British Queen Elizabeth visits new aircraft carrier before its Asia voyage

The aircraft carrier will lead a flotilla of Royal Navy ships to Asian waters. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Britain's Queen Elizabeth visited the country's new aircraft carrier on Saturday (May 22), named in her honour, before it leads a flotilla of Royal Navy ships to Asian waters on its maiden operational voyage.

The queen, aged 95, stepped aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth in Portsmouth, seven years after she named the vessel alongside her late husband, Prince Philip, who died last month.

The 65,000-tonne Queen Elizabeth will carry eight British F-35B fighter jets and 10 US F-35s as well as 250 US marines as part of a 1,700-strong crew.

It will lead the flotilla alongside two destroyers, two frigates, a submarine and two support ships on its journey of 26,000 nautical miles over 28 weeks. The group will be joined by a US destroyer and a frigate from the Dutch navy.

The group will sail through the contested South China Sea - claimed almost entirely by China, and in part by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan - on its way to the Philippine Sea. The ships will also stop in India and Singapore.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the deployment will help to project British soft power, such as a belief in democracy and the rule of law.

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