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Naval News & Reviews

12 April 2016
Author: Paul Ridgway


SOMERSET Kulakov main 480
HMS Somerset (foreground) escorting Russian Udaloy class destroyer Admiral Kulakov. Photo: UK Crown Copyright 2016

SOMERSET Kulakov tg 480
HMS Somerset (foreground) with Russian tanker and Udaloy class destroyer Vice Admiral Kulakov. Photo: UK Crown Copyright 2016

A Royal Navy warship shadowed a Russian Naval Task Group transiting the English Channel and steaming up the East Coast of the UK in late March.

HMS Somerset, a Type 23 frigate, along with her Merlin helicopter was used to detect and monitor the movement of the Russian warship, Vice Admiral Kulakov and her supporting ships.

Somerset was on a training mission when she received the signal to locate and escort the Russian units. As with other Royal Navy ships operating around the UK, Somerset was at a high state of alert to deal with any maritime security task, including the monitoring of transits through the UK area of responsibility by non-NATO warships.

Vice Admiral Kulakov is a Russian Udaloy class destroyer and was returning from a deployment to Syria. She was accompanied by a tanker and a tug, which is standard procedure for Russian ships. Somerset intercepted the Task Group off Brest as it approached the south west entrance to the English Channel on 23 March and escorted the Russian warships through UK waters until they turned for home on 29 March, after spending the Easter weekend off the east coast of Scotland.

This group carried out an underway replenishment in the North Sea and off the Scottish coast, outside UK territorial waters.

The Royal Navy's operation involved collaboration with NATO forces, with the French warship La Motte-Picquet and the Royal Netherlands Navy's Friesland also tracking the Russian Task Group as it passed French and Dutch waters respectively.

Somerset kept a watchful eye on the ships as they anchored in international waters, twenty miles from shore in the Moray Firth, to avoid Storm Katie. It is understood that this was not Vice Admiral Kulakov's first visit to UK waters as she paid a goodwill visit to Portsmouth in August 2012.

From time to time Russian warships of the Northern and Baltic Fleets routinely take passage through UK waters en route to deployments in the Mediterranean and Gulf regions.

Commander Michael Wood, CO of Somerset, commented: "This transit was continually monitored through a co-ordinated response between the Royal Navy and our NATO partners. The transit of Russian ships from the Mediterranean to their northern ports is not unusual, but the Royal Navy is ready at all times to protect UK territorial waters."

Based in Plymouth, Somerset is about to start a short maintenance period before resuming patrol duties around the UK as part of the Royal Navy's commitment to protect the nation's interests.

Paul Ridgway