The United Kingdom wants to increase its presence in the Indo-Pacific region, without forgetting of course the threat posed by Russia, and for this reason, during the G-7 summit held in the Japanese city of Hiroshima, it has reached an agreement with Japan for the Royal Navy to deploy an aircraft carrier strike group in the area as part of strengthening its defense ties with this country, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced this week.
Confirmation of the planned deployment of one of the Royal Navy’s two 65,000-ton behemoths came when Sunak and his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, agreed on May 18 on what is known as the Hiroshima Agreement, a far-reaching pact covering the economy, defense, security and technology.
Sunak, who visited the Japanese aircraft carrier JS Izumo during her stay in Japansaid that “the Hiroshima Agreement will intensify cooperation between our armed forces, grow our economies together, and develop our world-leading scientific and technological expertise.”
Details of the deployment of the new aircraft carrier are not yet availableApart from the fact that the British said in its statement that the strike group will include naval escorts and F-35 fighter jets that will work together with the Japan Self-Defense Force and other navies in the region.
On her maiden deployment in 2021, HMS Queen Elizabeth toured the Indo-Pacific region leading a force of support ships and surface combatants from the Royal Navy, US and Netherlands. A squadron of US Marine Corp F-35Bs also deployed alongside British aircraft aboard the Royal Navy aircraft carrier.
just an aircraft carrier
However, What the British Prime Minister does not seem to take into account is that of the two aircraft carriers that the United Kingdom has, only one is operational, since the other has been in dry dock for several months. due to a serious damage suffered in the propeller, with the aggravating circumstance that it cannot be ruled out that it could be a construction problem and that, therefore, being the two flagships of the British navy, it could also affect the Queen Elizabeth .
As if that were not enough, numerous pieces of the damaged aircraft carrier, the HMS Prince of Wales, are being removed to place them in the one that is currently operational, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, which has provoked much criticism both inside and outside the UK. The oil and fuel filters, used to separate seawater from diesel in fuel tanks to prevent fouling of engines, have been taken from HMS Prince of Wales, according to British media. The chain would also have been removed from one of the flight table elevators, which is used to transport fighter jets from the indoor hangars to the flight deck.
The Royal Navy maintains that the exchange of parts is normal. “It is not unusual for equipment to be transferred between ships of the same class to ensure operational readiness and avoid delays,” a spokesman told The Telegraph. These same sources assure that the aircraft carrier would be operational again this fall, after more than a year of repairs, although it is not very clear that these deadlines can be met. In fact, there is an open investigation underway, since the damaged ship was barely a year old, which tries to discern if the cause of the failure was a faulty design, a failure in the construction process, poor maintenance or some other another problem.
Problems with destroyers
But the problem of the Royal Navy would go far beyond this failure in its aircraft carrier. Military analysts believe that behind the facade of sea power that the UK continues to project to the world, there are serious problems. So, on paper, you have two aircraft carriers, two LPD-type amphibious assault ships, six destroyers Type 45 Daring class and 12 frigates type 23in addition to four Vanguard-class strategic nuclear submarines, five Astute-class attack submarines and two Trafalgar-class attack submarines, which would place the British navy in a hypothetical fifth place in the world in terms of tonnage.
However, as we pointed out, the Royal Navy can only muster one battlegroup at this time. In addition to main and auxiliary ships and submarines, the formation of a carrier battle group requires many escort ships, between two and three destroyers and three to four frigates. The problem is that destroyers Type 45, the backbone of the fleet, has an all-electric propulsion system that frequently fails in the middle of a voyage: the chiller unit has major design flaws and causes the turbine to fail so when this happens, there is a electrical overload in the diesel generators and the floor of the ship falls, leaving it without propulsion. In fact, there is a power improvement project currently underway to address the main propulsion problems of the Type 45.
As if that were not enough, only two of the six destroyers mentioned are suitable for continuous deployment throughout the year.
As for the frigates, they have a reliable propulsion system but they are obsolete: their design is from the eighties of the last century. with what they mean in terms of deficiencies. Fortunately, there is a program for the renewal of frigates, the class Type 265,400 tons of displacement, 148 meters long and 20 wide, prepared to carry Tomahawk or Storm Shadow cruise missiles and Harpoon anti-ship missiles. However, there have also been cuts to this program and thus, of the 13 units planned, it appears that only eight will be built, with none of the three currently under construction having been delivered yet. These vessels will also be exported to the Australian and Canadian navies.
All this leads experts to question British naval power. A researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) warns in an article addressed to the UK military community that the country risks losing its preponderant position in NATO and in Europe if there is no commitment to an increase in the defense budget. Ben Barry, who was director of the British Army General Staff and participated in past NATO missions in Bosnia, asserts in his article that the army “is the least modernized of the British services.” Barry writes that in the event of war, “this obsolescence would mean that British armored brigades would suffer more casualties and take longer to accomplish their missions than American armored brigades.”
It also echoes the statements of a US general who recently told British Defense Minister Ben Wallace that he “no longer saw the UK as a first-rate fighting force” due to continued cuts in this sector.
Other criticism came from the former head of the Royal Navy. Lord West, who was chief of the Navy Staff, who charged against the fact that in one of the last missions of it, the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth left without its usual squadron of F-35 fighter planes. The Ministry of Defense has denied that this was due to reduced defense spending and argued that the fighters land on the aircraft carrier from Royal Air Force (RAF) bases to train manoeuvres, landing and taking off from the largest ship in history. of the English Navy.
However, Lord West questioned Britain’s ability to respond to military challenges in turbulent times as it takes its only operational aircraft carrier off mission without fighter jets. “Ships sailing without their full equipment of missiles and ammunition is outrageous. Once a ship sets sail, you never know what’s going to happen. It has to be ready at all times.”
Lord West added that The UK’s military force is in danger of “looking weak” to powers like Russia and China if its flagship carrier cannot sail fully armed. If you don’t have a complete set, then it’s a joke. It’s no use having an amazingly capable ship if you don’t have all the weapons to fight. The whole point of having the F-35 was that it was going to be the aircraft for the carriers. When you are doing aviation from an aircraft carrier you need to practice it all the time,” protested Admiral Lord West, who explained that the powerful ship must always have at least 12 F-35 fighters on board, although it can carry up to 40 units. Furthermore, he revealed that the absence of the F-35s is due to a lack of missiles to arm them.”