UK Confirms Royal Navy and Air Force are Being Deployed to the Eastern Med
The UK’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed in a statement on Friday that he has given the command to deploy Royal Air Force and Royal Navy assets into the Eastern Mediterranean, with the first patrols beginning today as Israel appears ready to enter the Gaza Strip. Sunak said the efforts would be alongside allies already in the region while the U.S. Navy released additional pictures of the USS Gerald R. Ford reported to now be in position in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Surveillance aircraft from the Royal Air Force were the first asset to become active with the Ministry of Defense saying they had been assigned to begin patrols “to help partners track emerging threats to regional security.” Among the specific roles they said they would be monitoring for is the transfer of weapons to terrorist groups. The Prime Minister said the efforts were specifically to promote regional stability and prevent further escalation.
Following the surveillance aircraft, two Royal Navy ships are also being directed into the region. They are the RFA Lyme and RFA Argus, of the auxiliary fleet. The RFA Lyme is a 16,600 dwt Bay-class landing ship dock designed to deliver troops, vehicles, stores, and ammunition and support the ongoing waves of an amphibious assault. The RFA Argus (28,000 dwt) is a Primary Casualty Receiving Ship of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. With a 100-bed medical complex on board, she acts as a floating medical facility.
“Our military and diplomatic teams across the region will also support international partners to re-establish security and ensure humanitarian aid reaches the thousands of innocent victims of this barbaric attack from Hamas terrorists,” said Prime Minister Sunak. “We must be unequivocal in making sure the types of horrific scenes we have seen this week will not be repeated.”
The UK’s full military package will also include P8 aircraft, surveillance assets, and three merlin helicopters. A company of Royal Marines will be on standby to deliver practical support to Israel and partners in the region and offer deterrence and assurance. The two auxiliary vessels will be moved to the eastern Mediterranean next week. Further, the Prime Minister has also asked for all military teams in Israel, Cyprus, and across the region, to be bolstered to support contingency planning and the efforts of neighboring countries to deal with any spillover from instability in Israel.
USS Gerald R. Ford was shown refueling at sea in the Eastern Mediterranean (US Navy photo)
This came after the U.S. Navy confirmed earlier in the week that the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group had arrived in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. They said the mission was to deter any actor seeking to escalate the situation or widen the war.
"The arrival of these highly capable forces to the region is a strong signal of deterrence should any actor hostile to Israel consider trying to take advantage of this situation," said General Michael "Erik" Kurilla, commander, U.S. Central Command.
The U.S. forces in the area now include the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, with its eight squadrons of attack and support aircraft, and the Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser USS Normandy, as well as the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Thomas Hudner, USS Ramage, USS Carney, and USS Roosevelt.