Royal and Russian Navy exchange call signs on high seas

Royal Navy frigate HMS Northumberland has had a chance encounter with a Russian battlecruiser while practising flying training off the West Coast of Scotland.

The Devonport-based warship had been working with her Merlin helicopter in waters between the Shetlands and Faroes when the Kirov Class Pyotr Velikiy (Russian for ‘Peter the Great’) appeared on the horizon.

As Northumberland sped to meet the battlecruiser, the Captain of the Pyotr Velikiy approved her request to hold a co-ordinated approach with the Merlin capturing the two ships sailing together.

The Commanding Officer of HMS Northumberland, Commander Tristram Kirkwood, said: “I am very grateful to the Captain of the Kirov Pyotr Velikiy for allowing this exchange, and while HMS Northumberland is only half the size, from the air we looked like a formidable pair.

I am very grateful to the Captain of the Kirov Pyotr Velikiy for allowing this exchange, and while HMS Northumberland is only half the size, from the air we looked like a formidable pair.

Commander Tristram Kirkwood

He continued: “My ship’s company very much enjoyed the opportunity to interact with such an impressive battle cruiser.”

This was the second time in as many weeks that HMS Northumberland has worked with the Russian Navy. Both the frigate and the Russian Federation Ship (RFS) Soobrazitelny took part in the Irish Naval Fleet Review during a visit to Cork.  

During the visit Cdr Kirkwood was invited onboard her Russian counterpart for a ship’s tour by Captain Victoriav Tcherokov. He gave Cdr Kirkwood a talk on the capabilities of the Kamov KA-27 Helix helicopter and the weapon and communication systems onboard.

As part of the visit both Commander Kirkwood and Captain Tcherokov presented each other with ships crests, and shared a discussion on their common aims of tackling crime on the high seas, protecting legitimate maritime traffic and deterring those who commit illegal acts in international waters.

Both ships then worked together on exercises in ship handling and search and rescue techniques, using Northumberland’s Merlin. On completion, Cdr Kirkwood said:

“It was a real privilege to both visit and interact with the RFS Soobrazitelny and her crew.

“I am very grateful for the hospitality shown during the visit and the opportunity to work with the RFS Soobrazitelny at sea. I hope we meet again in the near future.” 

HMS Northumberland has recently returned from a seven month deployment to the Middle East and East Coast of Africa where they travelled 45,000 miles, crossed five time zones and visited 11 countries. 

With the Merlin helicopter from 829 Squadron and embarked detachment of Royal Marines, the Boarding Teams from HMS Northumberland held 71 boarding operations, one of which resulted in the capture of bails of cannabis resin with an estimated street value of £5.5M.