Royal Navy’s world-class strike group sets sail to challenge Putin’s Black Sea dominance

Russia: US to be added to ‘unfriendly state’ list

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The Royal Navy’s flagship carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth cost £3billion to build and is equipped with eight US-made F35B stealth fighter jets. The whole carrier strike group consists of six navy ships, 14 helicopters, a company of Royal Marines, and a submarine armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles. The group of vessels will circumnavigate the globe and visit more than 40 countries.

A proportion of the carrier strike group will depart the main force and visit the Black Sea to support Nato’s efforts to wrestle control of the international maritime region from Russian dominance.

The main vessel of the group, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will not enter the Black Sea as there is an international treaty prohibiting the carrier from doing so.

At present Nato is supporting Ukraine in its efforts to ward off further encroachments from Russia after Moscow annexed the Crimea.

The Ministry of Defence, MoD, declined a request to explain which vessels in the strike force group would sail into the Black Sea.

However, earlier this month it was claimed that one British Type 45 destroyer and an anti-submarine Type 23 frigate would enter the Black Sea.

The MoD explained that placing these ships off the coast of Ukraine would show solidarity with Kiev in its confrontation with Moscow.

The MoD said the vessels would “participate in Nato exercises and provide support to maritime security operations in the Black Sea”.

Last week the US refrained from deploying two of its vessels into the Black Sea.

The rationale behind the step-down was due to concerns about escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

There are now approximately 100,000 Russian troops massed on the border with Ukraine.

Tory chairman of the Commons defence select committee Tobias Ellwood said deploying vessels into the Black Sea was a “statement of intent”.

He said: “With Putin attempting to advance his strategic influence, this is a test of will, not just of Britain, but Britain and America.

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“It is also a test of will for Nato as the temperature rises between Russia and the West.

“I welcome this maritime deployment.

“How we defend international standards and norms today will set precedents for the next decade.

“If we don’t confirm the Black Sea as international waters, then Russia will attempt to fill the vacuum as China seeks to do in the South China Sea.”

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