HMS Defender, a Type 45 Destroyer part of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Carrier Strike Group, has entered the South China Sea.

The vessel is sailing as part of the Carrier Strike group 21 deployment cewntred around aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

China claims almost all of the 1.3 million-square-mile South China Sea as its sovereign territory, and it has denounced the presence of foreign warships there as the root of tensions in the region.

Chinese defence spokesman Tan Kefei was quoted in the South China Morning Posas saying:

“The Chinese side believes that the South China Sea should not become a sea of great power rivalry dominated by weapons and warships. The real source of militarisation in the South China Sea comes from countries outside this region sending their warships thousands of kilometres from home to flex muscles. The Chinese military will take necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interest as well as peace and stability in the South China Sea.”

What happened last time a British vessel sailed through the South China Sea?

HMS Albion has previously sailed through the South China Sea.

In 2018, assault ship HMS Albion was challenged by a Chinese frigate and two helicopters during freedom of navigation exercise in the South China Sea. Local media report that both sides remained calm during the encounter and the Royal Navy assault ship continued on course despite protests from China.

What is the UK Carrier Strike Group doing?

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the deployed flag ship for Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21), a deployment that will see the ship and her escorts sail to the Asia-Pacific and back. The Carrier Strike Group includes ships from the United States Navy, the Dutch Navy, and Marines from the US Marine Corps as well as air assets from 617 Sqn, 820 NAS, 815 NAS and 845 NAS.

The Royal Navy say that the UK’s Carrier Strike Group will visit more than one fifth of the world’s nations. Led by HMS Queen Elizabeth, the task group will visit 40 nations including India, Japan, Republic of Korea and Singapore in a deployment covering 26,000 nautical miles.

“While in the Pacific, ships from the Carrier Strike Group will mark the 50th anniversary of the Five Powers Defence Agreement between Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the UK by taking part in Exercise Bersama Lima. Joining HMS Queen Elizabeth on her maiden deployment are destroyers HMS Diamond and Defender; frigates HMS Richmond and Kent; an Astute-class submarine in support below the waves; and Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ships RFA Fort Victoria and RFA Tidespring.

More than 30 aircraft will also embark across the task group including F-35 jets from 617 Squadron, the Dambusters, and the US Marine Corps’ VMFA-211; Wildcat helicopters from 815 Naval Air Squadron and Merlin helicopters from 820 and 845 Naval Air Squadrons. Royal Marines from 42 Commando will also deploy with the carrier. Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen and American Arleigh Burke destroyer USS The Sullivans are also part of the strike group.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth at sea with a mix of British and American jets.

Currently however, HMS Diamond isn’t with the group after suffering a defect. You can read more about that here.

HMS Queen Elizabeth and her Carrier Strike Group will also undertake anti-submarine exercises whilst in the Pacific region.
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ChariotRider
ChariotRider
8 days ago

Hence USS The Sullivans taking over as lead air defender for the group. Demonstrates the flexibility and resilience of a NATO derived force very well indeed.

Cheers CR

Jonathan Gallagher
Jonathan Gallagher
8 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Is it just Defender sailing in SCS or the QE going through aswell?

Darren hall
Darren hall
7 days ago

The whole fleet will have to go through.
The Chinese claim almost all of it…

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
7 days ago

Hi Jonathan

It is just Defender at this time.

As I understand it the rest of the group will be sailing through the CSC at some point. I think the rest of the group is exercising with the Indian Navy.

It was always stated that vessels would detach from the main group to undertake visits or specific operations. It seems the RN / HMG have decided that they would test the waters in the CSC before the main group transits the same waters.

Cheers CR

Johnny Gallagher
Johnny Gallagher
6 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Thanks for the reply.

I thought the whole lot was going through but just when Defender was detached I thought they had changed their minds.

I wonder if Diamond was meant to do the SCS as Defender had done the Black Sea.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
5 days ago

You are welcome.

As for Diamond being planned for doing the lead into the SCS, quite possibly, share the excitement and experience around…

If nothing else the RN is extremely good at adapting to changing circumstances and with the USN and Royal Netherland Navy also providing very capable air defence units the task group is actually well placed for AAW.

