FOUR British warships and more than 400 sailors and Royal Marines have played a leading role in a massive show of strength in the Middle East.
The International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2012 saw ships from 30 nations train together to deal with the threat of sea mines blocking some of the most important trading routes in the world.
Each day, 17 million barrels of oil pass through the narrows between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula, while four million barrels are moved through the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, the gateway to the Red Sea.
In a typical week, more than 500 ships pass through the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran has threatened to mine in a row with western powers over nuclear weapons.
Portsmouth-based HMS Atherstone and the new Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond linked up with HMS Shoreham and support ship Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel Cardigan Bay for the operations which spanned more than 1,000 miles of ocean.
During the exercise, senior officers were locked in three days of talks about the emergence of homemade sea mines and the latest technology and techniques in how to combat against the threat they pose.
Diamond’s captain, Commander Ian Clarke, said: ‘The scale of this mine countermeasures exercise shows the wide-scale commitment of nations to supporting maritime security and keeping the vital sea lanes open for trade.’
n For more pictures see page 38