Royal Navy warships to join one of largest naval exercises to push tech and training boundaries
The Royal Navy will share its drug-busting and maritime security knowledge with allies in the Middle East during the world's second-largest naval exercise.
Taking place in Cyprus, Kenya, Bahrain and the Arabian Sea over three weeks, the Navy will take part in International Maritime Exercise 23 (IMX23), designed to tackle threats as varied as terrorism, smuggling, sea mines and aerial drone attacks.
The senior Royal Navy officer in the Middle East, Commodore Phil Dennis said: "It is vitally important that the UK is participating fully in IMX23 alongside our partners in the Gulf.
"Regularly exercising, sharing knowledge and increasing operational integration with our allies is essential if we are to contribute to the maintenance of maritime security across the region."
The UK will be sending all the Royal Navy's Gulf-based ships to the exercise, supported by experts in diving and bomb disposal.
They will be supported by boarding and search specialists from the Royal Marines, drone operators, medics, and the Royal Air Force, which will be providing aerial support.
The American-led exercise is spread across thousands of miles of the Middle East and Africa and is billed as the largest naval exercise in the world after the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) run by the US Navy in Hawaii.
It is estimated that more than 7,500 military personnel from 50 nations will be involved in IMX 23.
Support ship RFA Cardigan Bay will serve as a floating testbed for a string of technology trials, and will also be directing mine-hunting exercises with HMS Chiddingfold, HMS Bangor, and HMS Middleton.
HMS Lancaster will be carrying out maritime security training in the Gulf and the Arabian Sea.
HMS Lancaster will also be used for uncrewed assets trials and experimentation with 700X Naval Air Squadron, the Royal Navy's dedicated crewless aircraft unit, to see whether drones could be used for locating targets and improving accuracy.
Royal Marines and Royal Navy sailors will be sharing their expertise on board and during search operations.
These have yielded positive results over the past 10 years, with seizures of millions of pounds worth of illegal narcotics as well as weapons caches.