HMS Dasher – one of the UK’s smallest naval vessels at just 68ft – shadowed a 300ft Spanish vessel, Furor P46, as it approached British sovereign waters around The Rock.
Witnesses of the incident accused the Spanish warship – which is armed with a 76mm cannon and machine guns – of ‘some really stupid shenanigans’.
Twitter user David Parody, who witnessed the interaction, praised the Royal Navy crew for ‘showing restraint’ during the encounter.
‘Some really stupid shenanigans by P46 Furor this morning,’ he added in the tweet. ‘This is the nearest I've seen an OPV (offshore patrol vessel) to our shores and some dangerous manoeuvres thrown in!’
Pictures show HMS Dasher sailing up next to the Furor as it escorted away from British waters.
The incident isn’t the first time the small Royal Navy vessel has been called upon to deal with Spanish warships near Gibraltar.
In January last year, Dasher was scrambled twice in as many days to deal with Spanish patrol ships off the Gibraltarian coast.
The first occasion saw Dasher intercepting the Guardia Civil patrol boat, Rio Guadalete. Then, 24 hours later, the Royal Navy boat was scrambled again, this time to deal with Rayo P42.
As previously reported, Spain made almost 4,000 unlawful incursions into British waters and airspace between 2010 and 2019
The situation has prompted almost 400 complaints from the UK government.
Spain has consistently questioned British sovereignty over Gibraltar, which has been in British hands since the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.A spokesman for The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office said: ‘We have no doubt about UK sovereignty over British Gibraltar Territorial Waters and airspace and we protest incursions to the Spanish authorities.’