“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 up with HMS Tamar on a mission that is unlikely to see them return to their home port of Portsmouth until 2026.
Patrolling the waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, warships will venture as far north as the Bering Sea and as far south as New Zealand and the Australian state of Tasmania.
At the center of this region is China, with which tensions have escalated with Britain’s main ally, the United States.
“They will act as the eyes and ears of the Navy – and the nation – in the region, working alongside Britain’s allies, conducting security patrols to combat drug trafficking, smuggling, terrorism and other illegal activities, joining exercises with other navies and armed forces, and flying the flag of world Britain, “the Defense Ministry statement read.
HMS Spey and HMS Tamar each carry a crew of 46, whose members of the Royal Navy will be swapped out as often as every few weeks as the service tries to provide a regional experience to its crews, without exhausting them to l ‘extreme. mission launched. It will also allow ships to spend up to nine straight months at sea, the navy said.
“Swiss Army Knives of 2,000 tons”
The ships will not have a permanent base in the Pacific. Instead, they will call allied and partner bases and ports whichever best suits their mission, the Navy said.
With their normal crews, the ships will accommodate up to 52 Royal Marines or other troops, who can help with specific missions, “a versatility that makes ships ” 2,000-ton Swiss Army knives,” “according to the press release. Marine.
The ships headed west into the Atlantic from Portsmouth to begin their deployment on Tuesday. They will cross the Panama Canal on their way to their new Pacific patrol area.
Spey and Tamar obtained a “dazzling painting” of World War I for their mission in the Pacific. The paint scheme was supposed to make warships harder to follow a hundred years ago, at a time when the British fleet was considered the best in the world.
“With our paint schemes we stand out – we look different. Together we will be piloting the White Ensign in the Indo-Pacific region. People will know the Royal Navy is back,” said Evans, commander of Spey. .
British allies and partners in the region already got 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.
This followed the very first exercises between the American and British carrier groups as the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and her escorts conducted combined exercises with the Queen Elizabeth in the Pacific. F-35 stealth fighters from both carriers conducted training operations during these exercises.
Defense cooperation between the UK and Japan
The Queen Elizabeth visited Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan this week, with senior Japanese defense officials and military officers visiting the aircraft carrier on Monday.
Yokosuka is also the home port of the US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, the only one of the 11 US Navy aircraft carriers to be based outside the United States.
This is seen as a symbol of the United States’ strong defense commitment to Japan, the kind of ties Britain wishes to promote in the Pacific with the Queen Elizabeth and her other warships.
“The visit to Japan of HMS Queen Elizabeth and other British ships of the Carrier Strike Group is a confident embodiment of the close and deep relationship between the United Kingdom and Japan,” said British Ambassador to Japan Julia Longbottom in a statement. communicated.
“The relationship between the UK and Japan has a long history. We believe this visit marks the elevation of our defense and security relationship to a new level,” she said.
The three partners, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, have expressed what they call the growing Chinese threat to security in the Asia-Pacific region.
In its defense white paper released this summer, Tokyo took a strong stand 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 mocked the presence of the British aircraft 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 the Chinese National Institute for South China Sea Studies, described the carrier’s deployment. British planes 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 empire that boasted of its global colonies returned the fortune and treasures it had plundered to Asia,” he said. Wu writes.
Hu Xijin, editor of the state tabloid Global Times, on Wednesday brushed off the importance of British fleet pride in Pacific waters.
“The British aircraft carrier’s visit to Japan was viewed by Chinese netizens as an embrace of two hired thugs from the United States. In the eyes of Chinese netizens, the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier is useless as a dredge,” Hu said on Twitter.