Footage from a documentary showed the moment HMS Duncan was swarmed by 17 Russian jets as she led a NATO fleet through the Black Sea earlier this year.

The footage formed part of a four-part Channel 5 documentary called Warship: Life at Sea. This documentary premiered on the 26th of November at 9pm (GMT) on Channel 5, more information on the documentary can be found here.

For those wanting a quick peak, excerpts of the footage can be found here.

First reported by The News, Portsmouth, the action is understood to have taken place 30 miles off the coast of Crimea and is the closest any British Royal Navy warship has come since Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014.

Commodore Mike Utley, who was leading the NATO task force from Duncan earlier this year, was reported as saying:

“HMS Duncan is probably the only maritime asset that has seen a raid of that magnitude in the last 25 years.”

HMS Duncan, a Type 45 Destroyer, can hold 48 missiles.

Russian jets in the skies above the HMS Duncan. Picture: Portsmouth News
Russian jets in the skies above the HMS Duncan. Picture: Portsmouth News.

According to Tom Cotterill, a journalist at The News, Portsmouth:

“The Russian pilots were flying so dangerously close to Duncan’s high-powered radar system that their jets’ electronics could have been scrambled, causing the planes to crash – and potentially sparking a major international incident.”

Before the incident HMS Duncan sailed through the Bosphorus Straight and into the Black Sea, a move described by Russian media as a ‘clear provocation’.

HMS Duncan was leading Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2), what NATO call an ‘Immediate Reaction Force’. The destroyer left Portsmouth Naval Base in early January to resume the role after a three-month stint in charge last year, she arrived back home in Portsmouth last week.

The purpose of the exercise the vessel was involved in was, according to NATO, ‘to test naval forces from more than half a dozen nations and their ability to safeguard Black Sea shores and shipping lanes’.

SNMG2 is a ‘multinational, integrated maritime force’ – made up of vessels from various allied nations, training and operating together as a single team – that is permanently available to NATO to perform a wide range of tasks, from participating in exercises to crisis response and real world operational missions.

Last year, HMS Duncan visited the Ukrainian port of Odessa in the first visit by a Royal Navy ship in eight years.

The Type 45 destroyer is one of the most advanced air-defence vessels in the world. So powerful is the vessels SAMPSON radar, that from the shipyard on the Clyde where the vessel was built, it could monitor the air traffic over the entirety of Scotland and northern England.

The US Naval War College has suggested that the SAMPSON radar is capable of tracking 1,000 objects the size of a cricket ball travelling at three times the speed of sound

The UK’s National Audit Office reported that, during an ‘intensive attack’, a single Type 45 could simultaneously track, engage and destroy more targets than five Type 42 destroyers operating together.

100 COMMENTS

  1. >The UK’s National Audit Office reported that, during an ‘intensive attack’, a single Type 45 could simultaneously track, engage and destroy more targets than five Type 42 destroyers operating together.

    With 8 ancient Harpoon ASMs? Good luck with that. Just must jingoism to attempt to justify cutting hull numbers from T42

      • Even in the Anti ship role the T45 could still preform as well as more than 5 T42s seeing as the T42s were never fitted with anti ship missiles.

          • Well considering the t42 completely failed at tracking and shooting down jets in the falkands, 5x of terrible, is still not great. Although the success in iraq1 showed things had improved.

            I do wonder how many of them 48 silo’s had missiles in them.

            What other vessels were in the escort, hopefully more than just Duncan?

          • T42 deployed in Corporate both succeeded in tracking and shooting Argentine jets.

            Seven kills I believe with Exeter getting an impressive out of envelope kill of a Learjet 35A.

          • Exeter shot down 2 Seahawks a Learjet and probably an exocet as well which was claimed by a Type 21 but pretty unlikely.

          • Steve – the difference today is that the Russian Navy does not and certainly will not have any Vessels equipped with the Sea Viper System.

          • Compare number shot down Vs number of successful bombing runs (well would have been successful if bombs had gone off), no question the systems didn’t work and it was pretty much just luck (imagine how many ships we would have lost if the bombs and torpedoes had not been on clock work manual fuses) the task force was not sunk.

          • T42 would have been next to useless in San Carlos, in open water they were more effective and probably spooked away a fair few attacks as well. I do wonder what would have happened if Phalanx had been installed especially in the case of the attack on Coventry but less so with Sheffield. I am sceptical the early block Phalanx could really engage Exocet but they could have chewed up those A4.

