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In the last five years, Gibraltar has been visited at least 30 times by nuclear submarines, with each visit having been met with protest from Spain.

It is worth noting, American visits have not been met with protest.

The information comes to light via a response to a Freedom of Information request, the response can be found here.

Excerpt from the FoI response.
Excerpt from the FoI response.

While the response states there have been “29 visits”, this was determined prior to the most recent visit of a British submarine.

UK overseas territory Gibraltar is a major staging post for military operations globally.

The Spanish government had called for joint sovereignty over Gibraltar after the UK decided to leave the European Union.

95.9% of ‘The Rock’s’ 30,000 population voted overwhelmingly for staying in the EU.

Speaking on national radio, Spain’s Foreign Minister said:

“It’s a complete change of outlook that opens up new possibilities on Gibraltar not seen for a very long time. I hope the formula of co-sovereignty – to be clear, the Spanish flag on the Rock – is much closer than before.”

Relations aren’t calm however, in May last year, 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.

A spokesman for the Governor’s office confirmed the incursion “…in the vicinity of an incoming submarine.”

“The professionalism of the Royal Navy and Gibraltar Defence Police ensured there was no risk to safety.”

This is yet another Spanish incursion into Gibraltarian waters. This is the latest in a long line of political infringements and military incursions into the sovereign territory of Gibraltar. Last year the Spanish Ambassador was formally called into Downing Street and a Formal Complaint was made by the FCO after the Diplomatic Bag was opened on the border with Spain.

Recently there have been many complaints regarding the Spanish behavior, the border guards have purposely caused delays for workers who travel across daily on orders from the Spanish government, there have been other incursions by Spanish vessels into water and Spanish divers were seen carrying out investigations on the artificial reef off the Gibraltar runway (which runs out into the sea).

15 COMMENTS

  1. Well, if Scotland ever leaves the Union, perhaps we should base our SSN/SSBN fleet in Gib, really give the Spaniards something to moan about!

  2. Good and they must never stop the RN subs and ships have a home from home it’s none of Spain business, and for the Spanish flag being ever closer to being on the Rock the Spanish live in cuckoo land ,they have more chance of landing on Mars ,Gibraltar is British and will always be British, god save the Queen and bless our armed forces, A loyal British Gibraltarian

  3. Not really sure that that ‘US visits have not been met with protest’ given the details of the incident over the USS cruise missile sub Florida…

  4. Given the reaction these visits create from Spain I find little benefit of them continuing unless the submarine needs maintenance. I fully agree that a show of “the flag” or “show of force” should continue in Gibralter, but a surface ship would surely be a better option, if any are available of course. I don’t think we should flaunt our nuclear assets at Spain or anyone else. Any prospective foe knows we have them. A fully armed new patrol vessel would be a better option here.

  5. We don’t talk a lot about those American Ohio-class boats converted to carry hundreds of conventionally-armed cruise missiles. Has the Royal Navy ever considered such a sub? I think the astutes could theoretically carry 30+ if they carried no torpedo reloads.

    • I think the production facilities are pretty much full with the remaining Astutes then running straight on to the 4 new SSBN builds but, after that and when we are on to Astute replacement, I can definitely see a possibility of that being on the table.

      The new UK SSBN/Dreadnought will be using the Common Missile Compartment (CMC) and a line item in the Successor program budget is allocated to the UK contributing to the joint US/UK development of CMC. The “Common” bit is not only common between UK & USA but also that each tube (it will come in 4-packs) should be able to either host a single Trident (as will be the case for our new SSBN) or multiple cruise missiles. I would hope that experience of CMC during Dreadnought design and build plus costs already sunk into CMC development would be a strong incentive for the UK to consider incorporating at least one 4-pack into the next generation SSN design. We’re going to have to wait a while for that though.

  6. Any UK or US sub visiting are part of NATOs patrol tasking. As such the Spanish should be grateful we are deploying such capable attack subs to the med. They would not be complaining if their was a Russian or Chinese task force loitering around their shores.
    Gibraltar is British and always will be. It is called self-determination and democracy. When the Gibraltarian people decide they want to become Spanish, then and only then will Gibraltar talks on conceding sovereignty to Spain begin.
    Can NATO not do anything about this harassment from a so called EU ally?

    • No Mr Bell the Spanish do not complain about the Russian Navy, indeed they refuel their submarines and other naval vessels in their port of Ceuta near Gibraltar.

  7. “It’s a complete change of outlook that opens up new possibilities on Gibraltar not seen for a very long time. I hope the formula of co-sovereignty – to be clear, the Spanish flag on the Rock – is much closer than before.”

    Over our collective dead bodies

  8. In the early 80s, when the Royal Yacht Britannia docked in Gibraltar carrying the Prince of Wales and that awful wife of his at the time, King Carlos of Spain rang Her Majesty The Queen to protest. Her response?

    “I told him it’s my son, my ship, and my dockyard!”

    As told by by Michael Foot. He says his reply was:

    “The first Elizabeth could not have put it better.”

    • @James, so Diana is dead 20 year now – a woman who did more to drag the Royals kicking and screaming in to the modern era (and I’m a republican by inclination) and the best of the bunch arguably – and yet you still can’t resist a swipe at her on a site discussing UK defence? Honestly.

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