An armada of US and British naval power is massing in the Persian Gulf as Israel is considering a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s covert nuclear weapons programme.
Battleships, aircraft carriers, minesweepers and submarines from 25 nations are converging on the strategically important Strait of Hormuz in an unprecedented show of force as Israel and Iran move towards the brink of war.
According to the Telegraph, western leaders are convinced that Iran will retaliate to any attack by attempting to mine or blockade the shipping lane through which around 18 million barrels of oil passes every day, which is approximately 35 percent of the world’s petroleum traded by sea.
A blockade would have a catastrophic effect on the fragile economies of Britain, Europe the United States and Japan, all of which rely heavily on oil and gas supplies from the Gulf, the report said.
In preparation for any pre-emptive or retaliatory action by Iran, warships from more than 25 countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have begun an annual 12-day exercise.
They will practise tactics in how to breach an Iranian blockade of the strait and the force will also undertake counter-mining drills, the report said. According to the report, the multi-national naval force in the Gulf includes three US Nimitz class carrier groups, each of which has more aircraft than the entire complement of the Iranian air force.
The carriers are supported by at least 12 battleships, including ballistic missile cruisers, frigates, destroyers and assault ships carrying thousand of US Marines and special forces, the report said.
The British component consists of four British minesweepers and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Cardigan Bay, a logistics vessel. HMS Diamond, a brand-new 1 billion pound Type 45 destroyer, one of the most powerful ships in the British fleet, will also be operating in the region.
According to the report, in the event of war, the main threat to the multi-national force will come from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps navy, which is expected to adopt an “access-denial” strategy in the wake of an attack, by directly targeting US warships, attacking merchant shipping and mining vital maritime chokepoints in the Persian Gulf.
Defence sources said that although Iran’s capability may not be technologically sophisticated, it could deliver a series of lethal blows against British and US ships using mini-subs, fast attack boats, mines and shore-based anti-ship missile batteries, the report said.