• Toby Irwin

HMS Duncan swarmed by Russian Aircraft

Following on from the events of the 25th, the Kerch strait has been reopened to maritime traffic. To my understanding, the three naval ships seized by the Russian Navy have still not been returned to Ukraine. Several Ukrainian servicemen have been wounded. Martial law is reportedly going to be imposed for 30 days in the east of Ukraine *. Russia have reportedly tripled its number of military assets on the Ukrainian border since September **.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
HMS Duncan (June 2016)

Meanwhile in the Black Sea, just south of the Crimean Peninsula, HMS Duncan was leading a NATO task-group. On the 26th of November the Ministry of Defence confirmed that the Royal Navy Type45 destroyer was ‘raided’ by seventeen Russian jets. HMS Duncan was reportedly swarmed by the Russian jets after launching its Merlin mk2 helicopter to search the area. The ship was ‘buzzed’ multiple times and sent a message by one of the Russian pilots reading: “Good luck, guys”.

The Ministry of Defence has claimed that the event had a very serious possibility of escalating into a major international incident after the jets flew so close to HMS Duncan’s radar system the Russian electronics could have failed. Despite this, the Royal Navy remains confident that it could have handled the situation. The UK Defence Journal reports that a type 45 destroyer has five times the offensive capability as a Type 42 and could have countered the Russian aircraft in the unlikely event of an engagement ***.

Commodore Mike Utley has considered this the most significant maritime engagement of the last 25 years on a NATO task force. Regardless, Lieutenant Commander James Smith has defended the right of the Royal Navy to patrol international waters:

“it depends on how you spin the narrative. The one thing the Russians are very good at is spinning a narrative … we have to demonstrate and create our own as well. They can scream and shout all they want but we still have the right, as do all these units, to be where we are, operating how we are." ****

Footage of the incident can be found here: https://www.thesun.ie/news/3440099/moment-royal-navy-warship-buzzed-by-17-russian-fighter-jets-in-black-sea-is-revealed-as-tensions-with-ukraine-explode/

* https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-46352367

** Twitter of the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko: @poroshenko

*** https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/royal-navy-destroyer-swarmed-by-17-russian-jets-in-black-sea/

**** https://news.sky.com/story/royal-navy-ship-buzzed-by-17-hostile-russian-jets-off-the-coast-of-crimea-11564248

At the time of writing, Toby Irwin is a second year student at the University of St Andrews. He is studying Modern History and International Relations. Areas that interest him the most are UK defence strategy and foreign policy.