with an Indo-Pacific-focused military musculature exhibit.
His government rejected a promise to reduce its atomic arsenal, now to 195 warheads, and raised its limit to 260 bombs. In any case, the presence of American planes on the new ship is also symptomatic of its dependence on Washington.
HMS Queen Elizabeth began construction in 2009, and was delivered to the Navy in 2017. In testing since then, she is now ready for full missions. The ship has a sibling, HMS Prince of Wales, delivered in 2019 and is expected to be operational by 2023.
Both projects cost over £ 6 billion (R $ 45.3 billion if everything was paid for today), being the most expensive and highest firepower in the country’s history. They mark the return of aircraft carriers to the country’s navy after ten years.
HMS Queen Elizabeth is 280 meters long, carries 1,600 sailors and up to 60 aircraft, moving 65,000 tonnes conventionally powered. It is only behind the American nuclear mammoths, which displace 100,000 tons.
Without catapults, it operates fighters with short and vertical take-off, the F-35B, which replace the famous Harriers. It is recognizable by its two islands of command, which can alternate functions in the event that one of them is damaged by attacks.
During their maiden voyage, the group taken by the ship should maneuver in the Mediterranean with the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, the only nuclear outside the American fleet, but smaller in size: it displaces 42,500 tonnes.
There are doubts that the provocation of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s first tour will include a visit to the Black Sea, the scene of tensions between Russia and the West in recent weeks due to the concentration of Moscow troops on the Ukrainian borders. .
Under the current rules, there is a restriction on the entry of such vessels into the sea, which must pass through the Turkish Strait from the Mediterranean.
The Russians announced the end of the mobilization of around 100,000 troops last week, but Ukraine continues to doubt the action. The United States, which had given up on sending destroyers to the Black Sea at the height of the crisis, announced on Tuesday (27) that it would send a smaller coast guard vessel to the region.