It was a demanding yet successful summer for British defence, and for the Royal Navy in particular.

Across the Baltic region, the accomplishments of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) Operation Baltic Protector served a timely and pertinent reminder that a stable Europe ensures a secure United Kingdom.

This article was submitted by Rob Clark (@RobertClark87), a Postgraduate Researcher and British Army veteran.

Further afield, the illegal seizure of the Union flagged Stena Impero tanker in the Strait of Hormuz by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), highlighted the crucial work the Royal Navy undertakes safeguarding British interests on a daily basis.

HMS Montrose accompanying the Stena Important in response to the seizing of the Stena Impero.

The antagonistic behaviour of the Iranian regime, since the re-imposition of US sanctions in May for Tehran’s continued breeching of the failing Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), resulted in the recently established International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC). Based out of Bahrain, the United States (US)-led international Task Force will seek to ensure the safe passage of its members’ seafaring cargo, whilst maintaining uninterrupted access to the vital sea lanes around the Arabian peninsula.

The international approach of such a task force highlights how both the US and the UK seek collaboration with and support of trusted allies and partners. Australia was quick to announce its participation to the IMSC, deploying both a P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft to the region by the end of this year, and a frigate in January next year on a six-month deployment.

An Australian P-8A.

For an increased naval presence in the Gulf, gaining regional legitimacy through the support of regional powers is significant. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have all signed up to the maritime task force with various commitments.

As those heady summer months have now given way to a cooling autumn, the tempo of British defence shows no such regression. Whilst summer showcased the highly successful Operation Baltic Protector, autumn is now set to highlight the biannual Joint Warrior exercise; involving nearly 4,000 troops from 14 allied nations, 58 aircraft, 16 ships and three submarines.

FILE PHOTO: Joint Warrior.

Taking place across Scotland and northern England over the next two weeks, this multinational UK-led exercise will test the defensive capabilities of the UK and its partnered nations; 11 from NATO, in addition to, significantly, the Japanese Self-Defence Forces, and the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces.

Whilst Joint Warrior is conducted over October across the British Isles, the IMSC is now operational, ensuring daily escort duties and safe passage to the Gulf peninsula’s vulnerable sea lanes, including the Strait of Hormuz through which 20% of global oil flows every year. In addition, security is maintained at the Bab-el-Mandeb, a 16-mile-wide strait located between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, and Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa. Vulnerable to both pirates operating in the region in addition to Iranian interference, the strait connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden; a crucial sea lane which links the region directly to the Mediterranean Sea and Europe, via Suez.

What links these two events together, the noticeable and continuous UK lead in repeated European military exercises with NATO partners, and the leading role the UK has in the IMSC, is the dynamism with which London exercises its foreign and defence policy, linked tightly to its vision for a Global Britain. Once the UK leaves the European Union, London will still maintain a strong lead in European defence matters through the proven framework of NATO and the strength of the Anglo-American strategic relationship, in addition to other non-NATO European allies. But crucially, the UK will also look to international partners with which it shares long and significant ties with to sustain and indeed develop economic, diplomatic, cultural and security relations.

Pictured: HMS Duncan safely escorts MV Mid Eagle and MV BW Magellen through the Straits of Hormuz. HMS Duncan was part of the multi-national, International Maritime Security Coalition, ensuring safe routes for shipping through the region.

Maintaining uninterrupted access to crucial sea lanes including the Straits at Hormuz and Bab-el-Mandeb, against both state and non-state interference, is central to these British interests. Whilst one eye is locked onto sustaining a secure Europe with NATO partners, it will be in a return east of Suez to which British foreign policy will seek to develop going forwards in 2020.

Advancing already strong historical and cultural ties with regional powers including Oman, the UAE, India, Japan, Singapore and Australia will be fundamental to achieving this exciting vision for Britain.

British and Japanese forces work together.

London shares strong economic and military relations with the above powers. In particular, the UAE has recently displayed highly encouraging signs for future levels of defence and trade development.

Its participation in the IMSC highlights its emergence as a regional military power, willing to engage with security concerns in a multinational forum, whilst bilateral UK defence ties with the Emirates are also growing; this week Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces, held talks with the UK Ministry of Defence’s senior adviser on the Middle East, with both Iran and the IMSC likely high on the agenda.

