Britain sends new warship to Gulf amid Iran tensions
Britain's newest warship is heading to the Gulf for its first mission at a time of tensions over Iran's threat to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a key transport route for oil.
The Royal Navy's Type 45 destroyer HMS Daring, which has a "stealth" design to help avoid detection by radar, is to join other British ships in the region, the Ministry of Defence confirmed Saturday.
Although its deployment has been planned for more than a year, it comes as Britain and its allies have expressed deep concern about Iran's threat to close the shipping lane through which 20 percent of the world's oil flows.
Iran has threatened to take the move if it is hit with fresh sanctions over its disputed nuclear programme.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said on a visit to Washington this week that both Britain and the United States would ensure that their response to any provocation was "very measured, that there isn't an accidental escalation".
But he added: "What we cannot answer for is whether there is a plan on the other side to escalate."
The threat to close the Strait of Hormuz has pushed up the price of oil.
On Friday, Iran's Fars news agency reported that the naval commander of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards said Tehran would hold fresh military exercises in and around the Strait of Hormuz within weeks.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman in London said: "The Royal Navy has had a continuous presence East of Suez for many years, including the Armilla patrol and its successors since 1980.
"While the newly operational Type 45 destroyer HMS Daring is more capable than earlier ships, her deployment East of Suez has been long planned, is entirely routine and replaces a frigate on station."
HMS Daring completed four years of sea trials last year and is the first of six new destroyers that will replace the Type 42 vessels, which went into service in the 1970s.
The Type 45s are armed with high-tech Sea Viper anti-air missiles and can carry 60 troops. They also have a large flight deck that can accommodate helicopters the size of a Chinook.
© 2012 AFP