Irish Sea: Massive British, NATO war games prepare Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group to confront Russia and China
This year’s iteration of Britain’s biannual Joint Warrior exercise in the Irish Sea is subsumed under another exercise, Strike Warrior 21, being used to prepare the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, the flagship of the Royal Navy, and its carrier strike group for deployment to the Mediterranean Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Asia-Pacific region.
Exercise Joint Warrior, held in the spring and autumn every year, is described by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as the largest military exercise in Europe and is organized jointly by the British army, navy and air force. It occurs off the northern and western coasts of Scotland in the Irish Sea. It is one of 95 NATO exercises scheduled for 2021 (113 were scheduled for last year), with 220 other national and multinational exercises conducted in conjunction with them.
This year’s Strike Warrior/Joint Warrior I, which was launched on May 8 and will continue to May 20, includes 31 warships, three submarines, 150 aircraft and over 13,000 military personnel from ten nations: NATO members Britain, the U.S., Denmark, France, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland and NATO Enhanced Opportunities Partner Australia.
According to a British official quoted in the press, “Strike Warrior is linked directly to the NATO military training exercise programme and brings together all three UK armed forces – the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force – along with the other participating countries.”
The Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Navy’s Carrier Strike Group accompanying it include forty aircraft (fixed-wing and helicopters) and two British guided-missile destroyers and two frigates attached to it. Last month the Sunday Times disclosed that Britain will deploy a Type 45 destroyer armed with anti-aircraft missiles and an anti-submarine Type 23 frigate to the Black Sea later this month. It appears that those two ships will be either the Type 45 HMS Defender or HMS Diamond destroyer and the Type 23 frigate HMS Kent or HMS Richmond, which are part of the Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group. The carrier strike group will also include a submarine and be accompanied by a U.S. destroyer and a Dutch frigate.
During the drills so far a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II squadron landed on the HMS Queen Elizabeth deck in what is described as part of “the largest F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter deployment to date.”
HMS Queen Elizabeth and its carrier strike group will enter the Mediterranean through the Strait of Gibraltar and make its way eastward. Two of the above-mentioned warships will enter the Black Sea before the whole group passes through the Suez Canal to enter the Red Sea and from there the Indian Ocean to the Asia-Pacific region. Its 28-week deployment is to encompass 26,000 nautical miles and include joint exercises with the navies of India, Japan, Singapore and South Korea “as part of the U.K.’s tilt towards the Indo-Pacific region,” in the words of a British official; in all 70 engagements.
After sending a provocative message to Russia it will do the same to China.