A huge Russian anti-submarine warship and its support fleet have entered the English Channel.
The Northern Fleet’s 163m-long Vice Admiral Kulakov destroyer sailed along the Strait of Dover and is now pushing further into the English Channel, the Russian naval press office said today.
Royal Navy ships are usually sent to escort foreign vessels through British waters, a Ministry of Defence spokesperson told The Mirror. The ministry stopped at confirming an operation was underway or planned for today.
The Russian naval taskforce also includes the corvette Gremyashchiy of the Pacific Fleet and the minesweeper Vladimir Yemelyanov of the Black Sea Fleet.
The warships were also seen during Russia’s Main Naval Parade in late July, and linked up with other Northern Fleet ships in the North Sea on August 12.
The ships’ crews are poised to perform military drills, in accordance with their deployment plans, the press office said.
The news of the Russian anti-submarine ship reaching British waters comes the same month the Kremlin’s attack submarines carried out several “deep penetration” missions unusually far under water, in craft capable of carrying new hypersonic weapons.
Large numbers of Borei-class nuclear powered subs have been diving beyond 500m, the limit for most attack subs, in an apparent bid to enter the Atlantic undetected.
The operations by Vladimir Putin’s Northern Fleet, accompanied by a high number of rescue vessels, have been taking place in the Norwegian Sea, which has depths of up to 4,000m.
The Borei subs are believed to be capable of carrying new Zircon 3M22 hypersonic missiles, which can cover 2.7km per second and against which there is thought to be little or no protection.
The war-gaming, which has raised the possibility that these missiles could be carried at greater depths than previously thought, has alarmed analysts who fear Russia could be escalating preparations for conflict.
A source said: “The reason for these extreme depth missions has eluded most analysts but it could be simply to access the Atlantic with stealth.
“There has been an increase in Russian submarine activity of late, as there has with much of Moscow’s armed forces as it tests the resolve of NATO.
Russian subs usually go no deeper than 400m as a working limit, with a 480m maximum and 900m “crush limit” where they would implode.
Military expert Bruce Jones said: “The mood of Russian defence has been alarming for months now.