The United Kingdom will deploy its new aircraft carrier, loaded with two squadrons of F-35 aircraft into the politically-fraught South China Sea.
British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson confirmed in a speech Monday morning that the Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth will sail into waters that are the subject of dispute between China and other nations.
At an address given to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, Williamson said Britain was the second largest investor in the region and it must display “hard power” and “lethality” to help protect interests.
The £3 billion ($3.9 billion) carrier’s outing will also sail into the Middle East and Mediterranean and will be officially a mixed U.K./U.S. deployment.
“Significantly British and American F-35s will be embedded in the carrier’s air wing. Enhancing the reach and lethality of our forces (and) reinforcing the fact that United States remains the very closest of partners,” Williamson said.
The U.K. defense minister did not confirm exact dates for the mission.