            The Batch 1 T42 were still bedding in systems wise albeit I agree fitting 965 was an utter joke all things considered. Exeter the first Batch 2 was a far better prospect with 1022, 992Q and 1006 plus a captain that had really wrung out her systems.

            My views about the fleet as a whole at the time are rather close to that of RTd Rear Admiral Chris Parry who was operating off Gloucester at the time. His War Diary ‘Down South’ is a very interesting read, his view was the failure to modernise AAW weapons on the older ships and keep on totally obsolete systems like Sea Slug and Sea Cat had dire consequences. If it meant buying off the shelf American systems like Phalanx and Sea Sparrow they would have made them for more useful assets. He also notes the things forgotten that would have been useful, for example making smoke or the use of barrage balloons.

            His lecture is worth a listen:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLn2TJZqR_o

          • “f it meant buying off the shelf American systems like Phalanx and Sea Sparrow they would have made them for more useful assets.”

            What systems? Americans had no equivalent point defence systems at the time capable of handling those threats. Fucking bullshit as usual.

    • Obviously you know about the Type 42, they did not carry Harpoon or anti ship missile other than her onboard Lynx helicopter

  2. Presumably they meant air targets?

    Hull number aside the ability of of a single Type 45 to engage more airborne targets than a single 42 is beyond question.

  3. How many are serviceable? How many are fully tooled up?
    17 jets carrying missles plus shore batteries could show the error of our ways in purchasing so few.

    Tasty times ahead.

    • I think Duncan would have taken them and their missiles too, it would have been raining steel over Crimea, literally. It would have to hot leg it out of there as it might not have many missiles left though.

  4. It is telling though that we send a single usually lightly armed ship to shadow them through the channel. They send 17 aircraft to make it perfectly clear it would be a messy fight is one was to take place. We should do the same to the Spanish as well when they sail through Gibraltar more regularly after leaving the EU.

    • The Russians and Spanish are both massively childish. Why do we need to act in the same immature manner? It is better that we act in a more grown up way.

      • With respect to the Spanish I’d agree, childish, and they only poise a very limited threat (though we ought to ensure they don’t get cocky). The Russians are not childish, they are a real and present state threat who have and will use military force if and then they see an opportunity. Ukraine and Georgia are a case study in just that.

      • Childish? Yeah because a UK warship in the Black Sea 30 miles off the coast is just a friendly hello 🙄 Maybe UK warships should stay away from waters they don’t belong in.

  5. Question.

    Why do people here get so excited at the Russians sailing through the English channel en route to Syria, and Russian bombers flying in the vicinity of the UKADR. Both called provocation and aggression by some here.

    Meanwhile, our Duncan is 30 miles south of Crimea.

    Anyone else see the sheer hypocrisy here?

    And before the wails. No I’m not a bot. Or Russian. Or an apologist, a comrade Corbyn supporter or anything else.

    I’m just curious and actually quite amazed at the hypocrisy that’s all

    Putin a son of a bitch? No doubt. Russia build8nf up it’s military? Of course. Should we be wary? Yes. But sailing along the shores of Crimea no where near Bulgaria and we are surprised the Russians respond like this??

    • Was Duncan fitted with electronic listening equipment? I read an article earlier this year about the T45 getting these upgrades. If so would make sense to sail as close as possible to get a reaction a monitor Russia’s response. May of been exactly what they hoped for.

    • Because they pulled a fast one with the annexation of Crimea and got away with it. First time anything like it has happened in many years and came with worrying echoes of the past. I think sailing close to “their” shores and getting up their nose in Crimea is justified in these circumstances.

      • OOA.

        Well fine. But we must not then be surprised that things escalate. This whole article is based on one of our ships being “swarmed” by Russian planes?

        I do recall we used Typhoons to shadow their ships in the English channel.

        No difference to me. Cold War is back.

        • It depends. We usually send one or two aircraft to shadow the ships and they do precisely that. They do not fly close and they do not fly aggressively. If these Russian aircraft were flying aggressively and doing close flybys of the ship then yes it is very different. I am sure HMS Duncan would have expected a Russian presence but I am sure they would not have expected what actually happened. Although as some pointed out on here already, perhaps they got more than they wanted and were actually gaining a lot of info.

          • Yes Lee I too wondered just what the “swarming” actually meant. I have seen SU24’s flying close to USN ships, I think that was the Black Sea too.

            More detail to emerge I guess.

