The Royal Navy and NATO allies have escorted nine Russian Navy warships during heightened levels of activity in the waters close to the UK.
Offshore Patrol Vessels HMS Mersey and HMS Tyne joined Type 23 frigate HMS Westminster in an operation that saw allied ships monitor every movement of three Steregushchiy-class corvettes, three Ropucha-class landing ships and the same number of missile-armed patrol boats.
Royal Navy warships joined NATO allies from Portugal, Canada, Germany, Norway and Denmark in tracking the Russians through some of the busiest sea lanes in the world.
Russian ships had dispersed after their Navy Day in St Petersburg last month and sailed out from the Baltic Sea and into the North Sea for large-scale exercises.
“We had NATO warships shadowing the Russian task group through some of the busiest traffic lanes in the world,” said HMS Mersey’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Will Edwards-Bannon.
“This was made possible by the professional and highly-trained ships’ companies of all allied units involved, whose shared NATO tactics and training allow for seamless integration and joint working.”
The Royal Navy warships were assigned to the very high readiness Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1), which patrols the waters of northern Europe from the Baltic to the Atlantic.
British ships worked closely with Portuguese frigate NRP Corte-Real – the task group’s flagship – and Halifax-class frigate HMCS Toronto of the Royal Canadian Navy, while there were numerous supporting vessels from German, Norwegian and Danish navies.
Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker RFA Tideforce kept the task group ticking, carrying out replenishment of supplies and fuel to keep the ships at sea and able to continue on their operations.
Commanding Officer of HMS Westminster, Commander Will Paston, said: “The Royal Navy demonstrated its flexibility in being able to shadow the Russian Navy units.
“While the Russian Navy operated in a safe and professional manner, HMS Westminster combined with NATO-allied units across the North Sea and Baltic Sea to escort them throughout.”
HMS Westminster joined NRP Corte-Real in the north, monitoring the missile-armed patrol boats, while under the control of HMCS Toronto, HMS Tyne and Mersey shadowed the corvettes and landing ships as they headed south towards the English Channel.
“Shadowing missions such as this are increasingly routine for Mersey and her sister ships of the Royal Navy’s Overseas Patrol Squadron,” added Lt Cdr Edwards-Bannon.
“This was the first time in recent years, however, that we have done so while under the operational command of NATO.
“As such we raised the NATO flag here in Mersey with pride as we worked closely with fellow service personnel from many of the alliance’s 30 member countries, both ashore at NATO’s Maritime Command HQ in London and afloat in the other allied warships comprising the Standing NATO Maritime Group One.”
Lieutenant Commander Richard Skelton, Commanding Officer of HMS Tyne, said: “I am proud to say Tyne seamlessly integrated into SNMG1 and supported NATO in monitoring Russian activity in the North Sea.
“The speed at which the task group formed and became operationally effective is testament to the strength of NATO and I am pleased to be part of it.”
This latest operation comes after Mersey and sister ship Tyne tracked destroyer RFS Vice Admiral Kulakov as it headed into the North Sea and through the English Channel earlier this month.