The USS Newport News, a Los Angeles class submarine, visited Gibraltar this week.

Local media has reported that eyewitnesses said a Spanish customs boat was intercepted by a Gibraltar Defence Police vessel after it came too close to the US submarine. The report states:

“Officials at the MoD and The Convent were looking into the incident last night to establish the sequence of events and assess what happened and where.

If classed as an incursion, the incident will almost certainly draw a diplomatic protest, as happens as a matter of routine with all incursions by Spanish state vessels.”

This isn;t an isolated incident, late last year the Royal Navy were forced to chase off a Spanish vessel as it cut across the path of a visiting US Naval vessel in Gibraltar, the USNS Carson City.

The USNS Carson City is a Spearhead class expeditionary fast transport, currently in service with the Military Sealift Command. This American naval vessel was the result of an effort to design a high-speed, shallow draft vessel intended for rapid intratheatre transport of medium-sized cargo payloads.

In addition, last May a Spanish patrol boat reportedly tried to “hassle” an American nuclear submarine attempting to dock at Gibraltar.

According to multiple sources, flares were fired across the bow of the Spanish Guardia Civil vessel Rio Cedena in mid-April as it twice attempted to sail across the front of the American ballistic missile submarine USS Florida.

The USS Florida, a 20,000 ton Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, was commissioned in 1983 with the hull designation of SSBN-728; with her conversion to a cruise missile submarine, she was re-designated SSGN-728. She carriers 154 BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

I wonder which vessel is next?


    • I don’t think the Spanish will be happy until somebody is killed due to one of their stunts.

      I think the MoD should have looked beyond buying straight forward patrol craft for Gibraltar. Just being there antagonises Spain so anything we do really doesn’t matter. Spanish government ships transiting Gibraltarian waters will have to be escorted by something speedy. But it is those who blatantly trespass for longer periods; for example when they decide to carry out surveys. We need something robust to cajole and persuade. For example Damen offer the STAN TUG 1907 design which is ice rated; place a pump for a monitor aft and away you go. As the Brexit crisis deepens and the EU realise the writing is on the wall things will only get worst. I think the Scallop Wars situation is going to demonstrate to those here who perhaps have doubts about Brexit. It will show the EU for what it is, how poorly supported UK fisherman are by HMG who seem for most part more concerned about foreigners, and lastly that the RN, or more accurately, that the UK is desperately short of patrol assets. Clever electronic schemes for managing quotas are one thing, but protecting resources ultimately comes down to hard men in ships and boats.

  1. Two words: Torpedo Nets. Steel cabled of a very difficult to cut nature stretched shallowly across access to UK waters with a monitored entry and exit point. After they’ve fouled their props a few times they might try something else

  2. Unbelievably stupid Spanish attitude. A very firm message should be sent to the Spanish Government from all nations that use the sovereign British port of Gibralter, that no hampering of naval vessels will be tolerated. Some sort of physical barrier could avoid further interdictions by the Spanish, but that would raise the issue of Gibralter, beyond the current parameters, and I doubt the UK would entertain that?

  3. Surely the USA should by now expressing their displeasure at the Spanish navy’s antics towards their vessels? Perhaps banning Spanish vessels from exercising with US forces? Etc

  4. The Socialist government of Spain simply hasn’t a clue.
    1) Accepted boat loads of economic migrants denied entry into Italy
    2) Decides to offer sanctuary to anybody who can get there
    3) Decides to remove barbed wire from border fence of enclaves in North Africa.
    4) Now finds it is the destination of choice for thousands of migrants, including mass invasions of violent young men into African enclaves
    5) Decides to shelve sales of laser guided bombs to Saudis Arabia, doesn’t think what the Saudis will do with the $2.2 billion sale of 5 small ships signed in April 2018.

    Last socialist government pulled troops out of Afghan after Madrid attack, handed over millions to Morocco to build mosques , handed over thousands of passports to anybody who had a Spanish grandparent in South America (Its why so many South Americans are now in the UK) and granted an amnesty to 700K illegal migrants months after the bombing.

  5. Let’s not forget there’s now a substantial force of fast patrol boats in Gibraltar, including two RN vessels, several police boats belonging to both the GDP and RGP, and two customs boats. However, these incidents do still continue. Maybe a diplomatic change is needed, to enforce stronger punishments to those who violate the sovereignty of Gibraltar’s waters – such as arrests or impounding vessels.

    A recent guest post on NavyLookout detailed a plan for retaining the four batch one Rivers for UK patrols, and basing the five batch twos in our overseas territories – with at least one being in Gibraltar. Of course, this ship wouldn’t be tasked with patrolling Gibraltar, more so to free up both Echo and Enterprise, which have been forward based in the Med for some time (Enterprise is currently in Falmouth, but it’s a valid point). Both these ships are forward based in Malta, but there’s no reason that couldn’t be switched to Gib. Showing a bit more regular funnel in Gib might help the issue, and show the ‘continued unwavering support’ line that the politicians love.

    I tend to agree, but for those that are interested, it was an interesting article.

  6. I think the Spanish will continue these antics until a much firmer response is given. Can we design a fast but armoured hulled ramming vessel that can just bulldoze into the Spanish vessels using non lethal force. Once some of their vessels hulls have been damaged they might stop. Or alternatively the US navy should pull out of Rota and redeploy their AEGIS destroyers providing BMD to Gibraltar.
    The USnavy perhaps need to fire a few live rounds across the Spanish vessels hulls to warn them off. Ditto all RN and Gibraltar basedpatrol boats.
    These are not the actions you would expect from a NATO ally or our “friends”.

    • They would not stop, that would be a ridiculous escalation of the situation. That would simply give them an excuse to be more aggressive.


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