          • I wonder what would happen if the Phalanx automatically locked and fired if a jet attempted to do a low level fly over. It would certainly escalate things quickly.

          • Very interesting to know what would happen if a nUmber of Typhoons ‘swarmed’ Russian ships passing through the channel before we bleat hypocrisy. Equally if Russia occupies Norway would we be provocative to dare to sail into the Baltic? I think some proportion here is needed before artificial equivalence is argued. The Russians have also buzzed NATO ships in the Med too by the way, I suppose that being next to the Black Sea is considered equivalence too. And of ourse we know the Russian propensity to shoot down aircraft in what the consider their backyard. In the end it’s all about intimidation for political problems at home for Putin and it would ultimately be foolish to surrender the field to him so he can wear the Emperors garland at home.

          • Daniele, “Swarming” Is the new buzz word for having overwhelming airpower/Seapower In any given situation, It derives from an American description of massed attacks by Drones and small attack craft, designed to saturate a Vessel’s defence systems. The Russians did much the same to the Germans at the battle of Kursk but history is a thing of the past and I’m afraid our latest bunch of highly paid and Pension rich Inmates are much more likely to be Graduates of the School of Economics, not History.

      • You mean after someone engaged in some regime change in Ukraine to remove the pro-Russian government which threatened the Russian lease of the port in Sevastopol, and the repayments of Ukrainian debt to the Russian Federation right…

    • The Black Sea does not belong to Russia and nor does Crimea. So in reality was SNMG2 was sailing in international waters off the coast of a friendly but illegally occupied country.

      The Russians claim that anyone standing up to them is “provocation” – whatever that means.

        • Fair enough. The thing is though that Russia is constantly whining that it is somehow unfairly treated, principally as a cynical way to get away with behaving appallingly and generally bullying everyone and anyone except China and its clients, that it is difficult to stomach anything that smacks of making equivalence between Russia’s actions and those of other countries. Even if it is to highlight some fairly hysterical commentary on Russian ships sailing through the Channel.

        • I thought that when Russian assets come close to the uk , there only intention is to get a good look at some of our older ecclesiastical architecture!!?

        • And yet we do not respond to their ships in the same way? So I for one do not understand your point. When 18 Typhoons do approach their ships passing a lot closer to 30 miles from our coast I will be happy to understand your point of equivalence of course.

    • Daniele, a big difference is that although the channel is a transit strait it is also UK (or french) territorial waters, it’s as sovereign as the land we stand on, visiting military have a right of transit but expect to have an escort, they are by legal definition under our laws ( of french law) as they transit through what is within the boarders of our nation (12 miles out to sea)

      As an example, UK enforcement agencies could justifiably (well legally)board any transiting warship if there was intelligence of illegal activity.

      Duncan on the other hand was not in Russian territorial waters, it was within international waters, the response was therefore aggressively outside of its rights to escort a warship transiting within its territorial waters.

      One is simply the legal right of a nation within its boarders, the other is an aggressive act. One is expected and normal, the other is a single missestep from war or loss of life.

      • Point taken on channel Jonathan.

        The way I see it the Russians are transitting the Duncan is not. It’s sitting south of Crimea and it provokes a response.

        Maybe a Russian ship should sit just off western Scotland in international waters. There’d be an outcry on here.

        • Russian naval intelligence ships have regularly stood off our coast since the last war, even in the Cold War little reaction to it was ever made and no one has ever, that I am aware screamed blue murder on this site or is likely to unless just perhaps they deliberately jammed radar stations as they did at Orford Ness during the 60s and 70s.

          • It’s an anti-aircraft destroyer. It can allegedly track 1,000 Mach 3 “cricket balls”. One would imagine that our Russian friends were monitoring radar emissions if Duncan turned everything on. One expects/hopes her orders were not to do so.
            Intelligence and capability gathering was ever thus….

          • That’s interesting Spy. I know the spy trawlers would sit off our coasts, the little AGI spy ships. Had not read about the jamming of Orford Ness.

    • The Crimea is disputed territory, and if we decide to go to Ukrainian territory, by necessity we are close to Russia. Matter of geographical reality.

