In remarks that have surprised no-one, Former First Sea Lord West also warned that the UK is moving into an “area of great danger” owing to a diminishing Royal Navy fleet.
His comments came after the Sun newspaper reported that HMS Cattistock was deployed to escort two Kilo-class Russian submarines and a Silva-class support tug through the English Channel.
Confirming the “glass-reinforced plastic” hulled Cattistock was tasked with the escort, a Royal Navy spokesman said it was the “most appropriate vessel for this particular task at that time.”
“There is always one Royal Navy ship that is designated as the Fleet Ready Escort (FRE), although there are always a number of Royal Navy units available in UK waters that could conduct this role depending on the tasking.”
However with With just one ship usually available for the FRE which this time was on another tasking, Lord West said this highlights how stretched the Royal Navy has become.
Recently, Type 23 Frigate HMS Westminster sailed to escort Russian vessels through the English Channel. This came not long after HMS St Albans escorted a Russian warship through the North Sea and areas of UK interest on Christmas Day.
The Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigate was called upon to sail on 23 December and keep watch on the new Russian warship Admiral Gorshkov as it passed close to UK territorial waters.
HMS St Albans remained at sea on Christmas Day to monitor the Russian frigate, keeping track of its activity in areas of national interest.