Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has suggested firing paintballs at Spanish ships trespassing in Gibraltar’s waters, it has been reported.

According to The Sun here, Williamson floated the idea of using paintball guns to fire at passing Spanish ships to scare them off.

“The chiefs had earlier managed to talk out Mr Williamson from sending a destroyer to Ceuta in tit for tat revenge as a too provocative a move that could lead to conflict.”

The article also goes on to explain that Gibraltar registered almost more than 1,800 intrusions into its waters last year.

“The incursions counted are either by Spanish navy ships, Guardia Civil vessels or state customs boats.”

Williamson’s aides last night appeared to suggest he had been joking about firing paintballs.

Last month, a Spanish warship sailed through the waters of the British territory of Gibraltar, reportedly blasting the Spanish national anthem on loudspeakers. However, some sources have disputed claims that the national anthem was played.

The ship was the Infanta Elena, a Descubierta class corvette dating from 1980.

Spanish actions in and around Gibraltar are frequent, just last month, a Royal Navy vessel fired a warning flare after Spanish Guardia Civil vessel got too close to nuclear submarine HMS Talent. It is understood that HMS Talent was departing Gibraltar after having her Tomahawk missile stores replenished.

Last year, the USS Newport News, a Los Angeles class submarine, was harassed as she visited Gibraltar. Local media reported at the time 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:

“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.”

These aren’t isolated incidents, 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.

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, a 20,000 ton Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine.

The value of Gibraltar was recently explored by one of our writers in ‘We Will Rock You – The Resilience and Importance of Gibraltar‘, which discusses why Britain, despite the complication of politics and the time, takes the cost and effort it takes to deploy and station military assets and personnel despite the damage to relations with Spain and other nations whom side with the Spanish over the issue of its sovereignty.

The obvious military advantage of Gibraltar is that its geographic position enables pooling of resources for quick deployment throughout the Mediterranean which can be achieved by either air or sea with its dedicated naval port and air base. But another, and often overlooked, reason which simply cannot be ignored is the ability to gather intelligence which the Rock of Gibraltar brings.

Standing over 30 meters taller than the highest point of the Empire State Building the Rock historically enabled a visual long range vantage point into Spain, the Mediterranean Sea and Morocco that could be used to spot enemy movements which Britain could take the necessary pre-emptive measures against. This is still the case today, but rather than only a visual vantage; the rise of technology coupled with the height of the Rock enables an audible vantage where the military are able to both transmit and receive communications over great distances.

This is aided by the Rock itself being a natural structure made of limestone; meaning it is completely maintenance free, with exception to pathways and roads, and is soft enough to create a tunnelling system as was constructed during both the 18th century Siege and the Second World War, yet is strong enough to maintain safe footing and load-bearing’s.

The string of events occurring between the 18th century and leading through to the current day has demonstrated time upon time again that the sovereign territory of Gibraltar has both a military and economic strategic importance. However, these events, as important and well-documented as they are, seem outshone by Gibraltar’s cultural importance as a symbol of national resilience and strength. Gibraltar has remained staunch in its defiance to the numerous overt and covert attacks over the last 300 plus years which has nurtured a culture of dedication and loyalty amongst the locals. This was exemplified in the 2002 referendum where they were asked whether Britain and Spain should share sovereignty – resulting in 98% of Gibratarians saying it should remain British.

70 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t think this is a bad idea. It’s not like we can fire on them with live ammunition. Flares and non lethals show a commitment without escalation.

    • Flares and non-lethals show nothing other than unwillingness to do anything concrete.

      What I am waiting for is HMG to offer them post Brexit concession on fishing on the understanding they stop being silly beggars. For them to take the offer up. And then a few weeks later start playing silly beggars again.

    • Paintballing them is a stupid idea.

      1800 incursions a year is about 5 a day. We need teathered buoys with chains between them. Also a couple of decent patrol boats, say 100 tons a piece, fast and manouverable with toughened hulls and rubber bumps all round. We need to be much tougher on our stance.

      • In principle I agree but you need a much bigger hull capable of 30kn, strength and highly manouverable. No rubber bumpers, steel please.
        With a likely fish war with the EU possible and the increasing lawlessness on the high seas a class of ‘bumper’ corvettes would be a game changer and match winner.
        They see this coming and they realise its game over.

  2. Great idea!
    And how about having junior ratings throw custard pies from the deck, whilst the Commander and senior officers pull tongues from the bridge?

