Royal Navy frigate escorts Russian task group through English Channel

The modernized Royal Navy frigate HMS Westminster was deployed on January 5 to keep watch on a Russian Navy task group transiting the English Channel and areas of UK interest, the Royal Navy said.

The Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigate remained at sea over the weekend to meet up with the Russian vessels, keeping track of their activities.

The Russian ships transiting the Channel are two Steregushchiy-class frigates ‘Soobrazitelny’ and ‘Boiky’ and support vessels ‘Paradoks’ and ‘Kola’ as they head north.

“HMS Westminster’s role as the Royal Navy’s Fleet Ready Escort is to be at very high readiness to respond to anything the British government requires,” HMS Westminster’s commanding officer Commander Simon Kelly said.

The four Russian ships are believed to be returning to the Baltic after operations in the Middle East. The English Channel is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, and with UK shipping contributing more than £10bn to Britain’s economy it is essential the Royal Navy maintains security in its waters.

It comes after Royal Navy frigate HMS St Albans spent her Christmas at sea escorting another Russian warship, the Admiral Gorshkov. The recent festive season has seen an upsurge in Russian units transiting UK waters.

HMS Tyne was also called to escort a different vessel, a Russian intelligence-gathering ship, through the North Sea and the English Channel on Christmas Eve. A Wildcat helicopter from 815 Naval Air Squadron, based at RNAS Yeovilton, was then dispatched to monitor two further Russian vessels.

HMS Westminster recently came out of a major overhaul in 2016 which saw her fitted with the Royal Navy’s new Sea Ceptor missile system which provides improved protection for the Royal Navy against anti-ship cruise missiles, aircraft and other highly sophisticated threats.

She assumed the role of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Ready Escort at the start of the year.

The Royal Navy has also shared a photo of the HMS Westminster’s missile silo