Nine Royal Navy ships have been shadowing seven Russian Navy vessels in waters around the UK, the service said in a statement.
According to the statement, the Navy completed a concentrated operation to shadow the Russian warships after “unusually high levels of activity” in the English Channel and the North Sea.
The Royal Navy warships that took part in the operation are Type 23 frigates HMS Kent (F78), HMS Sutherland (F81), HMS Argyll (F231) and HMS Richmond (F239), and River-class Offshore Patrol Vessels HMS Tyne (P281) and HMS Mersey (P283). These warships were supported by Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Tide-class replenishment tankers RFA Tideforce (A139) and RFA Tidespring (A136), and Royal Navy Echo class multi-role hydrographic survey vessel HMS Echo (H87).
This large-scale operation was also supported by Merlin and Wildcat helicopters of Navy’s 814 and 815 Naval Air Squadrons, and by UK’s NATO allies.
Lieutenant Nick Ward, HMS Tyne’s Executive Officer, said: “As the Armed Forces are helping the NHS save lives in the UK, it’s essential the Navy continues to deliver the tasks we have always performed to help keep Britain safe.
“This is very much part of routine business for HMS Tyne and represents one of the many roles our patrol vessels perform in support of the Royal Navy’s commitments. This is our core business and represents an enduring commitment to uphold the security of the UK.”
Portsmouth-based HMS Tyne spent more than a week working in the English Channel, in often challenging seas, keeping a close eye on the Russian vessels as they pass the south coast. Three Russian Navy Steregushchiy-class corvettes, two Ropucha-class landing ships and two Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates were observed during the operations, plus their supporting auxiliary ships and tugs.
HMS Sutherland, fresh from a demanding period of Arctic training on Exercise Cold Response, watched over the Russian presence as part of her duties with NATO’s Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1) – a very high readiness task group made up of frigates and destroyers which patrols northern European waters “to provide a reassuring presence”.
The Devonport-based Royal Navy frigate’s Merlin helicopter carried out a number of intelligence-gathering sorties over the Russian ships as they passed through the Channel.
NATO duties also saw HMS Sutherland support the French carrier strike group led by aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in recent weeks. The frigate, working alongside French, Norwegian, German and Danish ships, then carried out surface and air defence exercises as well as carrying out joint gunnery training.