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Royal Navy destroyer set for Falklands


One of the Royal Navy's most advanced new warships is being sent to the Falkland Islands, the Ministry of Defence said today.

Officials said the deployment was long planned, however, and not a riposte to increased tensions over the sovereignty of the islands.

HMS Dauntless, a Type 45 destroyer, is due to set sail for the South Atlantic on her maiden mission in the coming months to replace frigate HMS Montrose.

It comes amid a diplomatic war of words over renewed Argentinian claims to what it calls Las Malvinas, with David Cameron accusing them of "colonialism".

The issue is especially sensitive as the 30th anniversary approaches of the liberation of the islands by Britain from an Argentine invasion.

A Royal Navy spokesman rejected suggestions the decision to send the ultra-modern destroyer to the region represented an escalation of the UK's position.

"The Royal Navy has had a continuous presence in the South Atlantic for many years. The deployment of HMS Dauntless to the South Atlantic has been long planned, is entirely routine and replaces another ship on patrol," he said.

Sister ship HMS Daring has already been sent to the Gulf for her first mission amid heightened tensions with Iran over threats by Tehran to block a busy shipping lane.

They are the first of six new destroyers which will replace the Type 42 vessels which started service in the 1970s.

With crews of 180, they are the first to be built with a futuristic design that makes it difficult to detect using radar.

The Type 45s are armed with high-tech Sea Viper anti-air missiles and can carry 60 troops. They also have a large flight deck which can accommodate helicopters the size of a Chinook as well as take on board 700 people in the case of a civilian evacuation.

Foreign Secretary William Hague told Sky News: "These are formidable vessels - the Royal Navy packs a very considerable punch - but it's a routine deployment.

"We will always be in a position to defend the Falkland Islands if necessary, not that we are aware of any military threat to the Falkland Islands at the moment.

"We will always reaffirm that capability and we will always make sure that it's there.

"There's nothing unusual about this deployment. It doesn't reflect any change in the situation of any kind."