Royal Navy frigate HMS Somerset shadowed a Russian destroyer off the coast of Scotland this weekend it has been confirmed.

According to the Royal Navy, Somerset, a Plymouth-based Type 23 frigate, detected and monitored the movements of the Russian warship Vice Admiral Kulakov and her supporting tanker.

“HMS Somerset had been engaged in trials of her cutting-edge sonar equipment when she received the call to locate and shadow the Russian units.

She arrived in the Moray Firth on Saturday (18 November) and escorted the ships through UK waters and north along the coast of Norway before returning to her original task.”

Commander Timothy Berry, HMS Somerset’s Commanding Officer, said:

“As with all Royal Navy ships operating in UK waters, HMS Somerset was at a high state of alert to deal with any maritime security task such as this. Monitoring transits of non-NATO warships through UK territorial waters is part of what the Royal Navy does all year round to keep Britain safe.

We now continue with our original tasking having seen the Russian ships safely through the UK’s area of interest.”

Pictured is the Russian destroyer Vice Admiral Kulakov as seen from HMS Somerset in the Moray Firth of the North Sea.

The Vice Admiral Kulakov is a Russian Udaloy-class destroyer. It is thought she was returning from a deployment in the Mediterranean.

The Royal Navy say in a release that Russian warships of the northern and Baltic fleets routinely pass through UK territorial waters en route to or from deployments in the Mediterranean and Gulf regions.

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Perfect job for a Type 31, which would not be busy testing its cutting edge sonar.

Lee H

Perfect job for a River. They pose no threat, it’s escorting of the coast of the U.K. if trouble is imminent task an aircraft.


Indeed so; retaining the batch 1’s as the batch 2’s come into service and moving to a fleet of 8 or 9 OPVs would be a good move. I think though that the RN have it in mind to grow the fleet with additional Type 31’s rather than OPV’s. And we do need to make the NSS happen.


Is it UK or NATO policy too escort Russian Ships through our waters?


that should be to. and not too.


Both I would guess, the Norweigans would take over, same as the Bear flights which hand over from Norway to the UK to France in neccessary.

Lee H

NATO policy to provide escort (safety, courtesy and goodwill).
We are not at war, these ships pose very little immediate threat but is a good way to test watch keeping etc.
It also sends a message, we are here 14 hrs a day, 260 days of the year – weather permitting.


Astute / Trafalgar is probably there anyway.


According to wiki the top speed of the Vice Admiral Kulakov is 35 knots which could be a bit embarrassing for the RN. It is a hole in the RN which should be filled, not from any security point of view of course, but from sheer potential embarrassment.

Back to my pet subject of the Skjold in a way, or spec the T31 a bit faster, which wouldn’t be easy.

Lee H

DA – sprint speed is 35kts. Not on a return leg from the Med, besides Wildcat is faster and if she decided to play those games she would no doubt breakdown.


Well, exactly. But there’s nothing to stop the Kulakov doing a few hours sprint and the T31 “losing” the Kulakov as would be reported by some of the media, only to be discovered by a fishing boat via twitter or a passing oil rig, or something like that. Remember that cheeky Russian sub sticking up its periscope “near” Faslane and a coincidental fishing boat, which caused a perfect storm. Or the comments about York I think it was in comparison to the size of the Kuznetsov as though it actually matters. The MOD / RN doesn’t look after its public… Read more »

Stuart Willard

I’m not clear whether hitting top speed would be very practical other than a boastful short sprint followed by embarrassingly sitting at anchor waiting for its tanker to catch up. Like Jeremy Clarkson the Russians do like their top speeds even if equally like Clarkson they can rarely use it beyond the odd show for fear of righting off the naval equivalent of tyres before sight of the finishing line.


Hi Stuart, same answer I gave Lee. There’s no actual need for the escort at all, apart from watching out for fly-tipping, but it’s all about face and embarrassment.

“The UK navy is so small it takes 2 days to send a warship up from Portsmouth”.

That’s what it’s all about. And likely the Russian twitterati spooks are out in full support of such a line.

Steve R

The Udaloy may be slightly faster than a Type 23 – but the ‘escorting tanker’ certainly isn’t! If the Russians had any hostile intent a couple of knots would be pretty irrelevant – all we’d have to do was take out the tanker and let the destroyer run out of fuel!
As long as the speed of the Type 31 is adequate for escort work, then the emphasis should be on endurance at a more modest pace. Outright speed is no longer a requirement, no ship can outrun a missile or 55kt guided torpedo, it’s the onboard systems that count.


Aye, but think of the headlines in the usual suspects, and the public outcry “Russian destroyer lost by the RN”.


Yes those wouldn’t be very healthy headlines for the frigate Captain’s career.
On the Type 31 speed requirement. Well that depends on how many are ordered. A smaller pool of units means speed would have to be emphasized in addition to endurance because the fleet would have to cover more with less. This would mean large compromises in weapons, electronic warfare, and sensor fit. A larger pool means you can settle for a frigate that only has to keep pace with the QEs.


The Type 31 RFI calls for a max speed of equal to or greater than 24 knots, also the max speed of the River batch 2 which could also do this shadowing job ( with or without a Wildcat). Retaining a couple of batch 1 Rivers for a while for fisheries protection would be a smart thing to do.


Russian destroyer Vice-Admiral Kulakov spent a 5 day visit to Portsmouth in August 2012.

I’m more concerned that our QE carriers are pretty slow when 30 knots+ would help heavy laden Lightnings take off better. Maybe those speeds just burn up too much fuel. Many Russian subs could outrun our frigates, but would they be able to do that quietly enough to avoid torpedoes dropped by Merlins or Poseidons? Other allies have subroc too.

With the handful of River OPVs available, I’d doubt we could spare one from fishery, policing, drug busting, refugee rescue or being under refit.


Why not just keep a drone flying above them?

Lee H

CVF has now ramp and doesn’t need 30 knots to generate that amount of air over the deck.
CTG limited by speed of its tankers et al.
Top speed of ships although interesting and good for the occasional sprint no longer add as much as they once did.

Mr Bell

Frank a Russian sub travelling at 30+ knots would be fairly easy to track via Sousat and sonar buoys. it would cavetate and be noisy at that speed. Regardless of top speed no sub can outrun a spearfish torpedo or a hellcat/ merlin. ditto the surface ship. I think a load of stealthy F35Bs armed with storm shadow or hellfire or JDAM munitions would make a mess of this destroyer fairly quickly. Still does not stop me wanting all our escorts armed with Norwegian anti ship missile and/or LRASM. Surely with a ” growing £45 billion defence budget” we can… Read more »