In London, Britain's Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said his country was ready to strengthen its military presence in the Gulf if needed.
The U.S.-led convoy of warships now in the Gulf — which included Britain's HMS Argyll frigate and France's frigate La Motte Picquet [sic] — sent "a clear signal about the resolve of the international community to defend the right of free passage through international waters," Hammond told reporters.
"We also maintain mine-counter measures vessels in the Gulf, which are an important part of the overall allied presence there, and of course the U.K. has a contingent capability to reinforce that presence should at any time it be considered necessary to do so," he added...
Hammond declined to offer specific details on what forces are currently in the Gulf, but said it had about 1,500 Navy personnel in the region east of Suez, which includes the Middle East and Indian Ocean, and a Royal Air Force base in Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean.
Four anti-mine vessels are based out of Bahrain, which is also the base for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet. Britain also has two frigates — including HMS Argyll — three support ships, a survey vessel and one hunter-killer nuclear submarine in the region, the ministry said.
Last year, the U.K. created a Response Force Task Group — drawn from a pool of warships and marines — that can be deployed at short notice.
In Paris, French military spokesman Col. Thierry Burkhard said the French warship, which specializes in countering submarine attacks, has since separated from the British and American vessels, but remains on a "presence mission" in the Gulf.
France doesn't have plans to deploy more forces to the zone, said Burkhard, noting that France has a small base in the United Arab Emirates, which currently houses six Rafale warplanes and about 650 troops, including an infantry battalion.
HMS Argyll (F 231) Duke class (Type 23) frigate (FFGHM)