12 July 2017
Soaring numbers of Russian naval ships have been caught in British waters – including submarines “lurking” near Faslane .
And a foreign affairs think tank fear the Russians are trying to track Britain’s nuclear-armed Vanguard subs to obtain their “signature”.
The Henry Jackson Society said the “alarmingly regular” contacts show “a worrying picture of the revival of Cold War Russian habits of probing our defences by sea and, especially, by air”.
In one incident in August 2010, a Russian Akula-class Typhoon sub stood off Faslane “waiting for a Trident-capable Vanguard-class submarine to leave the port”.
Dr Andrew Foxall, director of the society’s Russian Studies Centre, pieced together official air
intercept statistics and media reports of naval contacts, which are not recorded by the Ministry of Defence, and found a rise in Russian intrusions in UK territory.
The report said: “Russia’s submarines, which lurk off naval bases in Scotland, seek even … sensitive information: the ‘acoustic signature’ made by the UK submarine fleet, including the Vanguard submarines that carry Trident nuclear missiles.
“If Russia were able to obtain a recording of the ‘signature’, it would have serious implications for the UK’s nuclear deterrent: Russia would be able to track Vanguards and potentially sink them before they could launch their missiles.”
There were 12 reported Russian naval approaches in UK seas between 2013 and 2016.
There had been just two in the previous seven years. More than half of the 43 reported contacts by air and sea between 2005 and 2016 occurred in the most recent three years. Dr Foxall added:
“There is a troubling picture of close encounters and emergency scrambles perpetuated by an aggressive Russian government …these Russian activities are best understood not in isolation, but rather as a part of the Kremlin’s increasingly assertive foreign policy toward the West.”
An MoD spokesman said: “We keep all threats under constant review and have robust security measures in place to combat them.
“This includes RAF Quick Reaction Alert Typhoon aircraft, a Royal Navy warship held at
continuous high readiness and the ultimate guarantee of our security, the nuclear deterrent.”
The Russian Embassy said: “Perhaps the UK military would be best placed to comment. We do not hold the Henry Jackson Society in very high regard.”