British warship fights off 115 ‘intimidating’ confrontations from Iranian attack craft

Express

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02.09.2019 09:46

Commander Will King said the HMS Montrose had been involved in 115 separate confrontations with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in the Gulf since the start of July. He said the Iranian military used fast attack craft and drones to “intimidate” his ship as Tehran carried out a “continuous intent to disrupt or interfere with UK interests in the area”.

HMS Montrose, a Type 23 frigate, was sent to patrol the strategic waters after the UK-flagged Stena Impero was seized by the Iranians six weeks ago.The IRGC responded by beefing up its coastal defence systems and aiming cruise missiles in the direction of HMS Montrose.It has also emerged that the elite force was given clearance to use live rounds against the British warship during the Stena Impero episode.

An officer on HMS Montrose said: "We had reasons to believe they were ready for a fight that night."The British vessel reached the territorial water boundary 45 minutes too late to prevent the tanker’s capture and was unable to give chase.Commander King described the “soul-destroying” moment he arrived too late to help the UK tanker and heard his Iranian counterpart gloating over the ship’s radio: “She’s mine now!”Commander King said: “It was almost like some rather sick competition.”READ MORE: Iran news: Audio recording reveals showdown

The IRGC navy sent seven fast attack craft and a helicopter to seize Stena Impero.Iranian commandos abseiled from the helicopter and boarded the UK vessel, forcing it to steer due north into Iranian waters.The Stena Impero is still being held in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas

Commander King said Iran ramped up its aggression after the seizure.Commodore Dean Bassett, the most senior Royal Navy officer in the Gulf, said Britain would step up its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations in the area.He told The Times: “In the last couple of months we’ve seen a dramatic change to the security in the area.DON'T MISSOnce proud Navy's in dire straits, say RICHARD AND JUDY[OPINION]Will Iran strike back at Israel? US ally puts army on standby[ANALYSIS]Tanker crisis shows folly of defence cuts - EXPRESS COMMENT[COMMENT]

“I can confirm that the UK is actively considering bolstering the air surveillance capabilities in theatre“It could be a drone, it could be a maritime patrol aircraft, it could be a helicopter on the back of the ship, it could be a ship.”One option is to divert Reaper drones to the Gulf from their current surveillance missions on ISIS movement in Syria and Iraq

HMS Kent, a Type 23 frigate, and HMS Defender, a Type 45 destroyer, are being sent to join HMS Montrose and HMS Duncan to boost Britain’s military presence and deter further attacks on British commercial shipping.It will be the first time the UK has stationed four major warships in the region since the Gulf war in 2004.

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