Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force and Royal Navy will hold a joint military drill in the Gulf of Aden in the near future to demonstrate their cooperation in various geographical areas. The move came as Japanese and British foreign and defense ministers reaffirmed in a virtual meeting in February. The drill will involve Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force units currently engaged in an antipiracy mission in the Gulf of Aden and a British aircraft carrier strike group led by the Queen Elizabeth, according to Japanese government sources.
The UK Carrier Strike Group left Britain in May for the western Pacific to show London’s increased engagement in the Indo-Pacific amid China’s growing maritime assertiveness in the region. The joint military exercise in the Gulf of Aden may also be joined by U.S. and Dutch naval vessels accompanying the British strike group. Japan and Britain are expected to hold a joint drill around September when the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier group, which also includes destroyers and a submarine, makes a port call in Japan.
The UK Carrier Strike Group (UKCSG) is a carrier battle group of the Royal Navy. It has existed in various forms since the mid-2000s. Between 2006 and 2011, the formation centered around the Royal Navy’s Invincible-class aircraft carriers until the retirement of their Harrier GR9 strike aircraft in 2011 as a result of the Strategic Defence and Security Review. As a unit within the Royal Navy, the UK Carrier Strike Group’s role is to facilitate carrier-enabled power projection (CEPP) in support of the UK’s interests.
The Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers are designed to carry around 40 aircraft but can carry up to 72 at maximum capacity. Its Carrier Air Wing (CVW) will consist of up to 24 F-35B Lightning II multirole fighters by 2023. This is in addition to around 14 helicopters of varying types. For a Maritime Force Protection tasking, the CVW may consist of nine Merlin HM2 anti-submarine warfare helicopters and five Merlin HM2 Crowsnest for airborne early warning (AEW). A typical CSG consists of a Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, two surface escorts, a submarine and a fleet tanker.[6