Great Britain

Royal Navy’s £3bn warship HMS Queen Elizabeth may be based in Far East in show of strength to China

BRITAIN’S biggest warship may be sent to the Far East in a show of strength against the "emerging threat" of China, it's been reported.

The £3billion HMS Queen Elizabeth could be based in the Far East to counter an assertive China following a range of crises, including standoffs and cyber attacks against UK allies, the US and Australia.

The Times reports that military bosses are progressing plans to base the new aircraft carrier in the Far East.

The vessel could join allies such as the US and Japan on military exercises to fend off growing aggression from China.

A defence source also told the paper HMS Queen Elizabeth could take part in a so-called "floating trade fair" for military deals.

When it embarks on its lengthy voyage - expected to take pace early 2021 - it'll carry two squadrons of F-35B Lightning II stealth combat jets, and be shadowed by two Type 45 destroyers, two Type 23 frigates, two tankers and helicopters.

The Times says that defence bosses want to base either HMS Queen Elizabeth or HMS Prince of Wales in the Indo-Pacific region.

Australia and Canada "could be invited to provide escort warships or submarines to complete the flotilla," it adds.

A source explained that "one carrier will support Nato in the North Atlantic."

They said the only other obvious place to base the second carrier was on a main trade route, to "counter the emerging threat of China.

"It would be an allied task group, a British carrier, but a coalition of the willing."

Relations between China and the US have nosedived in recent months as they argue over everything from trade to the coronavirus.

China was also angered by US military activity in the disputed South China Sea and near Chinese-claimed Taiwan.

Donald Trump's administration has said it is in a “great-power competition” with China and has steadily increased the number of soldiers stationed in the Asia-Pacific region to 375,000, including 60 per cent of its Navy ships.

China has also been blamed for a massive cyberattack on Australia’s essential services - including hospitals - by experts.

Australian PM Scott Morrison said the sophisticated hack targeted critical infrastructure and all levels of government.

Monash University international security expert Greg Barton said the malicious nature of much of the reported cyber crimes suggested it was part of deteriorating relations between China and Australia amid a row over coronavirus.

Beijing and Canberra have been at loggerheads since Australia - a key US ally - became the first nation to call for an inquiry into the origins of coronavirus in March.

In the UK, ties with China have frozen over the debate about Huawei, and the communist country's frightening moves against residents in Hong Kong.

Hostile rhetoric has ratcheted up in recent days over Beijing’s new national security law for Hong Kong.

Britain’s decision to offer refuge to millions in the former colony was met with a stern telling-off by China.

And Chinese officials have threatened “consequences” if Britain treats it as a “hostile country” and decides to cut Chinese technology giant Huawei out of its critical telecoms infrastructure amid growing unease over security risks.

What is HMS Queen Elizabeth?

The £3bn warship is Britain’s biggest, and the Navy is preparing for her maiden deployment in the new year.

HMS Queen Elizabeth and her 1,100-strong ship’s company returned to her homeport of Portsmouth in early July as a fully-trained aircraft carrier.

A final round of training in the autumn – working alongside NATO and US allies – will confirm her ability to act as a task group flagship, says the Navy.

This will mean that she can lead a potent carrier strike force on front-line operations anywhere in the world.

Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said: “HMS Queen Elizabeth is an extraordinary ship crewed by extraordinary people from both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.

“They deployed at the height of the Covid-19 outbreak and have remained at sea for over 10 weeks so that they could complete their operational training with the minimal risk of infection.

“They’ve taken us a step closer to having a carrier strike capability with the capacity to project British influence across the globe.”

While in the North Sea, HMS Queen Elizabeth welcomed F-35 Lightnings from 617 Squadron, better known as The Dambusters.

It’s the first time operational UK F-35s have worked with the vessel, where they completed a record number of landings on the flight deck.

In the 70 days since leaving Portsmouth at the end of April, the carrier has been almost exclusively at sea and clocked up 11,500 miles.

That is the equivalent of the distance from her home base to Auckland, New Zealand.

F-35 Lightning jets land on and take off from Britain's next generation aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, for the first time

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