We shall see over the next couple of days how the Chinese react. I bet there are a lot of senior officers around the world watching very closely. Interesting times.

Cheers CR

DJK
DJK
8 days ago

I wonder if the Chinese response – whatever that might be – would be different if there weren’t US aircraft on Big Lizzie?

Dern
Dern
8 days ago
Reply to  DJK

Doubt it? Don’t forget the UK is still a Nuclear Power, and it’s not worth getting into a shooting war over a FONOP for either side.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
8 days ago
Reply to  Dern

Yeh, pains me to say it, but the nuclear deterent really does matter. When the Ukriane broke from the USSR they became the third biggest nuclear power on the planet. It was a complicated situation because they did not have operational control, but they did have physical control of the weapons. The big powers put pressure on them to give the weapons back to Russia, which they did – since then Russia has done nothing but destabilise the Ukriane. So yeh, the deterent matters and unilateral disarmament just makes you vulnerable. At least that is the lesson I take away… Read more »

Mohawk Chris
Mohawk Chris
7 days ago
Reply to  Dern

Don’t forget HMS Queen Elizabeth runs on diesel and not nuclear powered

Dern
Dern
7 days ago
Reply to  Mohawk Chris

Um, what exactly does that have to do with anything?

Alan Reid
Alan Reid
7 days ago
Reply to  DJK

Genuinely curious ….. do the Royal Navy call her “Big Lizzie”, or is it simply “The Queen”?

James
James
6 days ago
Reply to  Alan Reid

They don’t call her ‘Big Lizzie’. It’s actually pretty insulting. That name was coined by the toilet wipe called ‘The Sun’ tabloid. She is known as QE.

Cliff Erickson
Cliff Erickson
8 days ago

Good for great Britain for showing strength and courage.

Alfred E. Magallanes
Alfred E. Magallanes
8 days ago

The real militarisation is coming into islands thousands of miles from your country and making them military bases. Why don’t you try touching those ships encroaching into “your” islands!

David Steeper
David Steeper
6 days ago

  :wpds_unamused: 

geoff
geoff
8 days ago

On the one hand I was thinking that RN forays into the Black Sea and South China Sea were perhaps unnecessarily provocative but have come round to believing that these excursions are vital in assisting to keep international waters open to international navigation! Imagine if the UK suddenly and unlilaterally announced its annexation of the North Sea apart from narrow corridors around the coasts of those countries sharing it’s shores! It would not only become a pariah but a laughing stock in the West. More to the point, it would not happen in the Western democracies. China’s actions have united… Read more »

Last edited 8 days ago by geoff
David
David
8 days ago

Was it not @gunbuster who mentioned that some T45s were able to hoover up Opfor Int? Is that why she is sailing ahead? Those man-made islands will be a gold mine if they have no subsea cables connecting them.

Chris
Chris
8 days ago

Very risky business sending our only 45 into the area. We are leaving our carried hopelessly exposed from an air defence prospective. Trusting one American Destroyer with the defence of the whole fleet seems very silly.

Why didn’t they send one of the two frigates instead?

Deep32
Deep32
8 days ago
Reply to  Chris

Don’t forget the Dutch AAW frigate that is accompanying the TG!

Chris
Chris
8 days ago
Reply to  Deep32

Fair point but we still seem light on the ground for air defence considering that’s the preferred method of intimidation by the Chinese.

Deep32
Deep32
7 days ago
Reply to  Chris

Im not sure what our policy is with regard to putting a few F35s up as a CAP, but that would dilute any intimidation, although might possibly be viewed as an escalation!!!

David
David
7 days ago
Reply to  Deep32

I’d love us to buzz their illegal man made islands, we’ve let it slide too far with a rapacious country.

Daveyb
Daveyb
7 days ago
Reply to  Deep32

The carrier will try to have a CAP up 24/7, which is standard carrier operational procedures. Hopefully, this is being backed up with the Crowsnest Merlins.

