Britain to send seven Royal Navy ships to patrol areas with undersea cables

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Thursday it will send seven Royal Navy ships and a maritime patrol aircraft to take part in Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) patrols of areas with vulnerable undersea infrastructure next month.

Europe and NATO have become increasingly concerned about the vulnerability of critical infrastructure around and under the Baltic Sea. JEF, a 10-nation military alliance of northern European countries, is focused on security in the High North, North Atlantic and Baltic Sea region.

Last month, Sweden said a Baltic Sea telecom cable connecting Sweden and Estonia was damaged at roughly the same time as a Finnish-Estonian pipeline and cable. That followed explosions in September 2022 that ruptured the Nord Stream pipelines under the Baltic Sea and cut Europe’s supply of Russian gas.

“The UK and our JEF partners will do whatever it takes to defend our mutual areas of interest, and today’s display of unshakeable unity sends a powerful message of deterrence that we stand ready to meet any potential threat with force,” British Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said.

Britain said it will contribute six Royal Navy warships, a Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship, and a Royal Air Force maritime patrol aircraft to the JEF deployment to “patrol areas most vulnerable to interference, conduct surveillance operations, and act as a deterrent force against potential threats”.

Vessels will be spaced to cover a wide area from the Channel to the Baltic Sea, it added.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Bill Berkrot)