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Questions after Royal Navy uses patrol boat to shadow Russian ships

first_imgMersey took over from the French Navy which had been monitoring the task group’s progress through the Bay of Biscay.The patrol ship will have spent 72 hours tracking the Russians as the vessels made their way into the North Sea, handing over to the Dutch Navy once the three ships had passed through the Strait of Dover.Lieutenant Alexandra Karavla, the patrol ship’s Executive Officer, said: “Ships like HMS Mersey are the eyes and ears of the Royal Navy around the UK – we are at sea for 320 days a year, so Mersey provides the Navy with a ship ready to respond at short notice like this.” The Royal Navy was criticised on Thursdayfor using a patrol vessel rather than a frigate to escort a Russian naval flotilla through the English Channel.For the third time in two months the Russians sent their ships past the UK’s southern coast, when the spy ship Feodor Golovin, landing ship Alexander Ostrakovskiy and tanker Yelnya returned to their base ports in the Baltic and Barents seas.The ships had been supporting Russian operations in Syria.Accompanying them through the Channel were the Royal Navy’s patrol ship HMS Mersey and a Wildcat helicopter from RNAS Yeovilton.But observers noted the absence of any naval frigate to shadow the Russian vessels, raising questions about the impact of spending cuts on the Navy’s ability to respond to potential threats.Navy Lookout, an online campaign set up to “promote the Royal Navy and fight its decline”, said: “Obviously it is worrying we don’t have more frigates around UK coast for these tasks but it is a matter of responding best with assets available.”Luke Skipper, the former chief of staff for the Scottish National Party’s Westminster Group, said: “Less than five years ago the Royal Navy specifically said they [patrol boats] were not the right vessels. I wonder what has changed?” Paul Beaver, an aviation historian, joked: “Admiral Hobson has few choices”, while another observer wrote on Twitter: “Always used to be the FRE [frigate]. Strange how a patrol vessel is now right for the job after all these years.”Last month a Royal Navy frigate escorted four Russian naval ships through the English Channel as they headed north from the Mediterranean.But the Ministry of Defence defended the Navy’s use of a patrol boat instead of a frigate to shadow the Russian ships yesterday.A spokesman for the MoD said: “We always use the appropriate vessels for the task and if you look at the photographs of the flotilla you’ll see that a patrol vessel is the right one on this occasion.”We have got a frigate available if we need it, but we don’t roll it out each time. Common sense prevails.”The movement of Russian vessels through the Channel came at a time of renewed tension after an armada of its ships from the Baltic Fleet was dispatched from Baltiysk naval base, in Kaliningrad Oblast, for large scale military exercises.The MoD said Portsmouth-based Mersey and her 34 crew had broken off from a regular fishery protection patrol in home waters to meet the Russian trio as they approached the Channel.last_img read more

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