    You could just imagine GW turning over in bed, thinking, “ How can I sort those [email protected][email protected] out?)

    Not really a bad idea, but I would add a very foul smelling, tacky, marine friendly additive. Dropped in a giant fire bucket from a land based Chinook! Plenty of down-draft for a good spread! I can just hear GW laughing like Mutley as the images fill the major news channels.

  3. I’d prefer to send a Destroyer to Ceuta, Load thousands of rotten Onions into the VLS and Fire them Ashore whilst Playing “Rule Britannia” Loudly ,

    See how they like them Onions !

  4. Its not the worst idea! He did say is was speaking in jest however, but i kinda like the idea, although maybe something more along the lines of
    Can the navy still take prizes???
    Commandeer the vessel, send the crew back across the border and then we have a new patrol vessel for Gibraltar! Happy Days! Im sure that wouldn’t sour diplomatic relations too much 😉 It’d be just like 1805!!!

        • I was tear gassed in Paris ten days ago. Can I take the French to court? Like Scottish beef producers … er, em …?

          (Mr Williamson has sense of humour. The Spanish need either to grow up or find another way of distracting their public from chronic unemployment problems and uncertainty over breakaway regions.)

  5. Custard pies sound good but on a more serious note and trying to be objective I wonder how we would feel if Dover was ceded to Spain in the 1700’s and as a result it was and remained a Spanish enclave on the Island of Britain? Also I wonder at the hypocrisy of the Spanish when one considers their occupation of Ceuta and Mellila on the Moroccan coast is virtually identical to the British situation vis a vis Gibraltar? As a Brit I would respect the wishes of the Gibraltarians who have always voted overwhelmingly to remain British. I also praise the French for not adopting a similar stance over the Channel Islands and indeed the Canadians over St Pierre and Miquelon! The Spanish could learn some political maturity from these nations

  6. Completely unrelated, but I love not a million miles from MoD Boscombe Down, Middle Wallop and Salisbury Plain and Ive had three green painted V22 Ospreys fly over today, never seen one before.

    Are the MoD still floating the idea of a purchase of V22s? Bearing in mind it was flying the same flight path all AAC choppers seem to fly in and it was in Army colours, it seems to much of a coincidence.

        • The media CLAIMED they were trialling it a few years ago, but what was actually happening was that the SAS were conducting joint training with local US forces, which included a unit of Ospreys.

          Key thing to note with stories like that: the special forces don’t have any helicopters of their own. There are two dedicated RAF helicopter squadrons that provide air transport (one of which is based near me at RAF Odiham)

          • Callum.

            658 Sqn AAC is DSF is it not.

            Used to be 8 Flight. Dauphins flying from Credenhill. Very much a DSF unit I believe, crewed by some of our best pilots.

            Much like No 7 Squadron RAF that you refer to, which is also a part of JSFAW, which if one looks on GE has it’s own facility on the far side of Odiham.

            What’s the 2nd RAF helicopter squadron?
            Only aware of the one. 47 is fixed wing.

      • Love is a spelling mistake but Middle Wallop isn’t – it’s the name of the local AAC base. Quite an active one too, there’s always Apaches and Merlins tearing around the local countryside at all times of the day

        • The Apache are from the OCU at Middle Wallop. The Merlins are from Yeovilton just using the SPTA airspace.

          M Wallop or Wattishsm will probably close sadly.

          Very interesting report on the Ospreys cheers Levi.

        • Levi Goldsteinberg Just chatting to an one of those aviation watchers tonight who track aircraft movements. There are two Osprey and they have been using Middle Wallop and Boscombe.

          Interestingly, there is a Shadow R1 currently doing circuits of SPTA so I guess some sort of SF exercise is underway.

      • Steve, What’s the most Impressive aircraft through the Mach Loop ? I’ve seen F15’s Harriers, Hawks and Tornado’s, In person but lots more on YouTube. For me It’s the Tornado. They fly so low. “Awesome” as our Colonial friends say.

          • I’ve only seen them on YouTube but that must be some sight, Last time I went, was years ago, It was horrible weather and I left early before I saw anything. Not been since.

          • I just have a soft spot for Tornados, was up near Ullapool a few years back, minding my own business when one ” approached me from behind” at speed, with attitude but not much altitude. Yup, a proper touching cloth experience it was too. Had a Similar Experience at Chivenor , Early 80’s with a Dracken, It was Lower and Faster.
            On ship, It’s not quite the same as There Is no Noise Reflecting Background, less Immediate Confusion.

