The timing of the visit is especially significant, as Spain had recently intensified its diplomatic initiatives to get back the rock from British crown. Spain claims that Gibraltar doesn’t have its own territorial waters and argues that the land should be returned to Spanish sovereignty. Although Britain has been actively rejecting the territorial claims made by the Spanish side, many of its citizens residing in Gibraltar feel that the British authorities are ignoring them for their small size and population.
The British authorities hope that visits like these from Royal Navy vessels and the RAF aircrafts will help to improve the security situation in and around the enclave. The UK plans to demarcate the British territorial waters around Gibraltar in near future, with or without the Spanish permission.
According to the sources within British armed forces, a large contingent of its troops and equipment will visit Gibraltar during the remaining part of this year, including frigates, mine-hunters, destroyers, RAF squadrons, and elite formations from the Special Forces. Military officials claimed that the visits will help Gibraltar to stay as one of the most important Forward Mounting Bases of the British military and that the dispute with the Spaniards are not being given undue importance at this point of time.
One of the 13 Type-23 frigates operating within the Royal Navy, the HMS St Albans was commissioned on June 2002. Recently the vessel was deployed in the Straits of Hormuz, when Iran threatened to close the cargo traffic there. Armed with the Sea Skua air-to-surface missiles, the vessel also carries one Agusta Westland AW101 military helicopter and one Westland Lynx multi-purpose helicopter.