The Royal Navy deployed nine ships aided by helicopters to shadow seven Russian warships as they traveled through international waters in the English Channel and North Sea earlier this month.
In a press statement, Lieut. Nick Ward, executive officer against the HMS Tyne, one of the British ships involved in the operation, said that “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.”
Lieut. Ward explained that the patrol operation constitutes the Navy’s “core business and represents an enduring commitment to uphold the security of the UK.”
The Navy boasted that sailors and aircrew used “state-of-the-art radar, surveillance cameras and sensors” to track the Russian ships, saying the use of this equipment allowed them “to track their course and speed as they passed the British Isles.” However, it’s worth noting that under ordinary circumstances, Russian warships do not attempt to hide their whereabouts as they traverse international waters.
The Navy said it observed three Steregushchiy-class corvettes, two Ropucha-class landing ships and two Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates during the operation, along with auxiliary vessels and tugboats.
The UK ships that escorted them were included four Type 23 frigates, Offshore Patrol Vessels HMS Tyne and HMS Mersey, replenishment tankers RFA Tideforce and RFA Tidespring and the HMS Echo, a hydrographic survey vessel.
The Royal Navy released several pictures of the ships assigned to shadow the Russian ships, including a very worn-out looking HMS Mersey, covered in rust, with the steel panels of its hull appearing indented in areas, even though it’s a relatively new ship that was only commissioned in 2003.
Other ships deployed to chase after the Russian ships looked like they'd enjoyed better upkeep, however, with the HMS Richmond looking like it's had a fresh paint job and maintenance, and the RFA Tideforce and Tidespring looking brand new in the handout images. Those two ships entered into service in 2017 and 2019, respectively.
It’s not immediately clear where the Russian warships were headed, although Russia’s Navy regularly sails ships through the English Channel on their way to Syria in the Mediterranean, as well as destinations in Africa and Latin America for port of call visits.