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British aircraft carrier leaves Singapore amid Pacific tensions

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MELBOURNE, Australia – The new British aircraft carrier left Singapore on Tuesday, ending a nearly three-month deployment in the Western Pacific.

The deployment of the Royal Navy’s largest warship underscores the growing geopolitical complexities in the region, brought about in part by China’s growing assertiveness in the region.

The 65,000-ton HMS Queen Elizabeth had arrived in Singapore just 24 hours earlier following exercises with the Southeast Asian island nation’s army, which included training for Joint Strike Fighter jets. Carrier Lockheed-Martin F-35B Lighting II with Singaporean F-16 fighter jets.

The aircraft carrier was carrying 18 F-35Bs on this deployment, eight of which were from 617 Squadron, Royal Air Force and the rest were United States Marine Corps aircraft from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron or VMFA 211.

A multinational task group called Carrier Strike Group 21, or CSG21, accompanied the aircraft carrier on this trip, which began in late May, which included the Type 23 anti-submarine frigates HMS Richmond (F239) and HMS Kent ( F78); the type 45 HMS Defender guided missile destroyer (D36); RFA Fort Victoria (A387) and RFA Tidespring (A136) of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. It also included the American destroyer The Sullivans (DDG-68); Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen (F805); and the nuclear attack submarine HMS Artful (S121).

The group arrived in the region in late July, with the task group’s first ships entering the strategic Strait of Malacca from the Indian Ocean on July 22 and heading for the South China Sea the following day. The aircraft carrier and most of the ships followed four days later.

The group conducted training with regional Marines while in the region and culminated in full-scale naval exercises with six regional Marines in the water southeast of the Japanese island of Okinawa.

These exercises involved 17 ships from the six navies, and also included the attack groups of the George Washington and Carl Vinson aircraft carriers of the United States Navy and the Japanese helicopter carrier JS Ise. Other countries involved in the exercise included the Canadian, Dutch and New Zealand navies.

Group leader Commodore Steve Moorhouse told media in Singapore that the deployment “shows how important the region is.” He added that because several nations wanted to train with the group, it proves that these countries “saw the world the same way and wanted to defend the same values”.

Britain will continue to have a naval presence in the region after the group leaves. Another Royal Navy Type 45 destroyer, HMS Diamond, has arrived in the area and is participating in the Five Power Defense Arrangement or FPDA Bersama Gold exercise with forces from Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore.

The agreement provides that the five member countries agree to consult on measures taken separately or together in response to any attack or threat of attack against Malaysia or Singapore, with regular military exercises.

Two other Royal Navy ships, River-class offshore patrol vessels HMS Tamar and HMS Spey, are in San Diego after crossing the Panama Canal bound for the Indo-Pacific, where they are expected to pass much of the next five years. .


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