UK sends flagship for joint naval exercises with Cyprus and France


LIMASSOL, Cyprus – Britain has deployed its naval forces in its largest deployment off Cyprus in decades, to make its presence felt in the volatile region and underline what officials have said is the country’s commitment after Brexit to strengthen the security of Europe.A three-ship strike force centered around the Royal Navy’s flagship HMS Albion conducted joint maneuvers with a Cypriot patrol vessel and helicopters and the French frigate Jean Bart off the coastal town of Limassol on Tuesday.

The main part of the exercise involved Cypriot special forces and British Royal Marines boarding an allegedly hijacked ship by rapidly descending from hovering helicopters as small, maneuverable speedboats came alongside the ship. .

“It is the UK doing its part to demonstrate our commitment to European safety and security while working with our NATO allies and partners,” said the Deputy Strike Force Commander , Captain Phil Dennis at The Associated Press.

British military officials said the joint training with Cypriot forces also demonstrated a shared commitment to regional stability and a determination to further strengthen a bilateral defense relationship.

“Cyprus is a very important partner for the UK in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Mediterranean region in general,” said Captain Dennis, adding that the exercise offered “a great chance for us to see and experience understanding and knowing each other. ”

The UK retained two military bases in Cyprus after the eastern Mediterranean island gained independence from British colonial rule in 1960.

The exercise comes amid continued tensions with neighboring Turkey over rights to explore and drill for oil and gas around war-torn Cyprus.

The 20,400-ton HMS Albion, with a crew of 400, is an amphibious assault ship that can quickly deploy Royal Marines to land using its Wildcat helicopters or a pair of landing craft.

Officials said the deployment which included the HMS Dragon air defense destroyer also allowed personnel to experiment with new, high-tech tools that could help troops complete an assigned mission. These tools include a powerful drone that can carry up to 150 pounds (70 kilograms) of supplies or ammunition to frontline troops.

Menelaos Hadjicostis, The Associated Press


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