Royal Navy sailors from Portsmouth have joined the fight against Isil militants in Iraq, The News can reveal.
Portsmouth-based HMS Defender has arrived to provide support to a US Navy carrier task group in the Gulf.
She will be using her air defence weapon systems to protect the aircraft carrier USS George H W Bush and her aircraft as they launch airstrikes as part of the international coalition against Isil.
HMS Defender, billed as one of the most advanced warships ever built for the Royal Navy, is operating as a fully integrated part of the American carrier strike group.
Using her air defence radar and Sea Viper missile system, the ship provides an umbrella around the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier and her escort ships while they patrol the Gulf and launch airstrikes against the terrorist group.
Commander Phil Nash, the commanding officer of HMS Defender, said: ‘As an air defence destroyer, HMS Defender was built for exactly the sort of tasking that we are conducting in support of the USS George H W Bush.
‘Since we arrived in the Gulf in June, we have been engaged in exercises with navies from around the world to test our air defence capabilities and I am delighted that my ship’s company now have an opportunity to put into practice the training they have received over the past few months .
‘This will be our primary role in the future, so to be able to provide the same defensive shield to a US Navy aircraft carrier that we will deliver as part of a British carrier strike group is an excellent chance to prove the value we can add in a national and international environment.’
HMS Defender left Portsmouth in June 2014 to carry out maritime security operations in the Gulf.
She is now operating with the US Navy’s Arleigh-Burke class destroyers USS Truxton and USS Roosevelt and the Ticonderoga class destroyer USS Phillipine Sea to provide support for the aircraft carrier.
Engaged in round-the-clock operations, HMS Defender’s task is to build an accurate air surveillance picture over the whole of the Gulf in order to guard the US aircraft carrier against possible air attack while she launches airstrikes against ISIL targets.
· In September last year, Portsmouth-based HMS Dragon took on the defence of the USS Nimitz carrier group. Click here to read defence correspondent Sam Bannister’s reports from the Gulf where the Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyers proved their worth.