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Britain set to deploy aircraft carrier to Red Sea to counter Iran-backed Houthi attacks
31 January 2024, 01:09
Britain could send an aircraft carrier to the Red Sea to counter Iran-backed Houthi attacks, a government minister has suggested.
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James Heappey indicated a British aircraft carrier could be sent to the Middle East to replace the already deployed USS Dwight D Eisenhower when it returns to America.
The UK has already joined the US in multiple airstrikes on Hothi targets and has already deployed its warship the HMS Diamond to the Red Sea. It is intended the position of the ship would protect the trading route previously targeted by Houthi rebels.
Speaking to the House Magazine, Mr Heappey, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, said a UK aircraft carrier could "plug a gap" in the future.
Referencing the nickname of the US carrier, he said: "There's no real need for more carrier mass - for more carriers to be in the region than the Ike can provide. She's a very capable ship.
"So our judgment was that with the Ike on station - the Eisenhower on station - and with jets available from Akrotiri, that we were able to meet the challenge as it is now."
Mr Heappey suggested the Royal Navy could step in "when the Eisenhower goes home, if we were needed to plug a gap in US deployments, or if the situation deteriorates and we need more".
He added: "The fact is the Eisenhower can't stay there forever. And so there's a thing about just maintaining a carrier presence in the region where we might cooperate with the Americans to provide a capability there."
Retired admiral and Labour peer Lord West of Spithead has been among those suggesting UK could send an aircraft carrier to the region.
The UK currently has two aircraft carriers in service, the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.
It comes after a British warship successfully shot down a Houthi drone targeting the vessel in the Red Sea over the weekend, the Ministry of Defence confirmed.
The HMS Diamond thwarted an attack drone from the Houthi rebels without any damage or injuries to the British ship or crew.
In a statement posted to X on Sunday the Ministry of Defence wrote: “HMS Diamond successfully repelled a drone attack from the Iranian-backed Houthis in the Red Sea.Deploying her Sea Viper missile system, Diamond destroyed a drone targeting her, with no injuries or damage sustained to Diamond or her crew.
"These intolerable and illegal attacks are completely unacceptable and it is our duty to protect the freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.”
While defence secretary Grant Shapps said: "The UK remains undaunted after yesterday’s illegal attack on HMS Diamond by the Iranian backed Houthis.
"Our commitment to protect innocent lives and the freedom of navigation is absolutely unwavering."