Deep32
Deep32
6 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Cheers mate.

Deep32
Deep32
6 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Had a thought on this, understand that they would try to have a 24/7 CAP, but in reality do we have enough airframes onboard for that?
I’m assuming that a CAP is 2x aircraft in the air with another 2 on standby. Not sure what the endurance of said aircraft in the air is 2-3 hrs?
This puts a large strain on airframe availability!

DaveyB
DaveyB
6 days ago
Reply to  Deep32

It will be the Navy’s aspiration to have a 24/7 CAP. I’m not sure that’s fully achievable right now? If we had an organic tanker aircraft and fixed wing AEW it definitely would be. But that’s a while off yet. With 18 F35Bs embarked it should be doable. Another question would be, do the USMC doing CAP duties from their LHA/Ds when their part of a Marine Expeditionary Force, especially when the ship has a lot more helicopters and Ospreys on board? As I believe they only carry 10 Harriers or F35s. The exercise they did off Scotland was to… Read more »

Deep32
Deep32
5 days ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Yes, my post was in context to TG in the SCS, so some interesting points. Would agree that alert level will be higher all round during transit of SCS.
Certainly leaves us under no illusions as to how many aircraft would be required for any form of war tasking against near/peer opponents.

Darren
Darren
8 days ago
Reply to  Chris

It’s not our only 45 destroyer we have 6

Chris
Chris
7 days ago
Reply to  Darren

You know exactly what I meant… one in theatre.

Keep your daft comments to yourself please… this is a board for adults

Pete
Pete
8 days ago
Reply to  Chris

I suspect the CSG will be stopping off in Singapore for a few days before entering the SCS.

Alex
Alex
7 days ago
Reply to  Chris

Other eastern countries are also joining i.e. Australia Japan,South Korea,India,Singapore,New Zealand,Malaya,Thailand, USA,Taiwan, I doubt very much that China would try to stop them or interfere with their peaceful trip through international water’s , but the point they are making is support for Taiwan which is being threatened by China.

Mac
Mac
6 days ago
Reply to  Alex

It’s funny that this TG consists countries from a variety of nations that we sail, work together and exercise together. The Chinese don’t have anyone to play with or exercise with, except maybe Russia. They would claim the world if they could. That’s why we are here. If they wanted to do something, stop the piracy in the south Sea that they ignore. The freedom of the sea is what we defend.

Last edited 6 days ago by Mac
Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
7 days ago
Reply to  Chris

The two T23’s are also pretty handy for fleet defence. And we are not at war. So I’m not sure who you think is suddenly going start a major international crisis.

Heidfirst
Heidfirst
7 days ago
Reply to  Chris

HNLMS Evertsen is also a capable air defense asset as well as USS The Sullivans.

Edward Murphy
Edward Murphy
7 days ago
Reply to  Chris

She will be fine. More than capable. I would not mess with a British flotiilla, and the Chinese know it. It is all rhetoric from their stance. They simply don’t have the technology nor the backup. Good on the British for taking a stand on this oppressive regime.

Pete
Pete
6 days ago
Reply to  Edward Murphy

They do and they have. ….albeit the technology was stolen from others and the back-up…how does it go…quantity brings a quality all of its own…and they have ample quantity.

Edward Murphy
Edward Murphy
5 days ago
Reply to  Pete

I understand what you are saying, but the British always have a ‘Plan B’, something up their sleeve. Take radar as an example in WW2. Additionally, where there is will, (as they say), there is a way. I personally would not mess with the RN if I were Xi, and he must understand that. Britain is a sleeping giant, as so is France. As they say, “don’t poke the bear”. Just my view.

Pete
Pete
5 days ago
Reply to  Edward Murphy

Don’t disagree Edward that Xi needs to be cautious and he will be hesitant. Rn and France are very capable. Wouldn’t say sleeping giants though. ..sleeping middleweights.

Over past 20 years I’ve worked and travelled extensively across south, south east and east Asia. Chinese influence is massive but there is a growing discontentment amongst the people.. what scares me is extent to which Xi will seek / use big national gestures to keep the CCP in power.

