WASHINGTON, DC – The UK would be happy to be able to place a squadron of its F-35B Joint Strike Fighter aboard a US amphibious ship, Britain’s Secretary of State for Defense said on Tuesday.
After bringing a squadron of US Marine Corps F-35Bs aboard the British Royal Navy HMS queen elizabeth (R08) for the first deployment of the aircraft carrier, the United Kingdom is ready to install its fighter jets on American amphibious ships with large deck.
“It will be interesting to see what happens with our F-35Bs and if we end up on a US. . . ship in the future. But I hope we will, ”Ben Wallace told reporters at a media briefing in Washington, DC.
“I think there are a lot of opportunities for that. And we shouldn’t be stuck with one type or the other. The French used the Charles de Gaulle often to strike against Islamist targets in Africa. And it’s a floating airfield, as well as a floating intelligence gathering capability, [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] capacity and protection, as well as a unifier, ”he added, referring to the French aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle (R91).
Asked by USNI News whether the placement of British F-35s on a US high-deck amphibious ship was under discussion, Wallace said he would be “happy to send” the plane.
“I mean, if the US Marine Corps wants us to return the favor, I’d love to deploy a squadron,” Wallace said.
The number of countries that can field F-35Bs at sea is increasing, and countries have more and more opportunities to cross airplanes. In 2019, the Japanese Ministry of Defense asked the United States to consider piloting F-35 Marines from its Izumo-class of helicopter destroyers. South Korea is building its own F-35B compatible LPX-II aircraft carrier. Italy will also line up F-35Bs on its own aircraft carrier.
queen elizabeth has a mixed air squadron that includes the “Wake Island Avengers” of US Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 and the 617 Squadron of the Royal Air Force “The Dambusters” for a deployment intended to improve interoperability between the two countries.
The idea is that the UK can continue to cross paths with other countries that also have F-35s, like Italy. Wallace said he had recently met his Italian counterpart and that Italy was eager to obtain their F-35 certifications.
“The bottom line is that this is a carrier that will interoperate very well with the F-35Bs. And that’s what we’re working on together and Italians are incredibly keen to be somehow certified or verified – whatever the term is – to use it. I think the plan is that first of all, for us, it will be as much of a NATO asset, ”he said.
“So during its first phase of deployment it was made available to NATO for a while,” added Wallace, referring to Queen Elizabeth.
Wallace’s current swing across the United States comes as the aircraft carrier makes its first deployment with the largest F-35 deployment ever in the program’s history. queen elizabeth, which currently sails in the Indian Ocean, anchors a multinational carrier strike group that includes several British warships, a Dutch frigate and a US Navy destroyer.
While the UK initially planned that the aircraft carrier’s first deployment would feature only British warships, Wallace said several countries have applied to participate.
“I kind of lost count of the number of countries. . . saying can we send a ship over to the group, ”he said.
“But you know the Dutch were eager to come and they were a great asset and the Arleigh Burke – USS The Sullivans – adds another great layer of defense for her, ”added Wallace. “So I think, you know, all of the carrier groups are – they’re not just a military deployment, they’re a political deployment. It is a political statement. And they offer a tremendous opportunity.
The defense minister said the carrier’s recent COVID-19 outbreak began around July 4 and is not expected to result in any substantial changes to plans.
“Our crew are doubly vaccinated, so you’ll be happy to know that there is no serious effect on any of the crew members. And we’ll handle it and keep in touch. I will offer my support to the captain to make [a] decision on what is good for his ship. I will fully support any decision he makes, ”Wallace said.
“But look, it’s not like the early days of the problems with COVID. It’s understood. We know how to deal with it, ”he added. “We have people who are doubly vaccinated and we have a lot of contingencies in place. And we will absolutely make sure that any host port is protected if there is any risk of danger. But we test the people who come in and we test the people who go out. “
Prior to the deployment, the UK Ministry of Defense stressed that the deployment was focused on the Indo-Pacific region, where the carrier is currently operating.
Asked about HMS diamond, one of the British Type 45 destroyers which would have taken off carrier strike group due to propulsion issues, Wallace said the destroyer should be able to return to CSG once it is repaired.
“It’s a long-standing problem with gas turbines. So, HMS diamond did not somehow collapse. She has sailed alongside and will be fixed where she is. I won’t say where it will be fixed, but it will be fixed where it is, ”he said. “It’s not a crippling thing that will – it will delay her a bit. But I think she will be back in a few weeks to continue supporting the task force.