Royal Navy £3bn aircraft carrier ‘facing threat from underwater Chinese drones’

A £3bn Royal Navy aircraft carrier risks being attacked by underwater drones in a "misunderstanding" with China, experts warn.

HMS Elizabeth is set to face a high risk of "incident" when she is deployed to the South China Sea, the Telegraph reports.

China said recently that it would carry out "necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty".

Beijing's warning was made after it was confirmed that the carrier would travel to the region on her first operational mission – escorted by two Type 45 destroyers, two Type 23 frigates, a nuclear submarine, a Tide-class tanker and RFA Fort Victoria (stores ship and tanker).

Charles Parton, senior associate at the Royal United Service Institute, on Tuesday said increasing her sailings "through the South China Sea we will see more tensions around them and therefore a greater risk of an incident".

Meia Nouwens, senior fellow for Chinese Defence Policy and Military Modernisation at The International Institute for Strategic Studies, added that China's "development of submersibles and unmanned underwater vehicles present an added challenge".

She told the Commons Defence Select Committee: "We know China is developing these capabilities. Where this goes will be an added challenge in terms of how we deal with grey zone tactics."

Ms Nouwens also warned of "the uptick in tempo of exercises" being seen from China.

And said that the greater number of air incursions from the People's Liberation Army, both with special mission and combat aircraft, is something the UK "should be careful of ".

The military expert said so far there have been 44 incursions by the Chinese in 2021, which have been "multiple at both day and night time".

She said that the "vast uptick in types and numbers of these exercises really increases the risk of miscalculation, misunderstanding and misinterpretation and that's something we should be careful of ".

Boris Johnson, when he was foreign secretary in 2018, said: "One of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built is send them on a freedom of navigation operation to this area."

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