Royal Navy ships and personnel have joined a new international task force to safeguard ships in the Red Sea.
Frigate HMS Montrose and support ship RFA Lyme Bay joined the US-led Combined Task Force 153 for new tasks in the Red Sea.
The task force is the fourth international naval group – numbered 150 through 153 – dedicated to security at sea from the Suez Canal to the Western Seaboard of the Indian sub-continent, from the shores of Iraq to those of the Seychelles.
Its focus is the Red Sea from the Suez Canal to the narrows of the Bab-al-Mandeb, one of the key straits on the world’s major shipping lanes.
Every 24 hours around 50 large merchant ships pass through the BAM – as it’s known by many seafarers: tankers, gas carriers, container ships, car carriers.
Should it become blocked or unsafe for merchant shipping the impact on the UK alone – which relies on regular supplies of liquid natural gas from the Gulf for example – would be severe, the navy emphasized.
For its inaugural patrol, command ship USS Mount Whitney was periodically joined by Egyptian frigate ENS Alexandria, autonomous US systems, a P8-A maritime patrol aircraft, Montrose, Lyme Bay, guided-missile destroyers USS Gonzalez and USS Fitzgerald, as well as fast transport ship USNS Choctaw County.
Although under US Navy command initially, like the other naval groups operating in the region, leadership will pass to one of the member navies.
Alongside Royal Navy ships assigned to the force at times, RN personnel will also serve on its staff.