JEREMY Hunt has promised to reverse cuts to the size of the Royal Navy if he becomes Prime Minister.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the Foreign Secretary said the Navy has been ‘run down’ over the last decade, but the ‘deeply troubling' events in the Middle East showed that the Navy must be ‘expanded to meet the threats we face.’
His article comes after the Ministry of Defence said HMS Montrose, a Type 23 Frigate, ‘turned its guns’ on three Iranian patrol boats attempting to intercept a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf on Thursday.
Last week, British Royal Marines helped the authorities in Gibraltar seize an Iranian tanker, due to evidence it was breaching EU sanctions by carrying oil to Syria.
The Tory leadership hopeful has already pledged to increase defence spending by £15bn over the next five years and to review the current fleet of 19 frigates and destroyers.
According to figures published by the the Secretary of State for Defence last year, the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary has been reduced in size by six vessels since 2013.
Mr Hunt said ‘boosting our hard power is the surest way to keep Britain respected overseas.’
The UK currently meets NATO’s target for member countries to spend 2% of GDP on defence – but Mr Hunt has pledged to increase this to 2.5% by 2024 if he becomes Prime Minister.
Boris Johnson, who is standing against Mr Hunt in the race to become the next leader of the Conservative party, has also committed to increasing the UK's defence budget.