I suspect Taiwan will be his focus but he certainly can’t afford to be seen to be bullied by the West.

Cheers

Frank62
Frank62
7 days ago
Reply to  Chris

HNLMS Evertsen (F805) is also part of the CSG having a type 41 VLS holding SM2 Standard & ESSM SAMs similar in capability to the ABs. So with HMS Defender detached for this foray & the other T45 away for repairs we still have 2 area air defence units covering the CSG.Just 6 T45s is too few for operating 2 carriers & as we see, barely enough for just the 1 CSG without help from allies. As we saw in the Falklands war, we sometimes have to go it alone. With RN escorts dipping from a terrible 19 to 17… Read more »

expat
expat
6 days ago
Reply to  Chris

Because the T45 is probably gathering intel. It has the means to do this the frigates don’t.

Ryan Brewis
Ryan Brewis
4 days ago
Reply to  Chris

There’s always the Aussies, the SK and the Japanese. Having a couple of them in tow would be a heck of a boost in AAW.

Mohawk Chris
Mohawk Chris
8 days ago

Nice to know that HMS Queen Elizabeth and her destroyers of the RN, is back to their old Playgrounds in SEA and the SCS. I believe the British cartographers made a big mistake in the early days, naming the sea as the SCS. The Cartographers should have named the sea as the South East Asian Sea. Well Commie China with it’s expansionist ideas can only yell threats to the RN’s return to her old playgrounds.

Last edited 7 days ago by Mohawk Chris
Mike Cox
Mike Cox
7 days ago

Like the Russians in the black seas and the Chinese about thse so call chinese seas .Both of countries both stated the waters belong to them,both Russia and China are claing seas ,But are totally false.These waters are both in international
waters and all ships are able to use these waters as are all both Internetional waters and so all navies from all countries,so black seas and chinas seas are internationl except for areas close to the countries concerned .

John
John
7 days ago

Remind China they sailed through the English Channel twice, also they sail through the Malacca straights constantly. Should they be closed off to them? Same rules apply in all places.

Alex
Alex
7 days ago

Watch out for “Serbian, Russian Trolls”

Frank62
Frank62
7 days ago

The CCP would like a world of compliant authoritarian regimes where people are terrified to express what they really feel for fear of arrest, imprisonment or worse. The SCS islands are far more realistically claimed by the far closer nations, as adjudicated by the UN, so the PRC has to rely on bullying & intimidation to bolster its illegal neo colonial acts. It is simply repeating the sins it condemns the C19th Europeans perpetrated against her. Now we’ve handed over so much economic clout to her by moving so much manufacturing to China (Impoverishing our own people), she’s using that… Read more »

Last edited 7 days ago by Frank62
David Elliott
David Elliott
7 days ago

All I’ll say is, you reap what you sow.
We should NOT be forcing the hand of a VERY capable power like China.

expat
expat
6 days ago
Reply to  David Elliott

They’re sailing through international waters. Virtually no other country recognises China’s claim and a number have counter claims.

David Elliott
David Elliott
6 days ago
Reply to  expat

If Defender isn’t doing anything wrong, why is this being reported?!? Ah yes, China recognises the action as provocative. Sailing through its sovereign territory. 🧐🤔🙄

Expat
Expat
6 days ago
Reply to  David Elliott

But it’s not its sovereign territory its being reported because China has unilaterally claimed it. China has already reaped international condemnation for its SCS claim and ignoring a UN Court ruling. If it attacked a UK vessel in what the the majority if the world see as international waters it would be China suffering the consequences. Just this week Malaysia scrambled jets to intercept Chinese jets over an Area of the SCS why would they do that if they recognised China’s claim. Ask Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Japan how they see Chinas territory claims. I would think they see it as… Read more »

DJ
DJ
7 days ago

The CCP may claim much of the SCS as its own, but other countries in the area are extremely displeased with that.
And maintaining international waters is one big reason why we have a navy!

