The UK Royal Navy flagship Albion-class assault ship HMS Bulwark, along with three Merlin MK 2 Helicopters, has commenced a migrant rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea.
The 19,000t amphibious ship has been deployed to help tackle the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, following a recent shipwreck, which resulted in the deaths of more than 700 people.
The UK announced the decision to send navy vessels to conduct rescue operations at a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels, Belgium.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron then said: "What’s emerging is what we need, which is a comprehensive plan, going after the criminal gangs, going after the traffickers, going after the owners of the boats, potentially taking action there as well and stabilising the countries from which these people are coming."
In order to familiarise with the area, more than 80 UK personnel, including air and ground crew, have already started the first training sortie in the Mediterranean.
The vessel will work alongside the surveillance helicopters to offer day-and-night search-and-rescue capabilities, which can cover range in excess of 100 miles.
Coordinated through Rome, HMS Bulwark and crew will work closely with the Italian Navy and the coast guard during the operations.
Though UK announced its deployment last month, HMS Bulwark was reportedly stuck at anchor in Sicily and did not take part in the Italian Navy-led search and rescue operation carried out in April.
Italian coast guard rescued approximately 7,000 migrants from overcrowded boats crossing the Mediterranean to Europe over the last weekend.
Meanwhile, the aircraft from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose are currently stationed at the Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily. They will be called upon when required by the Italian coast guard.
Other EU countries have also joined Britain in offering military assets.
Image: The UK Royal Navy flagship, HMS Bulwark. Photo: courtesy of UK Ministry of Defence / Crown copyright.