Accompanied by HMS Sabre and HMS Scimitar, frigate HMS Monmouth conducted a ‘sovereignty patrol’ of territorial waters off Gibraltar.
AB(Sea) Kristoffer Auld said:
“Gibraltar has a certain mystique about it and everyone in the Navy has a good Gib story.
I’m really pleased to have visited this part of the UK and it will always be that little bit more special for me as it’s my first foreign stop.”
Also tested off Gibraltar in addition to her various machine gun weapons was her ScanEagle miniature eyes in the sky; the small drone has proved to be a crucial asset in monitoring shipping in the Gulf, beaming live camera footage directly into ship’s operations room.
British frigates will however soon be left without the maritime unmanned air system from late 2017, with no funding available to replace the drone.
ScanEagle is a small unmanned air vehicle developed by Insitu and Boeing. ScanEagle has a range of 1,500km and an endurance of more than 28 hours. The aircraft carries a stabilised electro-optical and/or IR camera on a lightweight inertial stabilised turret system, and an integrated communications system. Each ScanEagle system costs US$3.2 million.
HMS Richmond had recently used her ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle to locate and monitor smugglers and relay information to task force commanders. The frigate and her international counterparts in Combined Task Force 150, intercepted the six smuggler boats as the vessels headed for Tanzania.
The fleet seized nearly a tonne of heroin. Based on UK current wholesale value of heroin, the seizure has a potential price tag of £98m as an estimated street value.
In 2014, Philip Hammond, then Defence Secretary, said it would “play a crucial role in operations and humanitarian missions not only in the Gulf but also on Royal Navy vessels right across the globe, further underlining our commitment to invest in innovative capabilities”.
According to the Royal Navy,
“On sailing from Gibraltar HMS Monmouth will head east. She’ll join HMS Echo on the international Operation Sophia, the response of Europe’s military to the migrant problem in North Africa and the central Mediterranean, before passing through Suez for the core of the deployment dealing with terrorism/piracy/drug trafficking/arms smuggling in the Indian Ocean and Gulf.”