UK could send aircraft carrier to ‘plug a gap’ in Red Sea | Politics News

The UK could send an aircraft carrier to the Red Sea amid the ongoing attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels, the armed forces minister has suggested.

James Heappey indicated an aircraft carrier could be deployed to the region to replace the USS Dwight D Eisenhower – nicknamed the Ike – when it is returned to America.

Alongside the US, the UK has launched a series of airstrikes against Houthi targets in the region following attacks by the rebel group on commercial shipping interests in the Red Sea.

Middle East latest: Iran warns of decisive response to any attack

The UK warship HMS Diamond is stationed in the Red Sea to protect shipping in the key trading route, while US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said the USS Dwight D Eisenhower was sent to the region to “deter hostile actions against Israel or any efforts toward widening this war following Hamas’s attack on Israel”.

In an interview with the House magazine, Mr Heappey suggested a UK aircraft carrier could be sent to the region to “plug a gap”.

“There’s no real need for more carrier mass – for more carriers to be in the region than the Ike can provide. She’s a very capable ship,” he said.

“So our judgment was that with the Ike on station – the Eisenhower on station – and with jets available from Akrotiri, that we were able to meet the challenge as it is now.”

He indicated the Royal Navy could step in “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”.

Read more:
The military firepower the UK and US have at their disposal
Biden vows to respond to attack that killed US soldiers. What are his options?
Iran and the US were once friends – what happened?

“The fact is the Eisenhower can’t stay there forever,” he added. “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.”

The UK currently has two aircraft carriers in service – the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.

Earlier this week Rishi Sunak urged Iran to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East after three US troops were killed in a drone strike on a US base in Jordan.

US President Joe Biden has blamed Iran-backed militias for deaths, which have come after months of strikes by the Houthis against US forces since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.