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Britain is sending a huge naval force through some of the most tense waters in Asia

The largest naval flotilla assembled by Britain in recent years will set sail in May on a months’ long voyage through the Pacific, the country’s Defense Ministry said Monday.

“When our Carrier Strike Group (CSG) sets sail next month, it will be flying the flag for Global Britain — projecting our influence, signaling our power, engaging with our friends and reaffirming our commitment to addressing the security challenges of today and tomorrow,” UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Monday. “The UK is not stepping back but sailing forth to play an active role in shaping the international system of the 21st century,” Wallace said.

The strike group will be led by the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, marking its maiden deployment. The ship, one of the UK’s two aircraft carriers, is the largest warship the UK has ever sent to sea. Joining the carrier will be two destroyers, two anti-submarine frigates, a submarine and two auxiliary supply ships, a ministry statement said. A United States Navy guided-missile destroyer will sail with the group as well as a frigate from the Netherlands that will be tasked with air defense, the ministry said. Air power within the group will be centered on RAF F-35B stealth fighters and US Marine Corps F-35Bs, all of which will fly from the deck of the 65,000-ton aircraft carrier.

When a version of this carrier strike group sailed together during military exercises off Scotland last fall, the Defense Ministry said it carried “the largest concentration of fighter jets to operate at sea from a Royal Navy carrier since HMS Hermes in 1983.” It also said it was “the largest air group of fifth generation fighters at sea anywhere in the world.” Fifth-generation fighters are the most advanced warplanes in the air. The International Institute for Strategic Studies says the UK carrier strike group “will be the most capable flotilla deployed by a single European navy in recent years.”

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