  6. i would love to know how many duncan had actually tracked and “destroyed” might be worth showing it on the tv program as a small, and here we have a large swarm of aircraft incoming and we are currently locked and able to destroy them now just as a passive aggressive comment towards the ruskies

    • That would have been really good Dean. I would love to know Duncan’s ops room at the time. Sir 17, inbound hostile aircraft.
      CO reply…”put them on track. Passive lock on. Ready seaviper, phalanxes to active mode please.”
      Makes you wonder outcome.
      17 Russian aircraft destroyed with hopefully no damage to Duncan or would Duncan have been theoretically knocked out?
      What were the other ships in SNMG2 at the time? Any other air defence equipped warships nearby? Would it have been Duncan on her own or Duncan +SNMG2 Vs 17 aircraft.
      As close to Crimea you can bet a bigger force of combat aircraft could have been sent

      • To be honest I think we should hold an exercise with a similar attack: send an entire squadron of Typhoons or even 2 squadrons against a T45 in a dry attack run to test its ability to target a swarm attack.

        • More likely result:
          5-10% at most casualties for the fighters. The ships will be a little to buisy to shoot fighters.
          If Su-24 17 x 9 Kh-31s = 153 Missiles
          If Su-27 17 x 10 Kh-31s = 170 Missiles
          If Su-30 17 x 12 Kh-31s = 204 Missiles
          The Kh-31 which would be the most likely used because of the plentiful amount in service travels at Mach 3.5 so the engagement window at 110 km is less than 90 seconds.
          Now the highest likely outcome some ships survive due to missiles losing lock and reacquiring on other targets due to jamming and countermeasures. This is not however good for the crew of HMS Duncan as the missiles would reacquire on the largest radar signature as there fallback is anti-radiation and Duncan has a massive radar on top. 50-60% casualties for the task force. How many sunk would be difficult to determine but one of those would undoubtedly be Duncan as she would have received more than her share of missiles. Sad for her crew but that would have been her role she is an escort. Escorts die so that other ships live. Perhaps that should have gone into the calculations that only saw 6 ordered.

          In short many telegrams would have to be delivered. While many more careers at Admiralty House and Westminster will be ruined.

          • Luckily it’s all sabre rattling, I would suspect that whichever side shot first would inflict the greatest harm.

      • Depends on the scenario. In an actual shooting war, those aircraft would’ve been on track for at least 300km+. Aster 30 has an operational range of 120km, so it depends on if the 17 aircraft were lighter fighter or multirole aircraft with shorter ranged weapons (200km). The former would be massacred, but the latter would be pretty much untouchable. For the sake of this theoretical war situation, we’ll assume all 17 were Su-35s, which can either carry 12 Kh31s or a pair of Oniks. That comes to either 204 older, 100km range missiles, or 34 bigger, more capable weapons.

        SNMG2 lineup at the time was Duncan and 4 frigates from Spain, Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey, plus several support vessels . Two of those frigates were OHPs (Spain’s with SM-1, Turkey’s upgraded with Mk41 for ESSM), one was an old Dutch frigate (Bulgarian, with a single 8-cell Sea Sparrow launcher), and the last a T22 (the former HMS Coventry, now Romanian but still with 12 Sea Wolf).

        Ironically, the force would’ve likely survived an Oniks attack, with Duncan destroying most with Sea Viper and the frigates being able to take out the rest. However, the fleet doesn’t even have 204 missiles between them. In an absolute best case scenario, with every missile a hit and kill, you’re still looking at ~100 weapons incoming, and no amount of CIWS is stopping that. Decoys and EW defences MIGHT stop some more, but I feel confident in saying that, had they wanted to, those 17 aircraft could’ve sank SNMG2.

        Of course, given that they were actually just buzzing overhead instead of being on attack runs, Duncan would’ve murdered them all if needed.

        • Callum – the ex HMS Coventry (now Regele Ferdinand) seems to be a bit of a Toothless Tiger,when sold to Romania its Sea Wolf systems were removed.

    • Dean – I’m no expert for sure but any approaching Aircraft would obviously be Detected/Tracked/Monitored as one would expect but any obvious active Targetting procedures would be strictly forbidden in the circumstances – one for Gunbuster perhaps ?.

  7. Facepalm…
    NAO chaps were talking about the main mission of both the T45 and T42, Anti Air Warfare, the Harpoon is an anti ship missile.
    ps – Only two type 42’s ever received anti ship missiles, four Exocet’s each, the Argentinean “Hercules” and “Santisima Trindad”, RN ships never received such a weapon

  8. It says the type 45 can hold 48 missiles!!! It can actually hold more but again it’s fitted for but not installed! They have room next to the front silos for extra, I can’t remember how many it was! Was it space for 14 that could hold tomahawks? And you can get anti air missiles that can fit 4 into 1 tomahawk space.

