A second Royal Navy warship is being sent to the Gulf amid rising tensions in the Middle East.
HMS Diamond – a Type 45 destroyer – is being sent to join frigate HMS Lancaster, reports the BBC. Grant Shapps, defence secretary, says it is “critical” that the UK “bolsters our presence in the region”.
He says a UK-led taskforce will also begin patrols from the English Channel through to the Baltic Sea to protect undersea cables. HMS Lancaster has been based in the Gulf since 2022.
It is there with naval minehunters. Shapps said the additional destroyer will bolster any possible deterrence in the region.
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He said: “It is critical that the UK bolsters our presence in the region to keep Britain and our interests safe from a more volatile and contested world.”
Shapps said the additional ship would send a message to Iran as the war between Israel and Hamas rumbles on. The clash in Gaza has already provoked a response from Hezbollah in Lebanon as well as Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The United States has already increased its naval presence in the area after Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel in October. It has sent a US carrier strike group east of Suez and an aircraft carrier to the Mediterranean.
A US destroyer based in the Red Sea has reportedly intercepted missiles and drones that have come from Houthi rebels. Houthis are also said to be harrassing commercial ships.
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The MoD says the additional vessel will ensure the merchant vessels can flow freely. Around 50 pass through the Bab-el-Mandeb strait daily.
Shapps also said Royal Navy vessels will work alongside members of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), which includes Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. This will be the first time the JEF has conducted a joint operation.
Shapps said the deployment was “historic” as allies from across northern Europe would be seen working together “to defend our shared critical infrastructure against potential threats”. He did not elaborate on specific threats.
The UK and JEF members have however highlighted concerns about Russian surveillance ships near to wind farms and undersea cables in recent years.
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