British warship returns to Guam

VISIT: The British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives at Apra Harbor on Aug. 6 during its first Guam visit. The warship is back on the island this week. Courtesy Valerie Maigue, Naval Base Guam

The British Carrier Strike Group 21, led by aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, is back in Guam for some scheduled maintenance and for the sailors to get some downtime – a little more than a month after the group's first visit to the island.

“Back in beautiful Guam for some scheduled maintenance,” the group’s flagship officials tweeted.

The carrier recently was in Japan for joint military exercises.

Vera Topasna, executive director of the Guam Military Buildup Office, said while the sailors of the strike group will be allowed liberty on Guam, they will be restricted to 20% of their population ashore at any one time.

“They’ll be here for 10 to 13 days, … so they’ll be rotating so everyone has an opportunity to enjoy some liberty,” Topasna said, adding: “everybody is vaccinated, the governor confirmed that.”

Also, while they’re here, there will be joint shore patrol between the Guam Police Department and the Royal Navy Security team.

“So there’s extra support for GPD,” she said. “That’s something they worked out with (Guam Police Chief Stephen) Ignacio.”

Before arriving on Guam on their first visit, some of the carrier's sailors were confirmed to have caught the virus that causes COVID-19. 

The HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest warship that the United Kingdom has ever built. The 65,000-ton ship has a unique air wing, which consists of U.S. and U.K. aircraft. It’s the first time since the 1940s that a joint force such as this existed, Commodore Steve Moorhouse, commander, U.K. Carrier Strike Group, said last month.

Shortly after departing Guam, HMS Queen Elizabeth and UK Carrier Strike Group 21 participated in exercises with Japan and with the U.S. and other allies.

"The interaction is part of the United Kingdom's commitment to strengthen our diplomatic, economic and security ties in the Indo-Pacific and will take the United Kingdom's and Japan's enduring relationship to a whole new level. With Japan, and other like-minded countries in the region, the United Kingdom is committed to upholding democratic values and tackling shared threats,” Moorhouse was quoted as saying upon arrival in Japan by U.K. news organization HampshireLive.

"The Carrier Strike Group presence embodies the United Kingdom's support for the freedom and security of the region's vital trading routes and for an international system that benefits all countries."

The deployment is the U.K.’s first by a carrier strike group in the Indo-Pacific for almost 25 years, according to the U.S. military.

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