  9. If we learn nothing from the past we are bound to make the same mistakes again. Germany tried to outsmart their enemies with increasingly sophisticated equipment that took too long to make, was too expensive and not a replacement for sheer numbers because it could not be in all places all the time. Duncan may well be able to do the job of 5 previous destroyers but it can not be in 5 places and it is not 5 times harder to sink!

      • But “We’ve” been saying It for Decades and “They” haven’t listened. It’s plain to see what Herr Putin wants.

        • Clearly the only people paying attention are our enemies. Our governments ignore everybody tring to stress the realities of modern warfare. If only political spin could be as effective as enough escorts. Looks like the Russians & Chinese have simply calculated how to deploy enough aircraft & missile to overwhelm any half-armed western warship. Thje longer this disconnect goes on, the more inevetable it is that the lessons will cost very many lives before it is addressed.

    • Especially if mistakes are made in defensive responses to an attack and the old blue screen of death strikes at the wrong time. Being capable of shooting everything out of the sky is different to actually doing it under pressure so numbers are still relevant I believe.

  10. It’s all about numbers. It’s all very well having 42 VLS but when they’re gone, they’re gone. Take a look at the latest Chinese 052D’s spec They appear to be designing these to maximise weapon load just like the latest Russian Ships. Batch 2 OPV’s with a similar 2000 ton displacement are completely under armed in comparison to say, the similar size Russian Gepard class ( classed as a Frigate ).
    I know there are other factors but I just wish our Government would wake up and smell the Vodka.

  11. Look on the bright side. Lots of active training for the crew of HMS Duncan, all free. Paid for by Russia. Thank you Putin

    • Indeed you can’t get that level of real life training in a simulation. They will no doubt fully understand now just how good Samson is in that scenario and pass that invaluable knowledge on to the fleet. Les hope the missiles can now follow their bit. Though let’s hope more that they never have to.

  12. Its like being back in the good old Cold War days except the RN and the Russian forces are a lot less numerous than back then.

    The ESM fit on a T45 would have given the ship plenty of warning about what was coming. All Pilots are very chatty during taxi and takeoff talking to the tower and other aircraft and then when getting closed up into flight formation. This is all stuff that the T22 fitted with Outboard could detect decades ago so there is no doubt a modern ESM fit can do the same as a minimum.

    We(The RN) did a similar thing to a Kirov in the North Sea in the 80s. It got buzzed by a flight of Buccaneers with the hope that it would start transmitting and we, the T42 doing FRE, could get some good ESM take. As it is they stayed quiet and dumb. But it was impressive to see a Buc flying lower than the bridge windows on a T42, tanking in , kicking out black smoke from its Speys, before pulling up to overfly the middle of the Kirov.

    Modern radars have an everyday setting and a war setting. The everyday setting usually has a couple of frequency changes and that is used all the time. You never ever go fully agile with all the extras turned on unless its a full on shooting war. That way you keep your adversary guessing with regards to frequencies and pulse lengths so you cannot get you fingerprinted on their ESM kit. In addition modern radars are LPI so they are difficult to detect and fingerprint for ARM’s.

    Regarding Phalanx or any targeting radar, locking up an aircraft can be looked at as a hostile act and is only done in extremis. You avoid it in case some eager pilot gets a twitchy finger . Its to big a risk for someone to get the wrong message and accidentally loose off a shot.

    • It’d be interesting to know who learnt what, and who learnt the most – and who set themselves up to be explored, and who hoped to gain the most.

      The mind boggles.

  13. It would be interesting to know at what range Sampson can track a jet that is approaching at near sea level.

    You would have to assume in a real attack run the planes would fly in low and then pop up at max missile range and fire off their missiles, maybe with a spotter plane out further providing radar image /guidance for them.

    If they could get close enough to launch missiles before being detected, for sure Duncan would have been overwhelmed and sunk.

  14. Strange number all the same – 17. I daresay analysts will be on that, could it be it’s all the serviceable ones the Russians have or all the missiles, or the only pilots available, were there another 3 or 7 in a stand-off position, or on another mission with the Duncan being a distraction? Or is it 17 to make the analysts wonder why there were 17?

    So many questions, so many answers!

  15. International waters are “international.” The task force really was close to Crimea, but it took an idiot Russian commander to direct a “raid” like that, that close to a fleet. Putin is sitting on a political powder keg and has been distracting the Russian “narod” with incidents, to keep their minds off failed harvests and police-state tactics even the Soviets steered away from.

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