They have an incredible 49 sec clip of tugs moving the HMS Queen Elizabeth out of its docking. I am in awe of the skill of tugboat pilots!
In a pointed declaration aimed squarely at China, whose island-building and militarisation in the sea has unnerved western powers, the British foreign secretary said that when the ships came into service they would be sent to the Asia-Pacific region as one of their first assignments.
“One of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built is send them on a freedom of navigation operation to this area,” Johnson said in Sydney on Thursday, “to vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade.”
“And we pledge to do this [send the carriers] not because we have enemies in the region … but because we believe in upholding the rule of law.”
“In a volatile and unpredictable world it is more important than ever to nurture the friendships that we know best and that matter to us the most and with people we trust the most.”
His Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop said, “We had a long discussion about the Pacific and the opportunities for deeper British engagement in our part of the world … we also see the United Kingdom as being a natural partner with us in the development and security of the Pacific,” she said.
At 280 metres and 65,000 tonnes, the UK’s newest aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, is the largest ship ever built for the Royal Navy. It is undergoing its maiden sea trials off the coast of Scotland and is expected to be accepted by the navy towards the end of the year.
The second ship in the class, the HMS Prince of Wales, is being fitted out in the Rosyth dock and will be officially named in September.
Sending Britain’s newest and most expensive ships to the region to carry out manoeuvres similar to those conducted by the US navy could be seen by Beijing as provocative.
Britain would increase its presence in the waters after it sent four British fighter planes for joint exercises with Japan in the region last year, Defence Minister Michael Fallon said.
"We hope to send a warship to region next year. We have not finalised exactly where that deployment will take place but we won't be constrained by China from sailing through the South China Sea," Fallon told Reuters.
"We flew RAF Typhoons through the South China Sea last October and we will exercise that right whenever we next have the opportunity to do so, whenever we have ships or planes in the region," Fallon said.
Earlier this month, the United States sent two bombers over the region, coming just a few months after it sent a warship to carry out a maneuvering drill within 12 nautical miles of one of China's artificial islands.
During a question-and-answer session after his speech, Johnson softened his stance a bit. The aircraft carriers "are coming, they are coming," he said — but "don't expect them tomorrow."
(My note - I have not seen the following statement anywhere else but in reuters,but I am inserting it here)
Johnson did not specify where exactly the vessels would be sent once operational in 2020