'Lives on the line' as Royal Navy sends third warship to the Gulf amid tensions with Iran

THE Royal Navy will send a third warship to Gulf as tensions between Britain and Iran continue to escalate.

Tuesday, 16th July 2019, 7:18 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th July 2019, 10:50 am

Almost 200 sailors from Portsmouth-based frigate HMS Kent will be sent to the Middle East in September as the navy looks to strengthen its presence in the region.

Defence officials said Kent would be taking over from £1bn destroyer, HMS Duncan, which is en route to ensure ‘unbroken peace’ in the area.

Once there, Kent will join a fleet of naval warships made up of sister ship HMS Montrose, four minehunters and two Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships, RFA Cardigan Bay and RFA Wave Knight.

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HMS Kent will deploy to the Gulf in September as tensions between Britain and Iran increase. Photo: LA(Phot) Simmo Simpson

The news came as Portsmouth-based Duncan was put on ‘high alert’ today after an unmanned Iranian ‘bomb boat’ was spotted in its path.

The Ministry of Defence said Kent’s deployment was not in reaction to Iranian aggression, instead insisting it was part of the UK’s ongoing commitment to protect the region’s vital shipping lanes.

However, retired Vice Admiral Bob Cooling feared the fanatical militants of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard would ‘overreact’ and launch an attack – forcing the navy to respond.

‘Lives are definitely on the line at the moment,’ the former assistant chief of naval staff told The News.

‘Iran is playing a dangerous game. They will overreact and get in a position where they leave their opponent no choice but to interdict.’

But retired Commander Ian Millen, a Gulf maritime security expert, thought it unlikely any such attack would happen.

Cdr Millen, who used to be Vice Adm Cooling’s intelligence officer, felt Tehran would seek to avoid a clash.

He said: ‘There’s most definitely an escalating rhetoric but it’s in nobody’s interest to start a shooting war in the Strait of Hormuz. I would hope that cool heads prevail.’

One third of all the world’s oil carried by tankers passes through the Strait of Hormuz.

Last week HMS Montrose was called into action after three Iranian vessels attempted to stop a British commercial ship from travelling through the strait.

Montrose’s captain, Commander Will King, said: ‘We are continuously monitoring the security situation here and are committed to maintaining freedom of navigation in accordance with international law.’