HMS Sabre repelled Spanish vessels from waters off the Gibraltar last week. 

A spokesperson for the FCO said:

“The Royal Navy challenges all incursions into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters, and did so on this occasion. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office backs this up by making formal diplomatic protests to the Spanish government.”

A spokesman for Spain’s foreign ministry denied the illegal incursion, saying the ship was in fact in Spain’s own territorial waters. Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson reportedly moved to reassure Gibraltarians that the territory will remain under British control when the UK leaves the European Union.

Prime Minister Theresa May has reiterated Britain “remains steadfastly committed” to its support for Gibraltar, its people and its economy.

Late last year, the Royal Navy were forced to chase off a Spanish vessel this morning as it cut across the path of a visiting US Naval vessel in Gibraltar.

The USNS Carson City is a Spearhead class expeditionary fast transport, currently in service with the Military Sealift Command.

The 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.

The Guardia Civil launch Rio Cedeña attempted to cross in front of the submarine but was stopped by the actions the Royal Navy’s HMS Sabre and a rigid-hulled inflatable boat, which manoeuvred in close, according to an eyewitness as reported by ‘The Chronicle’.

This comes despite Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis saying Spain will not seek to regain sovereignty over Gibraltar in Brexit talks.

“I won’t make an agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom conditional on recovering sovereignty over Gibraltar. We will try to convince the Gibraltarians that this is a route worth exploring and that it would benefit them too.”

A former Ministry of Defence adviser saying that Royal Navy warships should be sent to Gibraltar to ‘protect it from Spain’ while Britain negotiates a deal to leave the European Union.

Writing in Conservative Homes, Luke Coffey, director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies said:

“First and foremost, Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liam Fox, Michael Fallon, and David Davis should make a joint visit to Gibraltar as soon as possible.

The Ministry of Defence should also make a grand gesture by increasing the Royal Navy’s visible presence in Gibraltar. This would send an important message to the Gibraltarians.

The UK needs to prepare for the worse. This could include maintaining a robust air bridge if the land border is closed. Also, in the event of a border closure by Spain, the UK must be prepared to respond with appropriate, firm, and proportionate measures against Madrid.”

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.”

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So in a nutshell, a 24 tonne boat (HMS Sabre) with a crew of 5 saw off a 1200 Patrol boat weighing 1200 tonnes with a crew of 48. I didn’t know the RN was so effective. Must be why the Government has no problem shrinking the fleet.


there was no chasing away. it was more like both crews not got to a mutual understanding and the need for further escalation was not seen. i am quite sure that if there was an actual combat situation and not some show off or flexing HMS sabre would have surely lost or even worse utterly destroyed. i mean the weapons possessed by HMS sabre (2 general purpose machine guns) are simply no match for the wide array of destructive weapons possessed by the spanish ship (harpoon missiles, 76mm gun, sea sparrow anti submarine weapons etc.


there was no chasing away. it was more like both crews not got to a mutual understanding and the need for further escalation was not seen. i am quite sure that if there was an actual combat situation and not some show off or flexing HMS sabre would have surely lost or even worse utterly destroyed. i mean the weapons possessed by HMS sabre (2 general purpose machine guns) are simply no match for the wide array of destructive weapons possessed by the Spanish ship (harpoon missiles, 76mm guns, sea sparrow, anti submarine weapons) we must be careful.


i was on sabres first crew.the poor old girl must be held together by tape, i’d like to see the first type 31 named’gibraltar'(just to cheer up the spanish.


and should still retair a sizable garrison suitable naval presence , i ‘d love to see the rock armed with missiles necessary to defend itself and the sea lanes that pass her.


a new full squadron of trained, drilled archers fitted with the 20mm canon they were designed for, would send a signal to the people of gibraltar and the spanish.that we are serious about gibs security.

David Steeper

Umm and this is the same country that wants us to help train their armed forces ! Enough said really !

Daniele Mandelli

Boring old chestnuts.

Spanish playing silly buggers changes nothing. Let them play their games.

Meanwhile, Gibraltar remains the strategic location it has always been, under British control.


The Spanish regiment is that territorial waters were not ceded in the Treaty of Utrecht which is total BS because the concept of territorial waters were not even a concept back then.

