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Remarks as delivered for Adm. Michelle Howard aboard USS George H.W. Bush in the U.K.

July 28, 2017 at 9:49 AM UTC

27 July 2017 | Portsmouth, U.K.

Members of Parliament, ministers, fellow flag and general officers, ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to welcome you aboard USS George Herbert Walker Bush.

One hundred years ago, the United States made a profound and enduring commitment to defend the freedom and security of Europe. On 6 April 1917, the U.S. joined the first World War.  American public and political opinion had shifted to the allies following the ruthless sinking of the cruise liner, Lusitania, by a German U- boat.  One thousand, one hundred and ninety-eight people were lost.  In that age, unrestricted warfare on the high seas underlined the importance of maritime security, and a new age of power projection was born. The pre-war years had brought fixed-wing aircraft and the first flight from the deck of a U.S. Navy cruiser in 1910.

But, but, it was the British who accelerated the innovation of the carrier capability.  On 2 August 1917, Squadron Commander Dunning, Royal Navy, landed his Sopwith Pup aircraft on the deck of the HMS Furious.  He became the first human in the world to land a plane on a moving ship.

Concept proven, the Brits went on to develop the capability to mount strikes from the carrier. Most importantly, later in the Great War, seven Sopwith Camels launched from HMS Furious and attacked a Zeppelin base in Tondern, Germany, destroying several airships. Although the damage was relatively slight, the operation brought in the arrival of carrier-launched aircraft and strike capacity.

Fighter and bomber aircraft launched from the sea.  This concept would grow to become a definitive feature of modern day power projection. The United Kingdom was able to win a conflict 8,000 miles from home in large part due to the use of the carriers HMS Hermes and Invincible. The Falklands War demonstrated the value short take off and vertical landing aircraft in defending the fleet and assault force. And so, today’s F-35B draws deeply on the heritage of the iconic Sea Harrier.

Just two decades later, during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, U.S. carriers served as the primary base of American air power. The United States continued to deliver air support from carrier-based squadrons. And this strategic capacity endures, aptly demonstrated by this ship on recent operations in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Ninety-nine years since the raid on Tondern, the United Kingdom is heralding in a new age of power projection.  HMS Queen Elizabeth embarked on sea trials a matter of weeks ago and the HMS Prince of Wales will soon follow. The United Kingdom not only will be able of delivering continuous carrier availability, but a continuous at sea nuclear deterrence as well.

This needed emphasis on maritime superiority has created an unprecedented level of interoperability between our Navies. The United Kingdom purchased, and will soon bring into service, the P-8 Maritime Patrol aircraft and the Joint Strike Fighter. The JSF not only demonstrates interchangeable capability between the United States and the United Kingdom and allies, it also represents an Anglo-American industrial project, setting a precedent for deeper integration in the defense industrial sector.

But this isn’t just about the gear.  Look to the men and women of the United States Coastguard and Navy who are serving in exchange postings on United Kingdom ships.  And there are U.S. Marines being trained in the Arctic by Royal Marines in northern Norway.

As tonight’s reception is a timely reminder of sea power.  Many of us come from maritime nations.  And despite rapid improvements in the last decades to technology and air travel, 95% of the United Kingdom’s economic activity depends on the oceans.  And for all of us, 90% of world trade is still transported by sea.

The United Kingdom and its territories sit in a strategically vital location, providing over-watch of crucial maritime arteries such as the Greenland, Iceland, U.K. gap and the English Channel, as well as the Straits of Gibraltar. A location increasingly crucial as competition for access to the far north and Arctic resources increases. And just as a generation a hundred years ago discovered, our responsibilities are not just to watch, our responsibilities are to protect.

As our forebears, men and women of our nations fought for freedom in the first World War, so it is our duty today.   And we must ensure that that liberty extends to the seas.

So I very much appreciate all of you joining us tonight on the USS George Herbert Walker Bush.  Thank you. And now, please join me in offering a toast:

To Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and the Heads of State here represented.