ROYAL Navy frigate HMS Montrose has had 85 ‘interactions’ with Iranian forces in just 27 days of patrolling the Gulf, the warship’s captain has revealed.
Commander William King revealed a frequent ‘exchange of warnings’; between Britain and Iran as Montrose fought to protect British shipping in the Straits of Hormuz – the world’s busiest shipping lane.
Iran has already seized one British ship, the Stena Impero, in retaliation to a Royal Marine operation off Gibraltar and Tehran has threatened its forces could strike again.
Speaking from the Gulf to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Cdr King said Iranian forces had issued threats about the British presence and run fast boats towards Montrose to test the ship’s reactions.
However, British sailors have developed a 'healthy understanding' with the Iranians and the contact remains 'professional,' he said.
'We've been here ever since this crisis with Iran started to unfold and we've now done 23 transits through the straits, almost one every day,' Cdr King added.
'I've had 85 interactions with Iranian forces over the last 27 days so that gives you some idea of the intensity.
'The Iranians seem to be keen to test our resolve, test our reactions most of the time and as you'd expect we're on guard to do that, we're ready to react, I've got 215 in my team who are highly trained and are relishing the professional opportunities.'
Asked what the Iranians were doing, he said: 'They'll claim that perhaps our presence is illegitimate even though we're completely lawfully in international waters, they may also run boats in at speed towards us to test what warning levels we get to.
'In the naval business this is what we would expect and this is what we've seen before.
'The intensity is perhaps more than we've seen in recent times and obviously for the merchant shipping, they're not used to seeing that, and as such our presence is key to reassuring them that actually we are able to effectively just offset any kind of aggression that the Iranians may show.’
Montrose will return to port later this week and will be replaced by HMS Duncan, a destroyer which arrived in the region on Sunday.