Denmark is sending the frigate Iver Huitfeldt to join the US-led naval coalition, Operation Prosperity Guardian, to help protect freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden amid Houthi attacks on shipping.
The frigate set sail on Monday from Korsør, Denmark, towards the Mediterranean Sea with plans to deploy in the operational zone once given final approval by Danish Parliament.
Iver Huitfeldt will participate in the Operational Preparedness Group (OPG) alongside other warships including the U.S. Navy’s Carrier Strike Group 2, consisting of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Gravely, USS Laboon, and USS Mason. The Royal Navy’s HMS Diamond is also participating in OPG.
Defense Minister, Troels Lund Poulsen, reiterated the significance of Denmark’s support in ensuring maritime safety in the region, given the country’s interests in maritime shipping and previous attacks on Danish-owned ships.
“With the contribution to Operation Prosperity Guardian, Denmark shows the will and ability to protect the right to free navigation, trade routes at sea and the ships’ crews against attacks from the Houthi movement in Yemen,” said Poulsen.
Before the frigate’s departure, Chief of Defense, Flemming Lentfer, visited the crew to ensure their readiness. “This mission has a significant probability of armed force use. The crew is ready for this vital task,” he said.
Denmark first announced plans to send a frigate to join Operation Prosperity Guardian in late December after Danish shipping giant Maersk began resuming transits through the region following a brief hiatus due to an attack on the Maersk Gibraltar weeks earlier. Within days of Denmark’s announcement, however, the Maersk containership Maersk Hangzhou was struck by a missile in the Red Sea, prompting the company to suspend transits indefinitely through the region. Last week, Maersk suspended its US-flag operations in the Red Sea after a Houthi attack targeting a Maersk Line, Limited ship carrying U.S. government cargo.
Iver Huitfeldt will join Combined Task Force 153 (CTF153), the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) task force focussing on maritime security in the Red Sea. Operation Prosperity Guardian, launched by the U.S. in mid-December, operates under the umbrella of Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and is led by CTF153. The OPG coalition is said to involve more than 20 countries, however, only the U.S. and UK are currently contributing warships to the effort.
The Iver Huitfeldt is the lead ship in a three-ship class of air defense frigates that entered service with the Royal Danish Navy in 2012 and 2013. It is equipped with a full weapons package and also has a Seahawk helicopter onboard.
The frigate, with a crew of approximately 175 people, is expected to operate in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden from early February to mid-April 2024. A statement from the Danish Armed Forces said the frigate has a self-defense and extended self-defense mandate, allowing the crew to protect themselves and nearby ships from attacks. In addition to Operation Prosperity Guardian, Denmark will provide a staff officer for an American-led offensive coalition against the Houthis, aiming to diminish the group’s capacity to attack shipping.
The frigate’s crew recently completed the Fleet Operational Sea Training (FOST) in England, a six-week program designed to prepare the ship and crew for a variety of tasks, including combat operations.
Denmark also has staff officers at the Combined Maritime Forces headquarters in Bahrain, where CTF153 leadership is located, to support operation and international coordination.
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