Further, economic ties with the UAE have witnessed rapid growth in the last decade. With a trade surplus of £4.3 billion in 2018, and a 68% growth rate for UK goods exported since 2008, trade with the UAE should certainly be a consideration for further development going into 2020.

Now with an emerging defence and security relationship to back this increasingly strategic partnership, relations with the UAE are a case study for how London can project its foreign policy going forwards to truly make Britain global once more.

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andy reeves

this is exactly the way to highlight just how thinly the r.n IS GLOBALLY SPREAD AND EMPHASIZES WHY THE U.K NEEDS A BIGGER NAVA


I think it highlights that maybe we should stop pretending to be a global player. We can’t afford a significantly larger navy, as would be required to make these deployments anything more than token. 4 or 5 extra ships isn’t going to do much.


I disagree; we do have the funds to afford such a role and it is in our own best interests. We are not a super-power – but we can certainly afford to be a global player, in the top 10 (or even top 6). What we must do is spend our treasure more wisely … we must look for partnerships (the type 26 is encouraging here) and we must look at our other financial commitments. I believe the interest on our national debt is now more annually than our defence budget, let alone the welfare state costs. And of course… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Agree Elizzar.


How would that make us a global player if we are cancelling/reducing other budgets to do it The US does it with a bigger foreign aid budget than us, they spend a lot on welfare as well, look at what China is spending while still being able to afford much, much more on their military “6+ RFA Argus-type vessels, marines and engineers cruising the globe, with helicopters and the like for disaster relief and infrastructure projects.” What has an RFA Argus-type vessel got to do with infrastructure projects? A portion of our GDP has been paying the interest on our… Read more »


I’d prefer an enlarged RN properly securing the N Atlantic, Baltic and Med. I’d leave the Indian Ocean and S China Sea to others. We can’t be everywhere and our business is closer to home. We are already in the top 10 easily and possibly the top 6 when you consider good kit and training rather than just numbers


We can afford to be in the top 10 maybe, and I am not sure about that. GDP is only part of the puzzle, also wage costs, levels of health and safety and plus country poverty level (poorer people more likely to sign-up) and social welfare expenditure come into play.

But even if you do put us in the top 5, which over nation outside the US has its assets spread globally?

The majority of our trade comes from the EU and US, this isn’t about supporting trade it’s about vanity and holding onto the past.

Barry Larking

Enoch Powell pointed out that the United Kingdom was never a major power. It has been completely unable (and unwilling) to prosecute a major conflict in Europe since Elizabeth I of England on its own. England and then the United Kingdom has always fought in major conflicts around the world as an ally. Our greatest achievements have been made as part of successful alliances. Our many friends value our contributions and the training and commitment of U.K. forces is enough assurance for most. One Russian observer at a British exercise is reported to have said he was glad our armed… Read more »

David Flandry

The UK could afford a pre-2010 navy.

Levi Goldsteinberg

Its not a case of “can’t” afford – its “won’t” afford. HMG would rather spend cash in other areas, much to the detriment of British foreign policy


Detriment or benefit? I don’t know the answer to this, but it is a question, what helps our foreign policy (trade position) more, international aid spent on emerging countries and not starting wars, or spending money on defence and fighting endless wars.

GDP per capita of the UK is lower than a lot of far more peaceful countries and even overall GDP is only marginally higher than France/Spain/Italy and yet the UK is involved far more internationally, so is it really helping us beyond vanity?


I agree with a strong military to defend our country but less so on flag flying around the world to get defence deals with countries with questionable human rights records and where there not a huge tax revenue coming back from it.


I think the wake as seen in the title picture best depicts British foreign policy these past 50 years


The move is inevitable considering post-Brexit Britain will be looking to this reiogn for increased trade and international support for keeping international trade routes free. The move if approved, will lead to an increase in the RN fleet, and hopefully, commensurate with growing trade commitments?

Bloke down the pub

At a cursory glance, some articles and comment on this site have an anti Brexit stance. It’s worth remembering that before IMSC was formed, there was a failed attempt to form an EU led maritime protection force in the region.


The “I” in IMSC stands for “International”. What’s wrong with that?

The problem with a EU led force is that the E in it stands for France getting political and economic benefit from it. Perhaps that’s why the UK suggested it.


