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UK carrier deployment tilts East but looks West

SEOUL – The UK’s Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group (CSG) currently forging toward the Indo-Pacific is a macho naval spectacle of note: nine ships, 32 aircraft including 18 F35s and 3,700 personnel.

Naval rivet counters, military pundits and British jingos will be transfixed by this spectacular manifestation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ambitions of a post-Brexit “Global Britain” being a global player.

However, while the force is deploying to Indo-Pacific, there is no suggestion that it will take up station in the region.

This raises perhaps the biggest question over both the current mission and London’s wider strategic aims. Does the UK’s straitened defense establishment have the means to sustain London’s “tilt” toward the East? And would the British public support such an expensive and distant footprint?