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HMS St Albans escorts Russian warships through Channel

25 January 2017
Royal Navy warship HMS St Albans is escorting the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov carrier task group back through the Channel today.

The Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigate is keeping watch on the Russian aircraft carrier, which is being accompanied by a cruiser and a salvage tug, as it passes close to UK territorial waters on its way home from operations in Syria.

HMS St Albans, equipped with a Merlin helicopter from Culdrose-based 829 Naval Air Squadron and state-of-the-art radar, has worked in company with RAF Typhoon aircraft to monitor the ship and provide reassurance to the nations which border the North Sea and English Channel.

“We will keep a close eye on the Admiral Kuznetsov as it skulks back to Russia; a ship of shame whose mission has only extended the suffering of the Syrian people,” said Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon.

This tasking demonstrates the Royal Navy’s commitment to protecting our home waters and readiness to undertake short notice operations

Commander Chris Ansell RN

“We are man-marking these vessels every step of the way around the UK as part of our steadfast commitment to keep Britain safe.”

Remaining at a respectful distance, but keeping the Russian warships clearly visible, Royal Navy sailors keep watch on every movement through their binoculars and use state-of-the-art radars to track the course and speed of the ships as they pass close to the UK.

“This tasking demonstrates the Royal Navy’s commitment to protecting our home waters and readiness to undertake short notice operations,” said Commander Chris Ansell, the Commanding Officer of HMS St Albans.

“The movements of the Russian ships are being continually monitored in a co-ordinated response between the Royal Navy, RAF and our NATO partners. As an island nation, the security of the seas around our coastline is vital and this sort of task is routine business for HMS St Albans and the Royal Navy, which stands ready at all times to protect UK territorial waters.

“My ship’s company of 190 sailors take great pride in the role they play as one of the UK’s on-call warships to deal with this type of situation.”

Commander Mike Currie, Commander of the Merlin Force at RNAS Culdrose said: “The Merlin helicopter and Type 23 Frigate combination is a capable force that sits at continuously high alert, ready to react with potency if required in the Royal Navy’s defence of our nation’s territorial waters.”

The Kuznetsov carrier group previously passed through the Channel last autumn on its way to the Mediterranean and was escorted by Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan and Type 23 frigate HMS Richmond.

This latest task comes at the start of a busy year for the Royal Navy, following on from 12 months of high activity in 2016. This included responding to Russian activity in the North Sea, English Channel and North Atlantic, supporting EU and NATO-led operations in the Mediterranean and Aegean, helping safeguard Britain’s overseas territories and taking the fight to Daesh by leading a US Navy task force in the Gulf.

All this comes on top of many of the Royal Navy’s standard deployments, such as Type 45 destroyer HMS Daring’s work on maritime security in the Middle East and HMS Protector’s surveying role in the Antarctic.

At the peak of activity in 2016, Royal Navy sailors were involved in 22 operations at home and abroad, serving on nearly 30 ships, submarines, support vessels and Fleet Air Arm Squadrons – involving 8,325 sailors and Royal Marines in all.

This pace of operations will continue into 2017 and during the first quarter of the year, one third of the Royal Navy’s front-line strength will be deployed on global operations.

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