The government should show support for Gibraltar by stationing a patrol boat there. It would be a strong message and stop this ridicoulous situation of a tiny boat like HMS Sabre going up against ships many times it’s size.




I guess the main argument for not stationing anything bigger there is that response times will slow down since bigger ships take longer to get into action. HMS Sabre can be deployed as the drop of a hat compared to larger vessels.


sabre is a well designed ship her service , has been distinguished to say the least. in the 1970;s she was pivotal in reducing tHe flow of drugs, weapons and other illegal threats. the ability to insert royal marines and the S.B.S INTO SMALL RIVER INLETS WAS AN INSPIRED TRAINING AREA FOR INCREASING SUCH WARFARE ABILITIES. EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE OFTEN THEMSELVES HIDDEN IN BOAT SHEDS EVERYWHERE.


why not station a batch 1 river class there there’s one laid up right now, im sure the majority of a crew could be brought together from a reserve force made up on Gibraltarians, she doesnt need to be fully manned, but just enough to get her to sea


Will soon be two laid up, as Tyne entered Portsmouth a few days ago flying her paying-off pennant.


What would the point be? A Tide class OPV would be unsuitable for the role and a waste of resources. Putting it bluntly if Spain wanted to just take Gibraltar, they could within hours and there would be little to nothing we could do in response. Our military presence is appropriate to the situation, when Spain sends a government vessel into Gibraltar waters be it military or civilian crewed the RN sends out the Gibraltar patrol launch and tells them to go away to assert our sovereignty. Anything more is needlessly escalatory! The Guardia Civil can be arguably a greater… Read more »


SHE’D NEED UPGRADING TO CARRY A DECENT GUN MAYBE A 70MM and magazine for ammunition, it would also need an increase in crew size a river class will not deter the spanish from their childish little games. a new type31 based in gib would be ideal.(h.m.s gibraltar)?

[…] post Royal Navy chase away Spanish vessel from Gibraltar appeared first on UK Defence […]

Levi Goldsteinberg

Shoot a GPMG over their heads, that should scare Juan off. Bastards.


or spuds.


apologies for repeating this but i think the R.N would do well to consider the upgrade of the rivers the dutch designed corvette is 10 meters longer, same beam 20 more crew. 5 knots greater speed, yet comes with a 76mm oto melara main gun,two triple torpedo launchers, and two quad anti air launchers. a commitment to doing this to both the batch 1 and two rivers would see the fleet grow by around 9 ships especially given the fact that these ships are already built!


No point in having a bigger ship for this purpose as we will not be shooting at the Spaniards regardless. Its all a game- they just test us to make themselves feel better now and again. Frankly we would do the same if it was the other way round I’m sure. Its not as if we would be happy with them owning the land at the tip of Dover now is it.

Sceptical Richard

The next most stupid thing after the Spanish GC deliberately straying into Gib waters is the Brits/Gibraltarians getting all worked up about it. I was doing a sailing course in Gib a few years ago and saw this happen a couple of times. We’re never going to start shooting at each other. No need for RN assets down there on a permanent basis. The thought of Spain and Britain getting into fisticuffs over this or any other issue is just pure fancy, although it keeps a few little Englanders and Spanish Francoistas frothing at the mouth.

William Edmead

Not quite SR. Incursions into territorial waters or airspace by any country is a massive provocation when it is not accidental. Will the russians amble into turkish airspace again? The spanish are just trying to p*** us off as they do with their trawlers.
Fair play though, they do man up their OPV’s with some serious firepower. Not fitted ‘for’ but ‘with’. Our little boats couldn’t chase off a pedalo.

John Michael Smith

This is a contentious play with a strategic thorn in their side chess piece. We Brits love poking the Spaniards in the ribs do to speak. howevet, with a weak pound and the UK leaving the EU the last thing we need is this continued childlike like behaviour of one-upsmanship or a pissing contest. Spain can shutdown the bloody border again and then we’re screwed for who knows how long??? We need to come to an amicable resolution. There are a lot of us expatriates living here in Spain and the last t hing we need is this horseshit going… Read more »


You’d think The US would have some choice words if the Spanish CG was hazarding the USN vessels.


pure fancy?? spellcheck?

Thomas Newcomb Hyde

Are the Spanish being a bit hypocritical while they maintain their own “Gibraltars” at Ceuta and Melilla on the coast of Morocco?