A Royal Navy frigate appears to have saved the day in the Gulf yesterday thwarting would could be described as an attempt by Iran to seize a British tanker. Three Iranian guntboats approached the vessel but they were sent packing by HMS Montrose.

Unfortunately, Britain has many tankers and few frigates so it would be almost impossible for the Royal Navy to escort all or even half of the British flagged tankers in the Persian Gulf. For many years the British government has come under fire for reducing Britain´s frigate/destroyer fleet from 50 at the time of the Falklands war to just 19. Manning and mechanical problems mean that the number of operational warships may not even reach double figures so the Ministry of Defence has a problem.

Many armchair admirals have been moaning for years over the lack of frigates and on this occasion they may be proved right. The problem is that no-one, or at least the decision-makers in the Ministry of Defence, thought that large number of frigates would be needed. Well they are needed now.

Twenty years ago the Royal Navy had three warships stationed in the Persian Gulf, the figure has now been reduced to just one. The Royal Navy is known for its professionalism across the globe but it can´t be in two places at the same time. Admiral Lord Nelson was always moaning about a lack of frigates in the fleet you could find the British government doing likewise.