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UK considering using drones to police Gulf shipping route

September 2, 2019 at 2:20 pm

The Strait of Hormuz, Between Iran, Oman and the UAE [Flickr: eutrophication&hypoxia]

The UK is considering beefing up its military operations in the Gulf by deploying drones from Kuwait as tensions with Iran show no sign of abating.

The unmanned aircraft, reported Sky, is being considered as an option to increase cover for tankers sailing through the Strait of Hormuz. The strategic waterway, through which about a fifth of the world’s oil is said to pass, became a major flashpoint in June following an attack on two crude tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

Rising tensions and concerns over disruption to global oil markets prompted a US led mission to beef up security in the region. A number of countries including the UK deployed military vessels to escort commercial ships through the Strait of Hormuz.

The naval force is likely to get further reinforcement from drones housed in nearby Kuwait. The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) is said to house several Reaper drones in the oil rich country. They have been deployed in Iraq and Syria but these assets could now be re-directed to the Gulf.

READ: UK calls for broad support to tackle Gulf shipping threats

The drones will provide additional cover in the region where the US and Australia already have several unmanned aircraft assisting navy vessels escorting tankers through the Strait of Hormuz.

Senior British naval officer, Commodore Dean Bassett, spoke to Sky about the ongoing tension. “The direct threat to those British merchant vessels still stands. We’ve seen nothing to suggest that Iran is going to abide by its international obligations,” said Bassett.

The officer is also reported saying that he wouldn’t rule out the use of military force. “While we call on Iran to abide by its international obligations, the Royal Navy – my sailors, my Marines and the ships under my command – are absolutely ready to protect and defend British merchant vessels in this theatre,” he warned.