Britain is set to send a third warship to the Gulf to bolster its military presence in the region amid a tense stand-off with Iran.
The Ministry of Defence said Type 23 frigate HMS Kent and tanker RFA Wave Knight would deploy to the Gulf later this year as part of Operation Kipion, the UK’s mission in the region.
Type 23 frigate HMS Montrose is currently in the region but is due to undergo maintenance and crew change, with Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan travelling to the Gulf to take over.
Kent will in turn take over from Duncan later this year to ensure an ‘unbroken presence’ in the region.
Approximately 1,200 personnel are deployed in the region along with seven Royal Navy and support ships, including Montrose and Duncan.
The support ships include four Mine Counter Measures Vessels: HMS Ledbury, Blyth, Brocklesby and Shoreham.
The Royal Navy’s most modern warship was dispatched the the Persian Gulf over the weekend to protect British-flagged oil tankers from Iran
Earlier it was claimed that an unmanned Iranian bomb boat was discovered lying in wait for a British destroyer in the Red Sea.
The remote-controlled ‘Blowfish’ was reportedly spotted by Saudi forces in HMS Duncan’s path as it headed south from the Suez Canal to protect Gulf shipping lanes.
The small vessel was laden with explosives, enough to blow a hole in the side of the destroyer, and steered from up to four miles away, sources told the Mirror.
British and American warships have sailed to the region after Tehran lashed out at crippling sanctions as a result of the crumbling Iran deal, with a series of attacks on oil tankers in recent months.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said today that ‘vicious’ Britain’s seizure of an Iranian oil tanker off Gibraltar earlier this month was ‘piracy.’
EU nations are desperately trying to salvage the Obama-era agreement, as Iran’s top diplomat warned yesterday the U.S. was ‘playing with fire.’
A vessel known as a Blowfish was reportedly discovered by the Saudi navy lurking in the path of HMS Duncan as it made its way south through the Red Sea towards the Gulf
The Blowfish bomb boat was reportedly discovered in the Red Sea where Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have been known to deploy small vessels laden with explosives in the past
Small explosive-packed vessels, including suicide boats, have been deployed by Houthi rebels in the past.
Former naval officer Simon Warrington told the Mirror: ‘The threat from the Houthis, who as Iran’s proxy militia do Tehran’s dirty work, is very real.’
The Ministry of Defence declined to comment.
Similar water-based improvised explosive devices (WBIEDs) have been discovered by Saudi Arabia and the UAE in recent years.
In January 2017, two Saudi sailors were killed after Houthi explosive vessels blew up at the side of a frigate.
According to Conflict Arm, a boat captured by the UAE Navy three years ago was fashioned with a Soviet-era P-15 Termite anti-naval missile and propelled by two outboard motors, controlled remotely.
HMS Duncan set sail on the weekend, the latest warship among the U.S. and British Navies to be dispatched to the region after attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.
The U.S. has sent thousands of troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets in recent weeks.
A string of drone and limpet mine attacks on oil tankers during soaring tensions culminated with Tehran shooting down an unmanned U.S. drone last month and Washington pulling out of retaliatory strikes at the last minute.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said there was still a ‘small window to keep the deal alive’ as EU foreign ministers met in Brussels on Monday (Hunt speaking to the Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell)
U.S. Navy’s Amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry, left, and fleet replenishment oiler ship USNS Tippecanoe sail alongside amphibious assault ship USS Boxer during a replenishment-at-sea, in the Gulf of Aden earlier this month
Iran has said President Donald Trump’s strict sanctions over alleged breaches to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal amounts to an ‘economic war.’
That deal hangs in the balance – Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal in May last year and the Iranians have been increasing their uranium enrichment – but EU member states are clinging on.
Iran announced last week that it had enriched uranium past the 3.67 percent limit set by the nuclear deal, and has also surpassed the 300-kilogram cap on enriched uranium reserves.
The 28 EU foreign ministers have insisted that Tehran’s surpassing of uranium enrichment thresholds set by the deal did not necessarily condemn the agreement.
The EU currently has few direct measures for offsetting U.S. economic sanctions against Tehran that have savaged the country’s economy, and the bloc faces U.S. threats to target any EU companies that attempt to trade with Iran.
Noting that Iran was ‘still a good year away’ from potentially developing a nuclear bomb, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said there was still a ‘small window to keep the deal alive.’
President Donald Trump (right) has slapped heavy sanctions on Iran after it says Tehran breached the 2015 JCPOA, President Hassan Rouhani has engaged in heated rhetoric with Trump after attacks on tankers and a US drone
Tehran said Sunday it was ready to negotiate with the United States if Washington lifts the economic sanctions.
President Hassan Rouhani’s official website quoted him as saying, ‘The moment you stop sanctions and bullying, we are ready to negotiate.’
The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday: ‘We are not about to develop nuclear weapons. Had we wanted to develop nuclear weapons, we would have been able to do it (a) long time ago.’
Zarif’s comments came as the U.S. imposed unusually harsh restrictions on his movements during a visit to the United Nations in New York.