U.K. Royal Navy Strike Group Drilling with Oman, UAE in Middle East

November 1, 2021 4:12 PM
Shabab Oman II and HMS Queen Elizabeth on Oct. 31, 2021. Royal Navy Photo

KUALA LUMPUR – The United Kingdom Royal Navy Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG 21) is now in the Middle East to conduct engagements before returning home in December.

After concluding its participation in a maiden joint exercise with India last week, CSG 21 is in the Middle East to undertake F-35 exercises with Oman and the United Arab Emirates air forces in the Persian Gulf, according to a U.K. Ministry of Defence news release from Oct. 25. CSG 21 will also perform maritime training alongside the Royal Navy of Oman.

The British Army will be simultaneously taking part in exercises with Royal Army of Oman units, which will link back to the ship to demonstrate interoperability between land and sea forces, the news release said. Other elements of CSG 21 have completed their participation in the group, such as American destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG-68), which departed on Oct. 19 and is now heading home. Frigate HMS Kent (F78) recently made a replenishment stop in Sri Lanka and conducted an exercise with Sri Lanka’s OPV SLNS Samudura (P261), which is the former USCGC Courageous. (WMEC-622), while Richmond has detached from the main body and is currently in Pakistan on a port visit.

Last week, the U.K. CSG wrapped up a joint exercise with India known as Konkan Shakti 21, which took place from Oct. 21 to 27 with two phases – a land phase between the British and Indian armies in Chaubatia, Northern India and a combined sea and air exercise between the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force (IAF) with CSG 21 in the waters off the Konkan coast in the Arabian Sea. CSG 21 carried out Exercise Konkan earlier this year with the Indian Navy from July 21 to 22 in the Bay of Bengal, prior to its arrival in the Western Pacific.

Beforehand, the Indian Air Force carried out operation engagements with CSG 21 on Oct. 19 and 20, before CSG 21 docked in India for engagement activities and the harbor phase of the exercise. The sea and air phase of the exercise, which begin on Oct. 24 with CSG-21 ships, involved aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), destroyer HMS Defender (D36), frigate HMS Richmond (F239), replenishment ship RFA Fort Victoria (A387), Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen (F805), and CSG 21’s embarked air complement of F-35B fighters, and Merlin and Wildcat helicopters. The Indian Navy participated with destroyers INS Kolkata (D63), INS Kochi (D64) and INS Chennai (D65), frigates INS Talwar (F40) and INS Teg (F45), replenishment ship INS Aditya (A59), a Scorpene-class submarine and Sea King 42B, Kamov-31 and Chetak helicopters and shore-based MIG-29K fighter aircraft, Dornier and P-8I maritime patrol aircraft. The IAF aircraft deployed Jaguar attack aircraft and SU-30 MKI fighters along with electronic attack, command and control and tanker aircraft.

Participating units were split into two opposing forces, with the aim of achieving sea control for land ground troops at a pre-designated site, the Indian Ministry of Defence said in a news release last week.

One force led by the Indian Navy Western Fleet was comprised of the flag ship Chennai, other warships of the Indian Navy and Richmond. The other force operated under Queen Elizabeth and consisted of the remaining CSG 21 and Indian Navy ships.

The two forces’ drills included replenishment-at-sea approaches, air direction and strike operations with fighter aircraft comprised of the MiG 29Ks and F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, and cross control of helicopters.

The forces also simulated induction of Army troops, followed by setting up a joint command operations center. The two forces then conducted a rendezvous at sea with advanced air and subsurface exercises.


Meanwhile, destroyer HMS Diamond (D34) sailed out of Singapore last week after resolving technical issues that kept the ship from participating in the Five Power Defence Arrangements 50th anniversary display on Oct. 18. Diamond had successfully completed its participation in the FPDA Bersama Gold exercise prior to the incident. In an Oct. 27 answer to parliament about whether technical faults in the Type 45 destroyers escorting Queen Elizabeth jeopardized the carrier’s safety, U.K. Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said that “the Ministry of Defence regularly reviews the safety and security of deployments during both the planning and operational stages. Prior to the deployment, the number and type of escorts forming the wider Carrier Strike Group for HMS Queen Elizabeth was carefully considered against the planned scheme of manoeuvre. At no point during the deployment has the safety or security of HMS Queen Elizabeth been impacted by technical faults experienced by HMS Diamond.” The replenishment ship RFA Tidespring (A136) replenished Diamond around October 30 and the two ships are likely now headed to join the main body of CSG 21 in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, submarine HMS Astute (S119), which has operated as part of CSG 21, arrived in Perth, Australia on Friday. The visit is likely tied to the recent Australia-U.K.-U.S. agreement, known as AUKUS, on Australia developing and acquiring nuclear powered submarines via the U.S and U.K.

In other developments, the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is in the South China Sea. Carrier Strike Group 1 is comprised of the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and embarked Carrier Air Wing 2 (CVW 2), cruisers USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) and USS Shiloh (CG 67), and destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106). The strike group is conducting bilateral operations there with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Kaga (DDH 184), according to a U.S. Navy news release issued last week. However, tracking on that date showed Kaga with its escort, destroyer JS Murasame (DD 101), making its way down the Malacca Strait and passing the Singapore Strait on Oct. 26. The JMSDF said in a news release on Saturday that the two ships had made a replenishment visit to Changi Naval Base from Oct. 26 to 29.

Kaga and Murasame, with destroyer JS Shiranui (DD 120), form the JMSDF Indo-Pacific Deployment 2021 (IPD21) force, though Shiranui is operating separately from the other two ships. Shiranui recently completed a port call in Haiphong, Vietnam from Oct. 24 to 26. It conducted a training exercise last week with the Vietnam Navy’s patrol boat 266 in the waters around Haiphong. Earlier, on Oct. 19-24, Shiranui conducted joint training with destroyer USS Higgins (DDG-76) in the South China Sea.

Destroyer JS Yudachi (DD 103) and Littoral Combat Ship USS Jackson (LCS-6) also operated bilaterally in the South China Sea last week. The two ships formed a Surface Action Group (SAG) while transiting and practiced a range of surface warfare tactics, including flight operations, communications drills and coordinated tactical maneuvering, according to a U.S. 7th Fleet news release.

In the meantime, destroyer JS Akizuki (DD 115), which is on its way back to Japan after completing a Middle East deployment, conducted joint training off of Okinawa with destroyers USS Benfold (DDG-65) and HMAS Brisbane (DDG 41) on Oct. 25. Brisbane subsequently docked at Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka on Oct. 30 for a replenishment stop. Japan’s Defense Ministry on Oct. 28 announced that Australian frigate HMAS Warramunga (FFH152) is currently conducting monitoring and surveillance activities against illicit maritime activities, including ship-to-ship transfers with North Korean-flagged vessels prohibited by the United Nations Security Council resolutions, in the waters surrounding Japan.

German Navy frigate Bayern (F217), which is on a deployment to the region, is also heading to Japan. Bayern previously made a port call to Guam, where it exercised with Jackson and USS Tulsa (LCS-16) on Oct. 18 prior to the port call.

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

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