HMS Dragon, a Type 45 destroyer of the British Royal Navy, is scheduled to reach Cyprus today as part of the UK’s defensive military build up in the Eastern Mediterranean.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman told CNA today that the ship was planned to return to Britain later this month following a routine mission in the Gulf, but it was decided to be deployed to Cyprus. “It was decided it should stay in the Eastern Mediterranean in order to enhance our defensive capability and to help defend UK interests in the area,” said the spokesman.
HMS Dragon is set to provide air defence and air surveillance for the international warships deployed around Cyprus in the wake of the Syrian crisis. The spokesman confirmed that the warship will be stationed in the British military base of Akrotiri.
Asked about the duration of its deployment to Cyprus, he said it will depend on the circumstances and that its mission will be kept under review.
The same source told CNA that just before the weekend three chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) specialists were also sent to Cyprus. Their mission is “to assess risks” related to a possible chemical attack that might affect the island.
“It is a small team of CBRN specialists, who will simply review the plan of how we would react to such a risk. It is clearly a move within the precautionary measures related to the tension in eastern Mediterranean,” said the MoD spokesman.
HMS Illustrious is also in the Mediterranean. British reports say its mission is to oversee preparations for evacuation of British nationals from the Middle East.
Britain, a former colonial power, has retained two military bases in Cyprus when the Republic gained its independence in 1960.