Navy boss admits Russian activity in British waters is now the '˜new norm'

RUSSIAN submarine incursions into British waters and the north Atlantic is the new norm, Britain's top sailor has said.

Friday, 24th November 2017, 10:26 am
Updated Friday, 24th November 2017, 10:30 am
The Russian destroyer Vice Admiral Kulakov as seen from HMS Somerset in the Moray Firth this week. HMS Somerset was tracking her through British waters

First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones, offered insight into current threats and what the future holds for the Royal Navy, as he delivered the Gallipoli Memorial lecture at the Royal United Services Institute.

Warning that today’s armed forces ‘must work in an increasingly complex battle space’, he said the ‘degree of superiority at sea’ which Western navies previously enjoyed post Cold War is diminishing, as the space they operate in becomes more congested.

‘You don’t need to look very far to see rising and resurgent powers flex their muscles,’ he said.

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‘It’s now clear that the peaks of Russian submarine activity that we’ve seen in the north Atlantic in recent years are the new norm.

‘The same is true of the steady stream of vessels passing the UK on their way to join the Baltic, Mediterranean and Black Sea fleets.’

The Admiral’s comments come just days after the navy revealed it had been shadowing a Russian destroyer through British waters for the second weekend running.

He added there are currently almost 500 submarines being operated in the world’s oceans by more than 40 navies.

And also warned how sea mines, ‘which remain, cheap, easy-to-use and plentiful’, present an issue and stockpiles of these held by North Korea and Iran are estimated to be in the thousands.

The head of the Senior Service highlighted how China’s navy now sustains routine deployments to the Middle East, Somali Basin and Gulf of Guinea.

‘Earlier this year we saw a joint Russian-Chinese naval exercise in the Baltic. Suddenly, our own European backyard is a little more crowded,’ he said.

‘Our response cannot simply be to avoid operating in these environments; we don’t have that luxury.

‘Areas of enclosed water, like the Baltic and the Persian Gulf, are essential to global security today, and will remain so.’

With the commissioning into the navy of HMS Queen Elizabeth in Portsmouth just two weeks away, he said aircraft carriers are a ‘strategic instrument indicative of an ocean-going Navy and a global maritime power’.

He said: ‘I have every expectation that the pairing of the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers with their fifth generation F35B Joint Strike Fighters will quickly become a valued asset, in constant national and coalition demand.’

He added the new stealth jets represented a ‘quantum leap’ over anything the navy has operated at sea before.