The Royal Navy's HMS Queen Elizabeth faces high risk of 'incidents' as tensions flare up in South China Sea

MILITARY experts have warned that HMS Queen Elizabeth faces a high risk of ‘incidents’ involving Chinese forces – including underwater drones – during its first deployment later this year.

By Richard Lemmer
Friday, 26th February 2021, 12:26 pm
Updated Saturday, 27th February 2021, 1:20 pm

The Royal Navy aircraft carrier and its support group is expected to travel to the Pacific sometime around May.

Reports suggest that the battleship will patrol parts of the South China Sea – as mounting tensions mean that the Royal Navy flagship could become entangled with the Chinese military.

Speaking to the Telegraph earlier this week, Charles Parton, a senior associate at the Royal United Service Institute, said that HMS Queen Elizabeth sailing through the South China Sea could lead to ‘more tensions...and therefore a greater risk of an incident’.

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HMS Queen Elizabeth pictured with her embarked group of F-35B stealth jets. Photo: Royal Navy

The concerns were echoed at the Commons Defence Select Committee earlier this week, with one analyst telling MPs that China's ‘development of submersibles and unmanned underwater vehicles present an added challenge’.

Meia Nouwens, senior fellow for Chinese Defence Policy and Military Modernisation at The International Institute for Strategic Studies, said: ‘We know China is developing these capabilities. Where this goes will be an added challenge in terms of how we deal with grey zone tactics.’

The military analyst warned of ‘the uptick in tempo of exercises’ carried out by Chinese forces in the area.

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There have been more than 44 incursions by the Chinese in 2021, with the uptick in activity meaning a much greater risk of ‘miscalculation, misunderstanding and misinterpretation’, according to Ms Nouwens.

Last week, the Taiwanese Defense Ministry claimed to have spotted 11 Chinese jets, including eight fighter aircraft, an anti-submarine aircraft and two nuclear-capable H-6 bombers, near the disputed Pratas Islands.

It comes as the Chinese government recently warned that it would take ‘necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty’.

HMS Queen Elizabeth will be escorted by two Type 45 destroyers, two Type 23 frigates, a nuclear submarine, a Tide-class tanker and RFA Fort Victoria when she deploys to the region later this year.

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