The British Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier will carry out operations against ISIS when it enters the Middle East, the head of the UK's armed forces has told a meeting of Gulf military leaders.
The group, made up of military chiefs from the six GCC countries plus Egypt, Jordan and Iraq was holding its fourth annual meeting since it was set up in 2018 to assist security planning.
During discussions on defence co-operation and other issues at Lancaster House yesterday, the Chief of the Defence Staff told the assembled senior ranks that Britain would demonstrate its commitment to maintain security in the Middle East.
Part of that will come from the Navy’s 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier, the most modern in the world, that is anchored off Sicily after conducting strike missions against ISIS by F35 jets launched in the Eastern Mediterranean.
HMS Queen Elizabeth will soon head through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea and Arabian Sea, placing its aircraft within range of targets in the region. It will also send a message to Iran on the extent of Britain’s naval strength.
“The UK’s Carrier Strike Group will soon enter the Middle East to further bolster our commitment to regional security, including carrying out operations against Daesh from Britain’s flagship aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth,” Gen Carter said.
He said the Dragon Group meeting was a “tremendous opportunity to discuss common challenges”, to learn from each other and to “take a view on how we chart a common approach to the future”.
With the US scaling down its military commitment in the Middle East as it meets the threat from China in the Pacific, there is an opportunity for the UK to show its resolve.
“The UK armed forces hugely value our partnerships in the Middle East and we stand with our friends in seeking to create a stable and prosperous region,” Gen Carter said. “Our security relationships in the Gulf run deep. We routinely have more than 1,000 military personnel in the region, in addition to aircraft and ships.”
The defence partnerships would help the nine countries of the Dragon Group mount counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and counter-smuggling operations, he said.
The UK's Ministry of Defence said Britain, "was ready to work with our allies around the world to secure a better, safer world”.
The meeting also focused on regional trends as well as new capabilities to combat shared threats, the MoD said.
The Dragon Group, named after its first meeting aboard the Type-45 destroyer HMS Dragon in 2018, is an annual conference of defence chiefs from the Middle East and Britain.
The event included a lunch attended by Prince Edward alongside military leaders from Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Gen Carter will this week host the inaugural bilateral Military Co-operation Committee meeting Saudi Arabian defence chiefs during which the two countries will discuss military co-operation.