A former First Sea Lord has criticised plans to send a survey vessel to visit Ukraine in the wake of news that HMS Duncan was ‘swarmed’ by 17 Russian jets.

The Defence Secretary recently announced that HMS Echo would deploy to the Black Sea in 2019 to demonstrate the UK’s support to ensuring freedom of navigation in the region.

It was also confirmed that, in January and February next year, training teams – made up of personnel from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and the Army – will deploy to Ukraine as part of the extension to the UK’s military training operation announced by Williamson on his visit to the country in September.

Lord West of Spithead, a former First Sea Lord, said:

“My Lords, the noble Baroness will be aware that it has been stated that we are sending a warship to the Black Sea but, as I understand it, it is in fact a survey ship.

If things are hotting up in the Black Sea, to send a ship into harm’s way that is not capable of looking after itself is not a clever idea. Should it be reviewed? Perhaps we should send a ship such as a 45, which is able to look after itself in these circumstances.”

Baroness Goldie responded:

“I am very reluctant to comment on specific operational matters for reasons that your Lordships will understand. The MoD response to such situations is carefully assessed and reviewed; any decision to deploy our ships would be made after only the most careful assessment of all the circumstances.”

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

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.

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People watch this link on how Russia contribute to world peace https://youtu.be/tR_6dibpDfo



and lie, you forgot that one!


It is a bit pointless sending a ship with no defensive armament to go on a freedom of navigation exercise. It would be embarrassing if Putin dropped a load of commando’s on it and sailed it back to Crimea.


never understood builds big ships, albions survey boats(the echo class) and don’t arm as a warship who will carry the can when a headline saying, major unarmed navy ship lost, all crew 200 marines feared lost?


Please can you rewrite your comment so that it makes sense. Thanks


I can see the Russians adding to their collection of seized foreign navel vessels if we’re not careful…
A T45 or a Sea Ceptor equipped T23 would be more appropriate.

Mr Bell

No way would any Royal Navy crew allow the Russian’s to capture their ship. If attempted there would be a lot of dead Russian’s to show for the attempt. Any such attempt would lead to war, a war Russia cannot win and would be damn foolish to even start. NATO nations have nearly 1 billion citizens and a GDP of £12-13 trillion a year Vs Russia less than 250 million citizens and a GDP of less than £2 trillion a year. They will loose.


if we’ve actually got one to send

The riddler

Yes, in light of recent events this would be a foolish move and one that could end international embarrassment for the UK government. We can’t have another incident like we had with Iran. Power breeds respect and if the navy were to put up resistance to aggression then it would curry favour. They won’t however.


no western power needs to enter the black sea, unless its spying.an unnecessary folly putting a naval ship and herr crew into potential danger


Utter crap. We have every right under existing treaties and it’s important to show Russia, just like China, that we will continue to uphold Freedom of Navigation. It’s of vital importance that we don’t kow-tow to bullies.

David E Flandry

Most of the Black Sea is international water. Any nation may enter it. They do not need a reason.

Ian Smith

Strikes me you cannot pretend with this stuff! We should do this properly and be prepared for 2nd consequences or keep Away.


I suspect this was agreed by some middle level civil servant a year or 2 ago and at the time it was considered to be a low threat situation and Echo was the only available asset. The problem is the navy has got used to delivering on commitments placed on them by sending survey ships/RFA etc alone and this has resulted in the government believing the navy can be deployed globally and so further stretching things. Hopefully common sense will kick in and Echo will either be escorted by a friendly asset or we will send something a bit more… Read more »


given the size of the turkish navy, the echo should be part of a marime group exercise with protection from them.the echo and her crew would be better served at home and the crew with its families, and not in a hazardous area on a political ‘stunt’


Are Subs forced to surface politely when transiting the Bosphorous, or could they sail submerged?


The Montreux convention says that “submarines must travel by day and on the surface”.
Apparently it has been done though just not officially and its not without it challenges, its deepest point is only 120m.



A bit like sending a Ferret amoured car to fight a Chieftain MBT type war? The days are long gone when a foe was frightened by a British Army Ferret!

Cam Hunter

Russia don’t have the balls to atack a British RN ship…. Maybe
pretend atacks yeah!


we shall see no doubt sooner rather than later.

Gavin Gordon

As with others here, no doubt, I can well remember the discomfort our RN crew feel when they are sent into potential harms way with a lack of sufficient weapons. I SINCERELY hope that Duncan had a full magazine, but doubt it, frankly – let alone going in on a survey vessel. The above not an issue that computes with the suits in the Treasury or most polititians, regrettably. Brave cannon fodder.


i was on antrim in 1982, we were sent into a war, two missile systems, that carried sea slug, and seacat missiles that could be thrown further and straighter by the crew under armed, unarmed, its the same thing when the sh*T hits the fan.


I see this as a very half arsed way of showing support to Ukraine but government too scared to send an armed warship as it may upset the Russians.
I think every NATO country and any other country who thinks what Russia are doing is wrong should send one warship, fully armed and park them in a huge armada off the coast of Ukraine just in international waters. A message should then be sent to Russia: the world is watching your every move.
A strong unified approach is required to get Russia to back off. No pussy footing around.

captain P Wash.

Sounds a bit like the “Light Brigade” to me TS.

P tattersall

TS to scared of the russian navy are you having a laugh .


maybe send one vessel from every nato nation into the black sea the ukraine applied to join nato in the past. if it had been allowed, the current position would be a GLOBAL powderkeg like the cuban crisis of the 60’s

Ross McFarlane

Whilst there certainly is merit in the clamour to send something with a big gun on the front and lots of “whoosh bangs”, and we certainly want to avoid the embarrasment of having sailors detained, it might be worth remembering that HMS Echo is a multi purpose survey ship. This gives the option of embarking some special people who like squadrons of boats to find out some facts to inform NATO’s future strategy and plans. It can be a fine balance between risk and reward. Clearly without a big gun on the front, Russians can hardly say they were provoked… Read more »


Alternatively, what good would a T45/T23 be at updating the chart data for an area of the world where the RN has had little if any presence in the past years.
Before you go sending in big ships it helps to know whats below you. Imagine the furore if a RN vessel hit an uncharted rock or submerged obstacle.


Sounds like an ideal deployment for a T31….


Sounds like an ideal deployment for a T31…


Hi folks hope are all well. Of course it may be a cover to gather intelligence, and also to gather data on what is occurring in the troubled waters.

David Steeper

Ross you’re spot on.


HMS Duncan was part of a NATO task force, wasn’t it? So was accompanied by other vessels. So wouldn’t HMS Echo be part of a task force too?