US sends guided-missile destroyer to Gulf to boost 'regional maritime security'

Move comes as Washington increases its presence in the waterways of the Gulf amid tension with Iran

The guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61), left, and the guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) sail behind the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) during a Suez Canal transit, in this picture taken April 2, 2021 and released by U.S. Navy on April 3, 2021. Sophie A. Pinkham/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS- THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
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The US Navy has deployed a guided missile destroyer to the Gulf amid heightened tension with Iran.

Earlier this month, the US navy said it had prevented Iran from seizing two oil tankers, and released footage from a drone purporting to show an Iranian warship firing on one of the vessels.

One of the tankers, the Richmond Voyager, sustained minor damage to its hull.

The US Navy said another tanker, the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker TRF Moss, was being harassed by an Iranian warship until a US guided missile destroyer, the USS McFaul approached both vessels.

Both incidents occurred in the Gulf of Oman.

There has been a spate of military seizures and attacks on commercial shipping in the waterways of the Gulf this year, including the seizure of two tankers, one of them bound for Texas, in the space of a week in May.

The US navy said the latest deployment of a warship was intended “to help ensure regional maritime security and stability”.

Last month, the US sent F-16 fighter jets to reinforce its military presence in the region.

The USS Thomas Hudner is equipped with 96 missiles of various types, including powerful Tomahawk cruise missiles, as well as anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles.

In April, the US made the rare announcement that one of its most formidable submarines, the USS Florida, a nuclear-powered Ohio class submarine that can carry 154 cruise missiles, would be deployed to the region.

That followed the extension of a tour of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, one of ten Nimitz class aircraft carriers, the largest warships ever constructed.

Nimitz class aircraft carries have nuclear-powered propulsion, can carry up to 90 aircraft and cost about $10 billion a vessel.

While occurring with relative frequency this year, attacks on ships in the region were more aggressive last year, with two incidents using one-way attack drones, the first hitting oil tanker Mercer Street last July, killing two sailors when the explosive drone flew into a crew compartment.

In November, the Singapore-flagged M/T Pacific Zircon sustained light damage when it was also hit by a drone. Both tankers were linked to Israel-owned companies.

Updated: July 17, 2023, 8:15 PM