Felix
Felix
7 days ago

I wonder how people will feel when china does the same to us.

Posse Comitatus
Posse Comitatus
6 days ago
Reply to  Felix

?? Chinese naval vessels are perfectly free to sail in international waters around Europe , the UK or anywhere else they feel like. Unlike them, no government is claiming the entirety of the North Sea, English Channel, Celtic and Irish Sea and the North Atlantic as their territorial waters. The fact that they don’t or can’t is because they are not a capable blue water navy.

Last edited 6 days ago by Posse Comitatus
David Steeper
David Steeper
6 days ago
Reply to  Felix

They already have they’ve sailed up the English Channel. Did we threaten them ? No.

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
7 days ago

Well done everyone. A lot of countries in the region will be gratified to know they have a friend and partner in the United Kingdom.

Thomas Ohlemann
Thomas Ohlemann
7 days ago
Reply to  Barry Larking

Yea, how a Chinese comedian ones put it, the British are a very important species in the system of Nations. Imagine this system being like a human body, the British would be the large intestine, the colon. Its their destination to turn things into shit.That’s what they did to other peoples countries and that’s why what they did to China and many other countries is called colonisation (or neocolonialism in today’s terms) For all the British who get offended by this, he ask the question: “Why is it, that you could take other people’s countries (and turn them into shit)… Read more »

expat
expat
6 days ago

Not sure of the point of your comment. Also in this system of nations you describe which countries play other part of the body? And can you provide the list of countries that have been turned into s**t to qualify you statement.

Chris
Chris
6 days ago
Reply to  expat

The way “Thomas” constructs his comments would suggest that English is far from “his” first language…  😉 

David Steeper
David Steeper
6 days ago

You know that palace Putin has on the Black sea ? What are the servants quarters like ?

David Steeper
David Steeper
7 days ago

You’ve obviously spent a lot of time and thought on the matter but this is probably not the best site for you. We all have other interests but this is a site for news and debate on UK defence issues. If you want to share them I’m sure you’d be welcome. I’m sure this will be adjudicated by the way !

Reynaldo Escobarte
Reynaldo Escobarte
7 days ago

Why now!! Why they didn’t do it before by putting warships in the area and informing china not to build islands so to exercise the freedom of navigation of every countries. Now China has completed building the islands and militarizing it. But one solution.. all power countries allied to US to inform China that you are going for distruction and bomb those islands because they are all illegal structure that belongs to other sovereign state

Len Faustino
Len Faustino
7 days ago

There never was any tension in the South China Sea until china started claiming almost all of the South Chia Sea.
If what they claim is true, they should have faced the case filed by the Philippines with authentic evidence. Instead, they boycotted the hearings which only proves they have no proof of their claim.

Mike
Mike
6 days ago

Wonder how the U.K. or the U.S. would react if a Chinese warship fleet would sail around the N.Sea or Gulf of Mexico?

David Steeper
David Steeper
6 days ago
Reply to  Mike

Chinese ships have sailed up the English channel. How did we behave ? Like grown ups.

mike
mike
6 days ago
Reply to  David Steeper

International merchant ships have plied the S.China Sea for years without hindrance. I think you miss the point of my comment.

AlexS
AlexS
6 days ago
Reply to  mike

It is you Mike that miss the point.

Nor U.S. or U.K claim those are their territorial water, they will keep a close eye but will not harras them like Chinese do.

Anthony
Anthony
5 days ago
Reply to  Mike

That would be a legal act, so they’d be observed closely of course but as they wouldn’t be breaking any law would be left alone

Pete
Pete
6 days ago

An interesting read. Some of the stuff at the top is simply highlighting a history of trade and passing through. Some of the stuff further down is more meaty and does raise additional questions.

https://www.maritime-executive.com/editorials/historical-support-for-china-s-south-china-sea-territorial-stance-1

James Scott
James Scott
5 days ago

The Chinese did this before early 1900 s stood up against the world then backed down under global pressure. Is this history repeating itself?

Kamlesh Tiwary
Kamlesh Tiwary
5 days ago

CSG 40