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.

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Levi Goldsteinberg

>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


I think they are talking about the Anti Aircraft Role.


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.


I hope HMS Duncan lifted the cover of 17 silo’s as a friendly way of saying hello to each of the pilots.


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?


Good point, on second thought its better we keep them closed.


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.

Paul T

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… Read more »


“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.


Didn’t Sea Dart have anti-ship capability?

Paul T

Darren – alledgedly at a push yes.


They’re talking about airborne targets not surface.


It’s an AIR warfare destroyer, Levi.


if they were firing anti-ship Harpoons against 17 aircraft you’d be right, but as it would be Asters, not so much.


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

David E Flandry

They were discussing anti-aircraft abilities , not anti-ship ones.


Harpoons are for ships??‍♀️

andy reeves

tell putin the next time his toys buzz ours we’ll shoot them down

Tim Collins

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.


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.

David Steeper

Elliot, Steven what do you think ?


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.

Dave's not here man

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.

shirley damazo

England too, for that matter. True that Sanchez is inept to sort the issue as is May.

Daniele Mandelli

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?… Read more »


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.

Daniele Mandelli

Ahh Expat of course.

Shaman. Good point.


Hms Defender is the only T45 with the upgraded electronic listening devices. Im sure Hms Dauntless is having the equipment during her current refit.


Only Hms Defender is currently fitted with electronic listening equipment, though im sure Hms Dauntless is having it fitted during her current refit


Given that Crimea is supposed to belong to the Ukraine, the bigger question is what are the Russians doing there (besides breaking international law by forcibly occupying foreign territory)?


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.

Daniele Mandelli


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.

Daniele Mandelli

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… Read more »

captain P Wash.

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.


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.

Daniele Mandelli


Of course.

And Russian ships sail in international waters in the English Channel.

Exactly my point.


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.

barry white

Im inclined to agree to be honest
Is not the Channel a designated international waterway ?


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… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

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.

MSDS old guy

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….

Daniele Mandelli

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.

Francois Labelle

Crimea was illegally taken by force of arms…you don’t see a problem with this!??

David E Flandry

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.

David Steeper

David it isn’t disputed. By international law it is the sovereign territory of Ukraine seized by force and illegally by Russia.


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

Mr Bell

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… Read more »


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… Read more »


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… Read more »

Paul T

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.

Paul T

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 ?.


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

Cam Hunter

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.


In theory space for an additional 12 Type 41 VLS tubes for Tomahawks or quad-packed Sea Ceptor missiles.


In theory space for an additional 12 Type 41 VLS tubes for Tomahawks or quad-packed Sea Ceptor missiles.


They could quad pack CAMM as well if there was a requirement.


Seems a game to fill a strike length type 41 with CAMM. Might be better to quad pack the current Styler 50s with CAMM or CAMM-ER as the Italian navy would like to do as a replacement for aster 15s.


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!

Daniele Mandelli

Spot on.

HM forces need more numbers.

Terry Elliott


captain P Wash.

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.



I’d feel more comfortable if we had 12 Type 45 destroyers. Hell, even 9-10 of them.


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.


He’s throwing a fit over our withdrawal from the INF. Despite the fact he’s already broken the treaty and THAT’s the reason we’re withdrawing.

Things are getting “interesting”. Not in a good way though…


Nigel Collins

Perfect job for the Batch 2 rivers, not a type 45?

Daniele Mandelli

Sums it up nicely.

Ideally something with a heli though for this sort of work?


Exactly, fitted with Artisan, CAMM and some CEC.

captain P Wash.

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.


What should really happen now, given this and other events in Ukraine today, is extra funding given to the RN and another 3-4 Type 45s ordered, as well as more Type 26s and Astute.

10 Type 45s
10 Type 26s
10 Type 31s
10 Astute class submarines

Plus a few more F35s, would make a formidable fleet.


Sadly it would take a few years I’d think to rebuild the supply lines and skills to make more T45s, and hugely expensive.


Much more sense in looking now at T26 AAW version to build 6 alongside ASW version and increase AAW hulls to 12 with no real change to number of types in Service for refits and maintenance.


In that case keep the 6 Type 45s and build 12 T26s, then 10-12 T31s, plus 3 more Astute subs to bring their total up to 10, and a minimum of 5 frontline squadrons/60 frontline F35s.

Both Type 45 and T26 should be given more offensive weaponry. The doctrine seems to be that they are purely defensive and that offensive antiship or ground attack would come from F35s and Astute. Which would be fine if we had the numbers of both, but we don’t.


I feel sorry for those jets…

Old Geezer

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.


Politically, the UK is going to be facing some hard choices following Brexit. It will be interesting to see just how involved the pols want to be with situations on the continent once the split has occurred and the UK substitutes its own priorities diverging from the priorities of the EU…



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… Read more »


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.


I don’t think Russia has enough operational planes to constitute a swarm that a type 45 couldn’t track and eliminate.


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.

[…] It was reported yesterday that a Royal Navy Destroyer was swarmed by 17 Russian jets in Black Sea earlier this year. […]


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!


Mmm, having watched the 2nd episode for some thick reason I never thought of different types of aircraft!


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.