Falmouth’s affiliated vessel RFA Mounts Bay is taking on a new role this month as it joins a Royal Navy Task Force of seven ships that will deploy with allies to jointly patrol areas with vulnerable undersea critical infrastructure, following an unprecedented agreement by ministers of the ten JEF (Joint Expeditionary Force) nations.

This Task Force comes in the wake of the two attacks on subsea pipelines – to the Nordstream pipeline last year and the attack on the Baltic Connector pipeline in October.

The JEF is a group of like-minded nations – Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

The UK contribution to the deployment will include two Royal Navy frigates, two offshore patrol vessels and mine countermeasures vessels, as well as a Royal Fleet Auxiliary landing ship – supported by a Royal Air Force P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.

RFA Mounts Bay is currently in the Gulf of Finland, off the Uusimaa coast, having completed Exercise Freezing Winds – the first exercise of its kind since Finland joined NATO.

Mounts Bay, an amphibious ship, landed forces ashore on commando raids/covert missions as part of the exercise.

The Royal Navy Task Force comprises of the frigates Richmond and Somerset, minehunters, Cattistock and Penzance, patrol vessels Tyne and Severn plus Mounts Bay. These ships will join 20 other warships from the various JEF nations.

The contingent will depart in early December to launch joint patrols, with vessels spaced to cover a wide area from the English Channel to the Baltic Sea – demonstrating the interoperability between JEF nations in the maritime and air domains.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said at the time of the announcement: “This historic and unprecedented agreement will see a Royal Navy task force of seven ships, supported by the RAF, join allies from across northern Europe as part of a joint operation to defend our shared critical infrastructure against potential threats.

"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.

"Together, we stand firmly in support of peace, security, and a steadfast resolve to uphold the rules-based international order."

During the deployment, ships and aircraft from JEF nations will work together to carry out deterrent patrol in areas of key interest, as well as to deepen surveillance around offshore assets and share intelligence.

The agreement comes following an extraordinary meeting of JEF defence ministers to discuss options for joint activity to defend offshore critical infrastructure, after an increase in attacks and threats.

RFA Proteus, a new ship dedicated to underwater surveillance in areas of UK sovereign interest, has come into service. The ship will serve as the launchpad for remotely-operated vehicles and a home to a suite of specialist capabilities similar to those found in the oil and gas industries.

The ship has been on trials off the south west coast, operating out of Plymouth and Portland.

The ship is the UK’s first ship dedicated to safeguarding vital seabed telecommunications cables and oil and gas pipelines.