In a statement to Parliament, the Secretary of State has confirmed that HMS Richmond is heading to the Gulf region in response to the serious maritime security situation in the Red Sea.
Type 23 frigate HMS Richmond sailed from Plymouth on Friday, the first naval movement of the year from Devonport Naval Base. Although primarily an Anti-Submarine platform, she is well-equipped to protect merchant shipping from air and surface threats and armed with 32 Sea Ceptor missiles and a Wildcat helicopter she but lacks land-attack capability. HMS Richmond was the first frigate to have the PGMU engine upgrade which has performed reliably and the ship participated in the 50,000nm, 7-month 2021 Carrier Strike Deployment to the Pacific.
The Minister said: “We are working with allies and partners to protect freedom of navigation and remain committed to holding malign actors accountable for unlawful seizures and attacks. The Houthis will bear the responsibility of the consequences should they continue to threaten lives and commercial shipping in these critical waterways. As you would expect, while planning is underway for a range of scenarios, no decisions have been made and we continue to pursue all diplomatic routes”.
Subsequently, Grant Shapps has said HMS Richmond is going to replace either HMS Diamond or HMS Lancaster so there is “not an escalation”. The RN says Richmond will “stand in” for HMS Diamond and HMS Lancaster when either vessel needs to break off patrols for re-supply or maintenance. Effectively escort numbers in the Middle East region are being increased to three in order to maintain two at sea. HMS Diamond has not had the best mechanical reliability track record, she sailed for the Gulf on 22nd November 2023. HMS Lancaster is an old ship and when she left the UK in August 2022, it was announced she would be permanently based in Bahrain for 3 years.
Main image: Kevin Kelway / Westward Shipping News. HMS Richmond in Plymouth Sound, 5th January 2024.