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US, UK extend aircraft carrier co-operation arrangement

written by Isabella Richards | July 19, 2021
Ben Wallace and Lloyd Austin sign the agreement extension (GOV.UK)

The long-standing allies have agreed to continue engaging in joint aircraft carrier operations aimed at strengthening interoperability.

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin and his UK counterpart Ben Wallace have met in Washington for high-level talks aimed at addressing shared security challenges, with the meeting culminating in the signing of a new agreement to enhance cooperation on aircraft carrier operations.

The agreement is a one-year extension of existing arrangements under the Enhanced Cooperation on Carrier Operations and Maritime Power Projection program, set to expire in January 2022.

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The new deal outlines guidelines to ensure the generation, training and operation of the US and the UK’s carrier forces are “harmonised and effective”, supporting interoperability as the forces modernise and adapt to the evolving threat environment.

Among the other issues discussed during the meeting were the UK-US defence partnership, the NATO alliance, and the conflict in Afghanistan.

“It was great to meet up with Lloyd Austin again after our meetings in London and Brussels,” Secretary Wallace said.

“The US continues to be the UK’s most important defence partner and we are working together, across all domains, to confront future threats. There is much to do but the extension we agreed will ensure that we can co-operate even more seamlessly with our forces across the globe.”

International exercises undertaken by the UK-led Carrier Strike Group (CSG21) form part of the cooperation agreement, supporting efforts to project reach and influence in series of over 70 engagements, joint exercises and operations.

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Nine ships, 32 aircraft and 3,700 personnel are involved in CSG21, led by HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The fleet set sail in May for a seven-month operational deployment around the world.

The US’ participation includes the deployment of destroyer USS The Sullivans and 10 Marine Corps F-35B jets.

CSG21 recently joined Operation Shader and Operation Inherent Resolve in the Middle East, carrying out missions from HMS Queen Elizabeth with the RAF’s 617 Squadron against the Islamic State.

This followed a series of engagements in the Mediterranean alongside the UK’s regional partners.

Article written by Charbel Kadib.

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