Britain tipped to send £4bn aircraft carrier to Red Sea amid surge in Middle East tensions

Britain tipped to send £4bn aircraft carrier to Red Sea amid surge in Middle East tensions

WATCH NOW: Rishi Sunak gives statement addressing the Government's response to the Yemen strikes

GB News
Holly Bishop

By Holly Bishop

Published: 31/01/2024

- 09:33

The vessel could replace the USS Dwight D Eisenhower, an American carrier that has been deployed to protect ships in the region

Britain is considering sending a £4billion aircraft carrier to the Red Sea to counter drone and missile attacks from Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in the Middle East, the armed forces minister said.

James Heappey suggested that the UK could replace the USS Dwight D Eisenhower, a vessel which has been deployed by Washington to protect ships in the area. He expects it eventually will return to America.

He said on Tuesday that the UK may “co-operate with the Americans” and step in to “plug a gap” in the Red Sea.

It comes after a Houthi chief said that they were planning for a “long-term confrontation” in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

HMS Queen Elizabeth

The HMS Queen Elizabeth is one of the two carriers tipped to replace the USS Dwight D Eisenhower


HMS Diamond is currently stationed in the Red Sea to protect the vital shipping route, whilst the UK has engaged in various strikes on Houthi sites in the area.

The UK currently has two aircraft carriers that are designed to carry F-35 fighter jets - the HMS Queen Elizabeth and the HMS Prince of Wales.

If the HMS Prince of Wales were deployed, it would be its first combat operation.

Heappey indicated that the Royal Navy could intervene “when the Eisenhower goes home, if we were needed to plug a gap in US deployments, or if the situation deteriorates and we need more.”


HMS Diamond in Red Sea

HMS Diamond is currently deployed in the Red Sea to protect the vital shipping route


He added: “The fact is the Eisenhower can't stay there forever. And so there's a thing about just maintaining a carrier presence in the region where we might cooperate with the Americans to provide a capability there.”

However, he said that whilst the Eisenhower is stationed there, there is no need for an additional carrier in the region.

Tensions in the Red Sea could be set to mount, after Mohamed al-Atifi, the Houthi defence minister, released a statement yesterday warning of continued attacks.

He said: “We are prepared for a long-term confrontation with the forces of tyranny. The Americans, the British, and those who coordinated with them must realise the power of the sovereign Yemeni decision and that there is no debate or dispute over it.”

Houthi fighter stands on the Galaxy Leader cargo ship in the Red Sea

Houthi fighters have been targeting ships in the Red Sea since November 2023


Houthi attacks on freight and military vessels in the Red Sea which began in November 2023, have led to action from the US, who launched Operation Prosperity Guardian alongside more than 20 other nations including the UK in December.

The militant rebels said the attacks were in response to Israel's military actions in Gaza.

Last week, a vessel with ties to Britain was stuck by a missile near Aden, Yemen, as reported by the UK Maritime Transport Operations (UKMTO) centre.

Houthis claimed responsibility, saying their forces carried out an operation targeting “the British oil tanker Marlin Luanda”. Whilst the operator of the ship is registered to a British company, the tanker flies under the flag of the Marshall Islands.

Assistance was provided to the vessel by French, Indian and US Naval ships.

UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps called the attack “intolerable and illegal.”

“It is our duty to protect freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and we remain as committed to that cause as ever,” he said on social media.

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