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30 Nov 2023

Royal Navy task force to deploy with JEF partners to defend undersea cables

Royal Navy task force to deploy with JEF partners to defend undersea cables
UK MOD © Crown copyright 2023
UK Ministry of Defence Press Release

Six Royal Navy warships, a Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship, and a Royal Air Force maritime patrol aircraft will form the UK’s contribution to the JEF deployment.

A Royal Navy task force of seven ships will deploy with allies early next month to jointly patrol areas with vulnerable undersea critical infrastructure, following an unprecedented agreement by ministers of the ten JEF nations.

The UK contribution to the deployment will include two Royal Navy frigates, two offshore patrol vessels and mine countermeasures vessels, as well as a Royal Fleet Auxiliary landing ship – supported by a Royal Air Force P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.

The contingent will depart in early December to join other ships and aircraft from JEF participant nations to launch joint patrols, with vessels spaced to cover a wide area from the English Channel to the Baltic Sea – demonstrating the interoperability between JEF nations in the maritime and air domains.

It comes after defence ministers from all ten JEF nations met on Tuesday and unanimously agreed to activate a protocol mobilising military assets from across participant nations – known as a JEF Response Option (JRO) – for the first time in JEF’s history.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said:

This historic and unprecedented agreement will see a Royal Navy task force of seven ships, supported by the RAF, join allies from across northern Europe as part of a joint operation to defend our shared critical infrastructure against potential threats.

The UK and our JEF partners will do whatever it takes to defend our mutual areas of interest, and today’s display of unshakeable unity sends a powerful message of deterrence that we stand ready to meet any potential threat with force.

Together, we stand firmly in support of peace, security, and a steadfast resolve to uphold the rules-based international order.

During the deployment, ships and aircraft from JEF nations will work together to carry out deterrent patrol in areas of key interest, as well as to deepen surveillance around offshore assets and share intelligence.

The patrols will ensure an extended security presence, picking up from NATO’s enhanced Vigilance Activity which took place in the Baltic Sea region throughout November. 

The agreement comes following an extraordinary meeting of JEF defence ministers to discuss options for joint activity to defend offshore critical infrastructure, after an increase in attacks and threats.

Ministers from the ten JEF nations issued a joint statement following Tuesday’s virtual meeting, highlighting the significance of the first activation of a bespoke JRO – providing a tangible demonstration of the JEF as a credible contributor to Northern European security.

The JEF is a group of like-minded nations – Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The nations share the same purpose, values and a common focus on security and stability in the JEF core regions of the High North, North Atlantic and Baltic Sea region.

At a meeting of leaders from the JEF nations last month, the Prime Minister vowed to step up the UK’s military presence in northern Europe – deploying more than 20,000 troops to the region next year, with the intent to combat emerging hybrid threats and to defend critical national infrastructure.

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