The 64,000-tonne aircraft carrier will be setting sail from her home in Portsmouth in early 2021, accompanied by a pair of Type 45 destroyers, two frigates, support vessels and potentially a hunter-killer submarine.
The operation is expected to involve thousands of sailors and will be the largest single mission undertaken by a Royal Navy task force in years.
However, concerns have been raised the huge scale of the mission could leave the Senior Service unable to respond to crises elsewhere in the world.
Questioning the operation during a debate in the House of Lords, Labour peer Lord Frank Judd said: ‘What are the implications for our flexibility and speed of response, and for the role that must be played by the Royal Navy in such a response, if something arises elsewhere in the world?
‘Will we become a bit tied and muscle-bound by where we are down there if we do not have the flexibility to respond elsewhere?’
Defence minister Baroness Annabel Goldie insisted the navy would be able to cope.
The Tory peer said: ‘I reassure the noble lord that the deployment of the carrier strike group 21 does not leave the navy short-handed for other priorities. The Royal Navy has sufficient ships and submarines to meet its global commitments.’
Her comments came as she refused to be pressed on the exact programme of the £3.2bn warship’s maiden mission - and in particular whether she will sail to the South China Sea. (end of excerpt)
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