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France will deploy a Mistral class amphibious assault ship to lead exercises on and around Tinian island in the Pacific.

It is understood that the deployment will feature Japanese and US personnel and British transport helicopters.

According to reports, the exercise will take place in the second week of May this year.

“Rather than just being a naval exercise, this amphibious exercise will send a clear message to China” said one of the sources according to a report by Reuters here.

The exercise will take place in the second and third week of May, the other source said.

The Mistral class is a class of three amphibious assault ships capable of transporting and deploying 16 NH90 transport helicopters or Tiger attack helicopters, four landing craft, up to 80 vehicles including 12 Leclerc tanks or a 40-strong Leclerc tank battalion and 400 soldiers.

Last year, British aircraft exercising in Japan were tasked to fly across disputed parts of the South China Sea in order to assert ‘international overflight rights’.

Four Typhoon fighter aircraft, flown by No 2 (AC) Squadron pilots from RAF Lossiemouth, arrived at Japan Air Self Defense Force Misawa Air Base, in the northern part of the island of Honshū in December marking the first bilateral exercise ever in Japan with foreign military other than the US.

It also emerged within the last few months that the UK plans to sail HMS Queen Elizabeth to the Pacific in 2021 amid concerns regarding freedom of navigation in the region.

HMS Queen Elizabeth will sail to the Pacific on her maiden deployment in 2021 according to an ambassador. Kim Darroch, Britain’s ambassador to the US said at a think-tank event in Washington:

“As we bring our two new aircraft carriers on-stream in 2020, and as we renew and update our defence forces, they will be seen in the Pacific.

And we absolutely share the objective of this US administration, and the next one, to protect freedom of navigation and to keep sea routes and air routes open.”

Currently in the final stages of completion, HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to go sea for contractor trials in Summer. She’ll return to the Forth once those are done for a final period of fitting out and testing.

17 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve been following the journey of RFA Tidespring from Korea, via Japan, Pearl Harbor and Panama on https://www.marinetraffic.com/ . Since at least Pearl, she has been following in the wake of a vessel, only described as ‘Tug & special craft’. Does anyone know what this vessel is?

  2. No it didn’t “emerge” that the QE would be sailing through the China Sea. The UK ambassador to the US (someone who hasn’t any more idea than you or I about RN ops) mentioned it as a possibility.

  3. Maybe I’m being unfair but I think any decent military force would notice an aircraft carrier group steaming towards them. They’re pretty big after all. I’d be shocked if the QE carrier could just float about near China without them seeing it.
    Unless it has the same tech James Bond had for his invisible car.

  4. I’m sure the media will whinge about “saber rattling” when the time comes, however this exercise will be 3,000kms from China.

    The could have it in the Bay of Bangal off of India and it would be just as close to China.

  5. Sabre rattling, freedom of navigation is important but have the Chinese ever stopped any merchant ships from transiting through the South China Sea?
    Why are we involved in this process of trying to provoke an escalation in tension with China?

    • Aah, yes.
      The Neville Chamberlain gambit.

      “Leave that dictatorship alone…. I’m sure they have everyone’s best interest at heart!”

      And yes, Japanese & Singaporean shipments have been interfered with or seized in the recent past.

      • Totally agree Joe. I for one, do not trust the Chinese as far as I could throw them. To call a spade a spade, they are not our friends and they neither fear nor respect us. As we all know, they have been throwing their weight around in the South Sea recently and I fear a punch up sooner rather than later with Uncle Sam and/or Japan is inevitable.

  6. Doubt the Chinese would risk a conflict with USA or even Japan. Japanese navy is qualitatively superior to Chinese and would give the PLAN a bloody nose. There is a huge amount of historic bad blood between the 2 nations though. Japan could defuse the situation by apologising for their atrocities conducted against the Chinese in WW2.
    Other than that apart from conducting freedom of navigation patrols that is all those nations interested can do. Just not sure it is viable sending most of the available RN fleet as a carrier battle group is going to either impress the Chinese or deter them. If we had a much larger RN that could handle the PLAN then that would be different. Need another 6 type 45s, 8 more astutes and 8 more type 26s to be a worthwhile show of force.

    • Ordinarily I would agree Mr Bell. However, I fear that a repeat of something akin to what happened in 2001 when a US Navy EP3 and Chinese J-8 plane collided forcing the EP3 to make an emergency landing in China (Hainan Island) and which was subsequently returned to the US much later in crates, would NOT sit well with the current US administration. My point is that with President Trump in office, it’s no longer business as usual. I’m not blaming him, nor saying he would start something but he is very unpredictable. China et al – be advised.

      • I do think Trump has changed the game re China. Whatever the rights and wrongs of past relationships I reckon the China dynamic has fundamentally shifted. No Chinese official is going to be telling Trump who he can and can speak with (waiting for Trump / Dalai Lama meeting to put that to test 😉 and those islets are no longer going China’s way by default. All eyes on SCC.

        • Hi Ian,

          I agree with you and when you throw North Korea and their recent shenanigans into the mix, it could turn very nasty very quickly. All the more reason not to sail our shinny new tin can in the middle of it all in a few years. IMO, only Uncle Sam can keep China in check; with our very limited resources – we’re best out of it.

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