KUALA LUMPUR – The Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group is making its way to the South China Sea, with some ships already there before HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08). After the conclusion of the Konkan exercise with the Indian Navy, which took place in the Bay of Bengal from July 21-22, the strike group has partially broken down into various elements.
The British Carrier Strike Group CSG 21 comprises the type 23 submarine frigates HMS Richmond (F239) and HMS Kent (F78); Type 45 guided missile destroyer HMS Defender (D36); RFA Fort Victoria (A387) and RFA Tidespring (A136) of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary; US destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG-68); Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen (F805); and the nuclear attack boat HMS Artful (S121). The US Marine Corps Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 is embarked with the air group together with the 617 Squadron of the Royal Air Force “The Dambusters”.
On Sunday morning, the data from the automatic identification system shows that the Defender is docked at the Muara naval base in Brunei while the Tidespring, which has left Singapore, is currently heading for the South China Sea. Both ships passed Singapore on the 24th local time, with Tidespring docking in Singapore on that day to replenish supplies while the Defender sailed for Brunei.
Meanwhile, Richmond conducted a PASSEX exercise with the Royal Thai Navy frigate HTMS Kraburi (457) in the Andaman Sea on the 24th. Separately, Queen Elizabeth and her remaining surface escorts on 25 UK conducted Yarrow Shipbuilders (now BAE Systems Maritime – Naval Ships). AIS data shows that Fort Victoria is sailing down the Straits of Malacca some distance ahead of the group of Kent, The Sullivans and Evertsen, with Queen Elizabeth close behind the three escorts. At the time of writing, the ships are at the bottom of the Straits of Malacca, near the city of Malacca.
Meanwhile, the HMS Artful was sighted on the 25th at noon local time as it passed through the Strait of Singapore towards the South China Sea
@RoyalNavy HMS Artful (S121), an Astute-class SSN, sailed through the Straits of Singapore towards the South China Sea. It’s a rare sight! Thanks to @supbrow as always for the hint! @graham_euan @BDS_SE_Asia @jamescrabtree @MarSec_Bradford @BDHerzinger pic.twitter.com/qPcUdBwVmX
– Olli Suorsa (@OlliSuorsa) July 25, 2021
Queen Elizabeth is expected to dock in Singapore as it was mentioned earlier that Singapore is one of its stops. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held the 40th International Institute of Strategic Studies Fullerton Lecture in Singapore on the evening of the 27th during the same period, although there is so far no indication whether Austin will enter into engagement with CSG21 during his visit to Singapore.
To date, there has been no comment from China regarding the presence of CSG21, although CSG21 ships have not yet conducted any exercises in the South China Sea themselves or have traveled near China’s positions in the South China Sea, which usually leads to statements from China.
The British elements of CSG21 are expected to participate in the Bersama Gold exercise of Five Power Defense Arrangements on their return journey in October, usually known as the Bersama Lima anniversary of the FPDA, which includes Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Kingdom.