PORTSMOUTH warship HMS Defender is to support a French aircraft carrier as is depoloys to the Gulf to attack Islamic State, defence secretary Michael Fallon has announced.
The ship will provide air defence cover for the carrier Charles de Gaulle when it arrives to launch air attacks on the terrorist group in Syria and Iraq.
Mr Fallon said: “France is firmly resolved in its determination to tackle Isil and we need to help too.
‘This barbaric terrorist organisation must be destroyed and it’s right that we offer all the support we can to confront them.
‘We will continue our own advanced surveillance and strike missions against Isil. They are a threat to our security in the UK, as well as to France and the rest of Europe.
‘We will consider any further requests for support from France under Article 42.7 of the EU Treaty following Friday’s Paris terror attacks.’
The announcement comes after the Type 45 destroyer carried out air defence training with six French Mirage 2000 fighter jets.
The ship’s commanding officer, Commander Stephen Higham, said: ‘Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of France. This challenging air command and control exercise demonstrated our ability to work together and our capacity to fight together in the air, from the sea and over land.’
HMS Defender, which has a 230-strong crew and is the fifth of the Royal Navy’s six high-tech Type 45 class destroyers, is on a nine-month mission to the Middle East conducting maritime security operations.
It will work with the US and French carrier strike groups as part of the Combined Maritime Force’s 30-nation mission.
A Royal Navy spokesman said: ‘The ship is capable of controlling the air space across an area of 150,000 square miles, twice the size of Portugal, whilst being able to defend a task group of ships against attack from the air, either by aircraft or missiles.’