Royal Navy warship faced ‘brazen hostility’ from 17 Russian fighter jets
Video footage shows the jets circling the ship before returning to Russian airspace.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has said a Royal Navy warship faced “brazen hostility” as 17 Russian fighter jets dangerously buzzed it off the coast of Crimea.
Footage of the encounter with HMS Duncan as it led a Nato fleet through the Black Sea in May this year has been released as a four-part documentary on the Type 45 destroyer is to be aired on Channel 5.
The Russian jets are seen flying so close that the aircraft’s electronics could have been scrambled by the Portsmouth-based warship’s radar system leaving the potential for them to crash.
To me if felt unprecedented. There were more aircraft than we have seen in a long time Commander Eleanor Stack, HMS Duncan's captain
Mr Williamson said: “Over the past year, HMS Duncan and her crew have embodied the key role the UK plays in Nato.
“As Nato flagship, she has faced down brazen Russian hostility in the Black Sea with jets buzzing overhead, been stalked by Russian spy ships and played a vital role protecting Nato allies during the British, American and French strikes against Syrian chemical weapons facilities.
“Through her deployment, this world-leading ship and her crew epitomised the nation we are going to be as we exit the EU – a truly global Britain which is outward-looking and engaged on the world stage.”
As long as Ukraine faces Russian hostilities, it will find a steadfast partner in the United Kingdom. By continuing to work together, whether through training programmes or military exercises, we help Ukraine to stand up for our shared values. #Defence pic.twitter.com/ofqyjl817N— Gavin Williamson MP (@GavinWilliamson) November 21, 2018
Commodore Mike Utley, who was leading the Nato task force from Duncan, said: “HMS Duncan is probably the only maritime asset that has seen a raid of that magnitude in the last 25 years.”
He added: “I think their tactics are naive. What they don’t know is how capable the ship is.
“When you see that much activity, I think it reinforces the nature of what people expect at the moment and why there is a challenge from Russia.”
The footage shows the jets circling the ship before returning to Russian airspace with one of the pilots sending a message to Duncan’s crew, saying: “Good luck, guys.”
The documentary shows one of Duncan’s sailors saying they felt the message could have been a warning to the ship while another said: “They had 17 aircraft, we have 48 missiles – I think we’re going to win that one.”
Commander Eleanor Stack, Duncan’s captain, said: “To me if felt unprecedented. There were more aircraft than we have seen in a long time.”
Earlier, Duncan had launched its Merlin Mk2 helicopter to hunt a Russian spy ship spotted on radar.
Lieutenant Commander James Smith said of the Nato presence in the Black Sea: “They may consider it to be escalatory, we certainly don’t. But 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.”
The first episode of Warship: Life at Sea is being shown on Channel 5 on Monday.