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Rock’s reinvigorated military importance underlined on minister’s visit to Gibraltar

HMS Dagger passes the lighthouse at Europa Point
22 August 2023
The Royal Navy’s senior officer in the Mediterranean underscored the renewed importance of Gibraltar when Armed Forces Minister James Heappey called on the Rock.

Commodore Tom Guy, Commander British Forces Gibraltar, was among several military and political leaders who hosted the minister during a brief visit.

Since the ministers last visit, the military/strategic role of the tiny British Overseas Territory in military operations in the Mediterranean - and beyond – has expanded significantly, assisted by investment in new kit and infrastructure.

The Rock has become a forward base for HMS Trent to conduct her operations in the Mediterranean (she’s currently deployed to West Africa for the autumn); a refit facility for Trent’s sister ship HMS Forth after her patrols of the Falklands; and new fast patrol boats HMS Cutlass and Dagger have become the long-term replacements for the RN Gibraltar Squadron, safeguarding the Rock’s territorial waters and venturing beyond on occasions to work with regional allies.

The squadron has found itself called upon increasingly to provide protection for visiting warships; there’s been a three-fold rise in UK and Allied vessels using the base (around 80 ships and half a dozen submarines every year are stopping at the Rock).

The naval base itself has/is undergoing a revamp; Whitehall is investing upwards of £50m in refurbishing the South Mole, improving the communications infrastructure and bringing the Kings Lines Oil Fuel Depot back into use. Already completed is the first overhaul in more than 30 years of the iconic Tower, the iconic Edwardian building in the naval base, which serves as Cdre Guy’s headquarters.

Beyond the base, the tunnels and other military facilities of Gib have doubled in usage by troops – around 2,300 UK personnel are expected to hit the Rock this year to hone their skills, not least the Royal Marines of 43 Commando who fine tune their urban combat tactics (and exploit the latest drone tech).

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