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London, Feb 12 (IANS) UK Defence Minister Gavin Williamson has revealed that the country will send its largest and most powerful aircraft carrier to the Pacific on its first operational mission.
In a speech to the Royal United Services Institute think tank here on Monday, Williamson said the 65,000-tonne carrier Queen Elizabeth – which was commissioned in 2017 – would also make appearances in the Mediterranean and Middle East along the way, reports CNN.
“The UK is a global power with truly global interest… We must be prepared to compete for our interests and our values far, far from home,” the Minister said.
The carrier will ferry its contingent of state-of-the-art F-35 stealth fighter jets as well as US Marine Corps F-35s as it ventures into a region where “China is developing its modern military capability and its commercial power”, he added.
According to Williamson, the combined US-UK air wing aboard the carrier will improve “the reach and lethality of our forces” while “reinforcing the fact that the US remains our very closest of partners”.
He did not give a date for the deployment. However the Queen Elizabeth is scheduled to become operational in 2020.
Williamson said Britain would consider permanent new bases in the Asia-Pacific and Caribbean to exert power globally.
Last month, British and American warships conducted six days of coordinated drills in the South China Sea.
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