The Carrier Strike Group is protecting the rules-based order for freedom of navigation, fair rules for equitable distribution of resources between nations, and projecting Global Britain’s support for Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asian nations.
The Carrier Strike Group (CSG21) commanded by Commadore Steve Moorhouse approaches the South China Sea (SCS), a potential area of maritime conflict, as China competes with sovereign nations for the resources of fish, oil and minerals. Recently, China has claimed 90% of the SCS, flouting the rules of the Exclusive Economic Zone and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), using the excuse of an exaggerated nine-dash-line. The CSG21 is protecting the rules-based order for freedom of navigation, fair rules for equitable distribution of resources between nations, and projecting Global Britain’s support for Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asian nations. China’s Defence Ministry warned they would take “every necessary measure to counter foreign warships that provoke in the South Chine Sea”; on Thursday it was reported that Shandong, the People’s Liberation Army Navy aircraft carrier and HMS Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier were 580nm apart.
For the UK post-Brexit, the stability of the Indo Pacific Region (IPR) represents a large chunk of the future of trade, commerce, security and supply chains. When US and UK Defence Secretaries talk about the IPR, the 21st century keywords are “partnership”, “technology”, “integrated defence” and “integrated deterrence”.
On deterrence, Ben Wallace, UK Defence Secretary, recently said at the American Enterprise Institute “Modern deterrence has to get smarter and become as much about competing below the threshold of open conflict as above it”. The CSG21 has all the advantages of modern technology, in a recent interview Paul Gosling, Chief Technology Officer at Thales UK, said, “If your systems are more sensitive and more capable at detecting things before everyone else, then you have an advantage… On the group of ships and submarines escorting HMS Queen Elizabeth, we provide the integrated comms, electronic warfare systems, sonars, radars and the optronic submarine masts. In many ways, we’re the eyes and the ears of CSG.” Gosling also referred to applying quantum principles at an atomic level to improve performance. The communications systems fitted to the carriers enable the ship’s company to talk securely to each other within the vessel, its aircraft, the rest of the Navy, allies, civilian vessels and air traffic, anywhere in the world.
On a trip to reaffirm the UK’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific, Ben Wallace visited Japan, the Republic of Korea and Vietnam. Wallace confirmed two offshore patrol vessels, HMS Tamar and HMS Spey, will be deployed permanently to the Indo-Pacific to support maritime security in the IPR. In Japan, Wallace met Prime Minister Suga and Defence Minister Kishi. He said UK’s bilateral relationship with Japan is the closest it has been in the last century. At the end of August, the Republic of Korea will host the Pacific Future Forum (PFF), to be held onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth while alongside in the Republic of Korea. Chaired by Lord Sedwill, formerly NSA to Boris Johnson, Cabinet Secretary and head of the Home Civil Service, the PFF will be delivered jointly with HM Government and the Royal Navy. The PFF is one of the UK Government’s keynote international events of 2021. The PFF looks eastwards with a view to Pacific Region intelligence co-operation and sharing, transforming defence in the Indo-Pacific, and aims to reimagine a model of multilateralism that can tackle the world’s greatest challenges, climate change, the economic aftershocks of Covid-19 to the future of defence and the technologies of tomorrow. In Vietnam Wallace met with the Minister of National Defence, Snr Lt Gen Phan Van Giang, President of State Nguyễn Xuân Phúc and Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to discuss expanding the defence engagement between the two countries.
This week, General Lloyd Austin spoke at the IISS 40th Fullerton Lecture in Singapore. He said, “…emerging threats and cutting-edge technologies are changing the face and the pace of warfare. So we are operating under a new, 21st-century vision that I call integrated deterrence…Now, integrated deterrence means using every military and non-military tool in our toolbox, in lock-step with our allies and partners. Integrated deterrence is about using existing capabilities, and building new ones, and deploying them all in new and networked ways…all tailored to a region’s security landscape, and in growing partnership with our friends.” The General travelled on to Vietnam and the Philippines “to deepen America’s bonds with the allies and partners on whom our common security depends”.
Toward the end of October, the CSG21’s mission will be to bring visibility to and participate in the 50th Anniversary of the Five Power Defence Arrangement exercises with Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore, reinforcing Global Britain’s commitment to the partners in this defence ecosystem and reassure allies in the IPR.