HMS Kent has set sail for the Straits of Hormuz where she will relieve £1bn destroyer, HMS Duncan as tensions between Britain and Iran continue to flare.
Kent will now join forces with HMS Montrose as part of a US-led maritime security fleet building up in the region, designed to enforce maritime security and conduct counter-terrorism and anti-smuggling missions.
She will work alongside Montrose to escort British-flagged vessels through the Strait of Hormuz.
Commander Andy Brown, commanding officer of HMS Kent, said: ‘Today’s departure on operations has been achieved through the hard work and support of the ship’s company, their families and the wider defence enterprise.
‘Our focus in the Gulf remains firmly one of de-escalating the current tensions. But we are committed to upholding freedom of navigation and reassuring international shipping, which this deployment on operations aims to do.’
Meanwhile, HMS Defender has been deployed on a separate mission to the Asian Pacific.
The state-of-the-art Type 45 destroyer will take part in a range of security patrols to protect vital trade routes as part of a 30-nation maritime force.
The mission came amid tensions between China and the West over freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
Commander Richard Hewitt, Defender’s captain, said: ‘This is an opportunity for HMS Defender to demonstrate the global reach of the Royal Navy as well as the UK’s commitment to building relationships and maintaining stability in the Asia Pacific region.
‘I am very proud of the ship’s company and the many support organisations who have supported us to reach this point today.’
Elsewhere, naval sources have shot down online speculation HMS Duncan was facing technical problems after the ship was pictured alongside in Bahrain.
Type 45 destroyers have previously suffered from propulsion issues in the Gulf.
A source told The News there was no issue with Duncan and that Kent’s deployment was scheduled and not in reaction to any situation facing Duncan.
Deborah Haynes, foreign affairs editor for Sky News – who is based in the Gulf at the moment – also reacted to the speculation online.
The former Times’ defence correspondent said: 'For avoidance of doubt for all conspiracy theorists and eternal doubters – I’ve triple checked and there are no problems with HMS Duncan.
‘The Royal Navy destroyer is making a standard stop in Bahrain to refuel and resupply. Then she will be back out on patrol in [the] Strait of Hormuz.’
Over the weekend, Iran's Revolutionary Guard was accused of ‘spreading fake news’ after posting a video claiming to show its gunships ‘chasing off’ HMS Duncan.
However, military experts said the vessel being pursued was more likely a United Arab Emirates ship the Iranians mistook for the British vessel.
HMS Kent is expected to arrive in the Gulf later this month, taking over from Duncan in September.