The UK needs friends it can trust. Note how France and Germany declined to support UK in Stena seizure whilst Australia is sending a P8 and frigate to the Gulf. Shows things in their true light doubly so when you consider how UK helped France in Mali.


Pity: I switched-off a bit when the author cited Iran’s, ‘continued breeching of the failing Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)’. It was actually the USA who pulled-out to the regret of all of the other signatories; including HM Government.



“The antagonistic behaviour of the Iranian regime, since the re-imposition of US sanctions in May for Tehran’s continued breeching of the failing Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)“

I didn’t switch off a bit, I just stopped reading and went straight to the comments

The author has the audacity to name his article “a case study of British foreign policy” then gets British foreign policy totally wrong regarding our view on the JCPOA

David Flandry

Yet Iran was failing to live up to the plan. The US merely recognized that fact.


The IAEA was the official monitor and they confirmed that Iran was in full compliance. I suspect what is closer to the truth is that Tehran stepped-up efforts to assert itself in the region to the annoyance of US allies – at which point they exerted influence on the US to act. If that was poorly judged by Terhran, the American response was worse: They created needless tension and what’s far worse, have created a total mistrust of the value of a treaty. This has long-term implications for world stability, the nature of which we can’t know the full extent… Read more »


OOA stop it with all those facts, they don’t fit the Iran bad guy narrative


Thank you for saying that OOA


I didn’t quite switch off but you could actually hear my eyes roll! I’m glad others have noted it. Forget British foreign policy… American foreign policy at the minute seems to depend entirely what mood DJT is in when he decides to post on twitter. Trump is no politician and certainly no diplomat. Some may say that is a good thing as politics need a shake up – but it’s only a good thing if the man in charge is willing to take advice and occasionally engage his brain before before opening his trap. The fact the Pentagon was taken… Read more »


Thank you for giving me all the reason I need to vote for him again. Because if this is how “allies” act when America looks out for itself, it shows you who your friends are. I don’t want a “statesman” or someone who just lets the revolving door of career bureaucrats and lobbyists at the State Department have their way.
On another note the Chairman of the Joint Chief’s and the Army Chief of Staff were fully informed of his intent to leave.


If you need me to encourage you to vote for him then god help you. Good to know it’s a little rage against the machine you’re having though.

And as for your ‘how ”allies” act’ comment… If you listen carefully you can almost hear the smashing of glass houses against thrown stones.

Barry Larking

The ‘agreement’ was shocker. I was appalled anyone would sign it. The Germans want to end sanctions so they can flog Iran industrial stuff – galore. The French wish to end sanctions for twofold reasons; one to stuff the Americans, their ungrateful prodigies and to get Iranian oil deals. The then British government would do anything to keep the E.U. happy. The speed with which Iran has pursued enrichment following Trump’s decision is proof of their long term goals. They were cheating. Even the I.A.E.A. saw that. Trump is as crass as the fashionable intelligence maintains but he has that… Read more »


I wish the UK still had Gan. It is in such a good position to monitor regional trouble spots.


Sorry this is going to be a long one. I have looked at many of the comments and the article and agree that for the commitments of the RN it must get bigger. Some say that we should concentrate on the Atlantic and Med and in many ways I agree with this. Yet in this we have a problem, we as a nation cannot afford as much as I would like to see a fleet of 15 type 26 frigates, well at the moment anyway. Lets look at first areas of UK interest and responsibility. By understanding the areas of… Read more »

Oscar Zulu

The last British protectorate proper was the British Solomon Islands, now Solomon Islands, which gained independence in 1978; the last British protected state was Brunei, which gained full independence in 1984. The IMF estimated in 2011 that Brunei was one of two countries with a public debt at 0% of the national GDP. Forbes had ranked Brunei as the fifth-richest nation out of 182, based on its petroleum and natural gas fields. For comparison Brunei has a total GDP greater than either South Korea or Spain. Its per capita GDP is 1.7 times greater than the UK. The country is… Read more »


Oscar Zulu, I totally agree with your figures and yes I simplifed termangology otherwise I would need to write a full thesis. Brunei does have links with the UK and the UK participates in the defence of the country. Its one of the reasons that the Gurkhas are there. I used Brunei as a possible Royal Navy base as we do have relitivly good relations with the country and its strategic location. With political will and foresight the UK could have some strategic locations to act in regional trouble spots if need be without having a huge navy that we… Read more »


Why bother with forward deploying one of your proposed squadrons to Brunei when the RN could more easily use its existing facilities at Sembawang in Singapore for essentially the same strategic effect? Surely that would also strengthen the FPDA?


