Gulf Trip Highlights British Aircraft Carrier’s Role in Counterterrorism

The British Secretary of Defense used a trip to Oman to make it known that the Royal Navy is ready to use its most powerful weapon to fight terrorists around the world.

Talk on board HMS Queen Elizabeth, Ben Wallace said that if the extremists got a foothold in Afghanistan or elsewhere, forward jets from the aircraft carrier would be launched against them.

Britain has a force of F35 fighter-bombers that can be transported out of the aircraft carrier to strike potential ISIS targets, whether in the Sahel or Mozambique, as well as in Syria and the United States. Afghanistan.

Speaking from the 60,000-ton warship off the coast of Oman, Wallace made it clear that extremists would still be hunted down, despite the departure of British and NATO troops from Afghanistan and the victory of the Taliban. that followed.

“If there is a growing terrorist threat from any part of the world, this ship can launch – if needed – a strike capability using the best of stealth to impact people who could. pose an imminent threat to the UK or our Gulf allies, ”he said.

It was “very likely,” he said, that the aircraft carrier would be used to launch airstrikes against terrorist targets, including in Afghanistan. “Whether it’s next week, next month, next decade – this carrier is here for the long haul.”

While HMS Queen Elizabeth comes to the end of its six-month, 40,000-mile maiden voyage, it has shown it can be used to carry out attacks on terrorists, which it did successfully in June against ISIS in Syria.

Its F-35B Lightnings have a range of over 1,600 kilometers and can carry a payload of 7,000 kilograms, including precision-guided JDAM bombs. Throughout the conflict in Afghanistan, US aircraft carriers in the Indian Ocean were used as a base from which planes carried out strikes against insurgents.

Defense sources suggest the British Royal Navy, which will be reinforced with the second aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales soon becoming operational, will use warships against ISIS targets.

“The aircraft carrier is an optimal weapon for coastal strikes against targets that lie even deep inland,” a defense source said. The National. “This could well include hitting ISIS bases in East and West Africa or in Afghanistan. This gives the UK real power in the fight against terrorism. We are also studying the concept and ability to launch specialized troops by helicopter for specific targeted operations. “

Discussions about the might of the warship this week were presented at the annual meeting of the Dragon Group of Middle East Defense Leaders aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Hosted by Chief of the Defense Staff Gen. Sir Nick Carter, the briefing focused on current global threats, as well as the aircraft carrier’s new combat capabilities, the Ministry of Defense said. Defense.

“The meeting of the Dragon Group aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth has been a great opportunity to engage with our partners in the Middle East and discuss issues of mutual concern, ”said General Carter. “The British Armed Forces truly value our partnerships in the region and we continue to work with them to help them improve regional security, stability and prosperity. “

As part of the British “Pacific Tilt” strategy, the aircraft carrier traveled to the South China Sea where it was sometimes near Chinese fighter jets.

The Chinese kept a “professional” distance, turning away within missile range about 150 miles, commanders said.

“They weren’t hiring us or locking us in,” said Commodore Steve Moorhouse, commander of the British carrier strike group. “But the distances at which they were flying were indicative of what they would actually do.”

During the trip, the warships of the Royal Navy and other nations that helped protect the aircraft carrier also followed the Chinese submarines.

“If you are a nation that may want to cause harm, harm, or disruption, I think you’ve definitely sat down and watched what the queen elizabeth is everything, ”Cdre Moorhouse said.

Updated: November 5, 2021, 13:19

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