Sunday, 6 February 2011

Royal Navy minesweepers patrol the Gulf

BBC News Online thin morning profiles the long-established and largely unsung role of Royal Navy (RN) minesweepers in providing military and economic security within the Arabian / Persian Gulf—like it or not (from an environmental perspective, if nothing else), one of the world's key resource supply routes...
Away from the headlines, the Royal Navy is carrying out a key security task in the Gulf.

For the last few years, four small UK minehunters have been maintaining a valuable if unsung presence in the waterway. It is one that Britain's allies value very highly, according to the Navy. We joined one of the ships, HMS Middleton, as she headed out to sea from her base in the port of Bahrain. As we set sail, the international significance of the Gulf was evident.

As well as the four British minehunters, a frigate and a patrol craft from the Bahraini navy, dotted around the port were a French naval support ship, a US amphibious assault ship, some American minehunters and perhaps most intriguingly, a US Coastguard cutter. There was also a huge British amphibious support ship, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Lyme Bay, another of the total of a dozen British naval vessels in the region. Lyme Bay acts as a mother ship for the minehunters.

Those minehunters themselves are hardly the biggest or most glamorous of warships. HMS Middleton is just 645 tons, with a crew of just 46. But their potential value massively outweighs their size. If the Gulf were to be mined, the bigger ships - even the mighty US Navy aircraft carriers - would be relying on them to carry out their task.

None of the Royal Navy personnel in the Gulf will point a direct finger, but one of the West's nightmare scenarios is that the Gulf could be mined as part of a confrontation with Iran. That could shut off the source of 40% of the world's oil shipments by sea and have a devastating effect on the world economy.
Worth reading the whole thing as a key to understanding this country's contribution to maintaining world / Western economic and political security by military means.

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