Royal Navy vs the Russians
On 15 October 2016, an eight-strong battle group led by the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov sailed from Severomorsk, reaching the English Channel on 21 October, en route for the Mediterranean to take part in Syrian operations. Operations in Syria constitute Russia’s largest military deployment since the Cold War.
A senior Nato official was quoted by The Telegraph on 19 October as saying:
They are deploying all of the Northern Fleet and much of the Baltic Fleet in the largest surface deployment since the end of the Cold War. This is not a friendly port call. In two weeks, we will see a crescendo of air attacks on Aleppo as part of Russia’s strategy to declare victory there.
The frigate HMS Richmond was sent ahead to escort the group off the coast of Norway, with the destroyer HMS Duncan sailing on 18 October. HMS Dragon, a Type 45 destroyer, also sailed sail to meet two Russian corvettes travelling towards the UK from the direction of Portugal.
Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, was quoted on 19 October as saying:
When these ships near our waters we will man-mark them every step of the way. We will be watching as part of our steadfast commitment to keep Britain safe.
In early December, warships from the battle group again entered UK waters as they sailed back to base.
On 5 December 2016, HMS Sutherland, a Type 23 frigate, was sent to intercept and escort the Russian destroyer, the Vice Admiral Kulakov, as the warship entered the English Channel. The Telegraph reported Commander Trish Kohn, Commanding Officer of HMS Sutherland, as saying:
This transit is being continually monitored through a co-ordinated response between the Royal Navy and our Nato partners. The transit of Russian ships from the Mediterranean to their northern ports is not unusual, but the Royal Navy is ready at all times to protect UK territorial waters.
On 16 December 2016, HMS Sutherland was once again sent to monitor a Russian warship, the frigate Yaroslav Mudry, as it sailed through UK waters on its return voyage.
Sources: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/12/05/royal-navy-ship-monitors-russian-destroyer-british-waters/; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/12/16/royal-navy-escort-another-russian-warship-british-waters/; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/25/nato-fears-russian-battle-group-may-be-used-for-indiscriminate-t/
Photo: HMS Dragon (foreground) with the Russian aircraft Carrier ‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ by Royal Navy (Crown Copyright, 2016).