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.