Have you been to Sembawang recently?
There is a jetty and…nope thats it…a jetty.
There is little if any infrastructure that you would associate with a Naval Base.
The actual Singaporean Naval Base is a whole different beast. Well equipped and built to support a Naval Force.


Yes of course the RN facilities in Singapore are limited at the moment, but surely limited faciliities are easier to develop into something usable than the, as far as I know, non-existent naval infrastructure we have in Brunei. I am sure the Republic of Singapore Navy would be open to the idea of hosting an RN squadron within their base if necessary, and surely the maintenance facilities avaiable in Singapore are far more advanced than anything reasonable British investment could produce in Brunei given the relative size of the Singapore and Brunei navies?


Daniel, I thought about Singapore, and I agree that it would be a good location for the Straits of Malacca. There is from my thinking several issues with it and why I think Brunei could be better. First is that we would need to make special arrangements with Singapore and build a base, a naval base needs not only an area for the ships but troops to protect it etc. Also the navy of Singapore and the Malayian navy is more than capabile to look after the Strais of Malacca with some extra assistance if they need it. So for… Read more »


Ah well that line of argument does make a lot of sense. My only concern would be the security of our current relationship with the Sultan of Brunei given China’s growing influence in the region. Additionally, whilst I take the point of likely trouble spots being closer to Brunei than to Singapore, the two ports are closer to each other than Portsmouth is to Gib, so I feel like the better infrastructure available at Singapore would be better suited to hosting a deployment of such a size.

James Fennell

Agreed, British influence in Brunei was maintained primarily because of the threat from Indonesia and Chinese-backed communist insurgency in the 1960s-80s (the same reason Malaysia and Singapore did not object to British and Australian forces retaining bases on their territory after independence). Indonesian claims over Brunei, Sarawak and North Borneo have subsided, and China is no longer exporting communist terrorism, rather China is now behaving more like Japan in the inter-war period, looking for regional hegemony to guarantee access to raw materials and trading routes. The war on terror has created some distance, as has, frankly, the lower level of… Read more »


Cheers Ron for the post.
Still not convinced regarding the utility of fast attack craft and if they would be a good fit for the RN but open to listen to arguments in their favour.
Would the Carribean warrant a Squadron?

Would it be worth considering a squadron of 2 to 3 ships.
2 T31 and 1 enhanced River 2.
1 T31 and 2 enhanced River 2.

Or if lower threat
1 T31 and 1 enhanced River 2

Instead of going down the FAC route.


Thanks for the comments Don, I will try my best here to answer the two questions and one problem as far as I can see from your post. First I will start with the one problem the River 2. I am not going to go bashing them as they are good boats with two issues for their use in the Carribean, one speed they are just not fast enough to catch drug runners or people smugglers. Two helicopter hanger or lack of. With the lack of speed the Rivers would need to use a helicopter but with the lack of… Read more »


Cheers Ron for your reply. The short legs of a Fast missile boat would limit it area of operations and the Caribbean patrol area is quite large. They would need facilities to host them either on land or a RFA ship. This would be alot of resources for a Caribbean tasking. I would Favour a single Type 31 as a standing task. During Hurricaine season I would add a River to this tasking. The Type 31 could host a second Wildcat when the River deploys and the River hopefully will have something like the AWHERO. With doing this I would… Read more »

James Fennell

It’s a bit of a weak kneed return. The Eastern Fleet that withdrew from Singapore after 1967 had far more hulls and around the same tonnage as the entire current fleet, including 2 carriers, a cruiser and more than 20 escorts.


True I also wish that we have the size of fleet that we did 50 years ago but we don’t and we still have the same type of issues the same size of ocean to cover with a reduced budget. This was a way on looking at threats, responsabilities and what is needed, cut to the size of a realistic budget whilst having a good punch if needs must.
When I think of the size of the British Pacific Fleet 1945 modern Royal Navy Admirals would be straining at the leash to get their hands on it.