  7. Hey, the DS must have been reading UKDJ I suggested firing coloured dye at the Spanish on an earlier article.

    It was suggested by another poster bright pink might be most apt….

    In all seriousness why the hell not.

  8. Why the Hell Not ? Because It’s Childish and Silly.

    Can I Volunteer please. Captain Pugwash Attacking the Spanish would make great Headlines.
    “Twas on the good ship Venus, By god you should have seen us” etc, etc.

  9. I would have thought that the current strategy of smiling and then moving on is the best. When a toddler throws a tantrum fit it is best to ignore it. Nothing causes more irritation than going about your daily business and ignoring the pathetic attempts to cause disruption. Leave it the way it is and sooner or later the Spanish will cross the line and end up being sanctioned by the international community. They will sooner or later discover, as most children do, that it is better to control your own emotions rather than trying to control other people’s behaviour!

    • Smile whilst the Spanish take the piss, smile whilst the EU disrespect us, smile whilst they take £37 billion as a divorce bill all handed over by smiling inept politicians that I never voted for.
      There comes a time when trying to take a higher moral position is actually just seen as cowardly and an unwillingness to protect UK waters, territorial integrity and only encourages more activity and more encroachment from the Spanish.
      I read recently that the German fishing industry will need to just ignore whatever happens in Brexit negotiations as without access to UK territorial waters 4000 of them would go out of business- that means they are taking a huge amount of fish from our waters as the UK fishing industry could really do with the ability to support an extra 4000+ jobs. Time to retain batch 1 and all batch 2 River class, build some torpedo rams and toughen up. this is not going to end well, unless of course our beloved politicians continue to make a real hash of Brexit and undermine the largest single democratic vote in the history of the nation. Watch this space…..

  10. What concerns me is that as a EU member, under EU rules, all Spain can do is play silly git and do announce tactics. The second we leave the EU, Spain will be within the rights to close the border or do anything else they like to really hurt Gibraltar. I would hope they won’t, but its possible that they might.

    • There Is a Huge Expat Community In Spain, Generating an enormous amount of Revenue. I’m sure they Know this too.

      • Important part of that statement is IN Spain. They are mainly there for the lifestyle and really have effectively become Spanish (ok there are some workers that are there short term but majority have moved there to retire), which means they are out of the equation. Additionally what do we do, put customs in place to annoy our own nationals returning home, how does that hurt anyone other than the UK.

        We could do it against Spaniards living in England or Visiting, but that would just hurt our own economy again.

  11. Load the paintballs with enamel paint so it’s really hard to scrap off….. make it pink as well to hit a them right in their machismo…..

  12. Capture some local British graffiti vandals and drop them in whichever Spanish port these ships come from, then unleash them saying “have fun!” 🙂

  13. I think I posted something about a modern version of a “torpedo ram” vessel- aka war of the worlds design. Something of 100-200 tons, armoured toughened hull with ramming design- it would have to be fast and minimally crewed- then deploy to Gibraltar and tell it to hit side on any Spanish vessel incursion into our waters and if they do not back of then a full on head charge ram after they have been formally warned.
    Is there anyone else out there getting fed up with our country being taken for granted, treated badly and generally disrespected by our so called “friends and allies” in the beloved EU. Another idea would be sealed dead and decayed chickens catapulted onto the Spanish vessels so they splat badly when they hit- they would have to be very decayed- would make a lovely mess and be very, very stinky. Just make sure our vessels have plenty of hoses onboard for when the Spanish do the same back.

  14. Not much point going on about this. If we fire paintballs, they can just fire back: It’s childish.
    Legally we don’t own any waters off Gibralter. Spain ceded Gib, but never any waters; which, if I’m correct, is why they object to us trying to enforce any “territorial” rights off shore.
    If you know better, then tell me. I was as upset as nay when I first heard of these Spanish “incursions”, but couldn’t find any legal basis for our supposed territorial waters.
    I’m not defending buzzing warships as they enter & leave Gib.

    • But Frank, I think you will find It was an Off the Cuff, Tongue In Cheek, Humorous remark Served up with a side of Sarcasm. Personally, I can relate to that. It also doubles up as a Non Aggressive Response to a Equally Childish and ongoing Attempt by the Spanish to Goad us into a response. Much Respect from me to Gavin. Diplomacy manifests Itself In many ways.
      A future Prime Minister In the Making ?

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