HMS Montrose resumes Middle East patrols
The warship – based in Bahrain for more than three years to bolster the Royal Navy’s presence in the region – has re-joined an international task group after maintenance and trials to prepare her for the challenges of high summer in the Middle East.
Montrose has already seized nearly £100m of illegal drugs this year – totalling close to two tonnes – in addition to the five tonnes her team confiscated in 2021.
On top of that, as recently announced, the ship struck a major blow to the illegal arms trade when she intercepted fast boats carrying hi-tech weaponry and parts for cruise missiles.
After training off Oman – a spell of sonar, gunnery and communications trials in the Gulf of Oman – the ship hosted a reception for more than 120 guests from ten different countries in the capital Muscat, before beginning her current counter-narcotics patrol.
She’s working under the auspices of the Combined Maritime Forces, more than three dozen nations – the largest naval partnership on the planet – committed to the safety and security of shipping moving through the Gulf/Indian Ocean/Red Sea through four task forces, each of around six ships with a specific mission.
Montrose is assigned to Combined Task Force 150, established 20 years ago in the aftermath of the 9/11 atrocities, with the emphasis on disrupting terrorist and criminal organisations, plus other non-state actors, by obstructing their smuggling activities.
HMS Montrose is ideally suited to counter-narcotic operations: her Wildcat helicopter offers a formidable suite of sensors to pick out suspicious craft on the surface of the ocean, while a Royal Marines Boarding Team stands ready to lead board and search operations and secure those vessels, ahead of conducting the physical search, which often takes several hours.
“After a busy period of planned maintenance and equipment trials, everyone on board HMS Montrose is glad to be back on patrol,” said Commander Paul Irving, in command of the frigate’s port crew – who take it in turns with a second, starboard, crew to operate the ship for four months at a time.
“Supporting Task Force 150 in their counter-narcotics tasking is one of the primary roles that we undertake in the Middle East.
“HMS Montrose has enjoyed real success this year when it comes to counter-narcotic boardings and despite challenging environmental conditions our presence shows we are ready to add to that record if the opportunity presents.”
Overseeing the task group ultimately are the two most senior coalition officers in the Gulf: a United States Navy Vice Admiral, Brad Cooper, with the RN’s Commodore Adrian Fryer as his deputy.
“It is always reassuring to see the Royal Navy forward-deployed Type 23 Frigate out at sea in support of Combined Task Force 150,” Commodore Fryer said.
“HMS Montrose has a proven track record when it comes to counter-narcotics interdictions over the three years they have been deployed in this theatre, with four successful seizures in this year alone.
“The type of patrol HMS Montrose is undertaking is core business for the Combined Maritime Forces, a vital part of our mission to provide security and stability in the maritime environment."