Indo-Pacific partners exercise maritime rights
The United Kingdom’s Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21) has traveled thousands of nautical miles over the past three months, carrying out air and maritime operations with Indo-Pacific nations including Cambodia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam in a demonstration of its commitment to regional partners and a rules-based international order.
As of early October 2021, CSG21 was navigating the waters of the South China Sea to hone interoperability with partners and exercise freedom of navigation in international waters. The U.K. strike group drilled with two United States carrier strike groups and a Japanese warship at the beginning of October in a major naval exercise off Okinawa, Japan, the U.K. Royal Navy reported in a news release.
“In addition to the two carrier strike groups of the U.S. Navy, I feel very honored to be able to train with the Royal Navy’s most advanced carrier strike group, which is an extremely valuable experience,” Rear Adm. Konno Yasushige, commander of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Escort Flotilla 2, said in a news release.
The exercise, which also had participants from Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand, involved 17 surface ships, including four aircraft carriers.
CSG21 also will participate in Exercise Bersama Gold 21 off the coasts of Malaysia and Singapore to mark the 50th anniversary of the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA), which involve Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the U.K. The exercise concludes October 18.
The maritime exercises near Japan and Singapore are a robust display of the combined strength of Indo-Pacific partners. Australia deployed HMAS Canberra, an amphibious assault ship, the destroyer HMAS Anzac, a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter jets to Bersama Gold.
Lt. Gen. Greg Bilton, chief of Joint Operations for Australia, highlighted the importance of the exercise. “The FPDA is a trusted mainstay of regional security architecture,” Bilton said, according to a government news release. “When our five nations come together, we strengthen cooperation, deepen our interoperability and sustain professional links.”
Before Bersama Gold got underway, the U.K.’s HMS Diamond joined Australia’s Anzac, Canberra and HMAS Sirius for a bilateral exercise in which they refueled and tested high-end warfighting capabilities together.
New Zealand is also exercising with its FPDA partners. The Royal New Zealand Navy frigate HMNZS Te Kaha is joining Bersama Gold, and the replenishment tanker HMNZS Aotearoa conducted exercises with the U.K. strike group two weeks earlier near Guam.
“As we witness a tilt in power towards the Indo-Pacific region, we are committed to working with our partners here to defend democratic values, tackle shared threats and keep our nations safe,” U.K. Defence Minister Ben Wallace said, according to navalnews.com. “The involvement of the U.K.’s fifth-generation carrier strike group in this significant series of exercises right across the Indo-Pacific region highlights the renewed importance we place on the U.K.’s long-standing defense and security relationships with our valued partners and allies in the region.”
The group’s maiden deployment represents the largest fleet of U.K. Royal Navy warships to deploy internationally since the 1982 Falklands War and also includes a nuclear-powered submarine, destroyers, anti-submarine frigates and auxiliary ships. (Pictured: From front to back, USS Ronald Reagan, HMS Queen Elizabeth, JS Ise and USS Carl Vinson participate in a joint carrier exercise off the coast of Japan.)
“The carrier strike group offers Britain choice and flexibility on the global stage; it reassures our friends and allies and presents a powerful deterrent to would-be adversaries,” Commodore Steve Moorhouse, commander of CSG21, said in a statement. “Protected by a ring of advanced ships, submarines and helicopters, and equipped with fifth-generation fighters, HMS Queen Elizabeth is able to strike from the sea at a time and place of our choosing; and with our NATO allies at our side, we will be ready to fight and win in the most demanding circumstances.”
IMAGE CREDIT: JAPAN MARITIME SELF-DEFENSE FORCE