British drones attacking ISIS in Iraq and Syria could be sent to Gulf to protect shipping from Iran in the wake of tanker crisis
Larissa Brown – Daily Mail Online Sept 2, 2019
Drones targeting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria could be redeployed to the Gulf to help protect shipping from Iran.
Navy chiefs have requested surveillance support to combat the threat from Iranian forces in the Strait of Hormuz.
The most senior Briton in the Gulf, Commodore Dean Bassett, the UK’s maritime component commander, said Britain was ‘actively looking’ at options to boost its military presence. It is understood one option being considered is sending Reaper aircraft, currently on Operation Shader fighting Isis, to carry out surveillance.
The UK currently has two warships in the region equipped with helicopters with surveillance capabilities. However, they are reliant on US unmanned vehicles to spot Iranian vessels further away.
Cdre Bassett said: ‘In the last couple of months we have seen a dramatic change in the security threat in the area… What we are looking for is a mix of capabilities so that we can provide persistent surveillance.’ Asked what he needed, he said: ‘It could be a drone, it could be a maritime patrol aircraft, it could be a helicopter on the back of a ship, it could be a ship.’
Iran frequently sends drones close to UK warships and British-flagged merchant vessels in the region.
The UK scrapped its maritime patrol aircraft programme in 2010 but will be replacing it next year.