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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer
Saturday, October 15, 2016
Russia Sending AIRCRAFT CARRIER and FLEET Along English Channel
Socio-political commentary ...
Russia is expected to sail its only aircraft carrierthrough the English Channel later this month amid strained relations between London and Moscow over the Syria crisis.
Royal Navy chiefs and their Nato allies are drawing up plans to escort up to eight Russian warships which are due to leave port imminently to join the country’s air strike campaign against Syrian rebels.
Admirals believe the Kremlin will use the voyage as an opportunity for a show of strength as it passes Britain, and expect the carrier’s aircraft to launch flying drills off the British and French coasts.
A former First Sea Lord on Friday said Russian posturing risked inflaming tensions further.
Nato navies have been preparing a major operation to track the 55,000 tonne Admiral Kuznetsov and its escorts in a game of “naval cat and mouse” down through the North Atlantic to the Bay of Biscay and then into the Mediterranean.
One Nato naval source said the Russian vessels were due to leave Severomorsk near Murmansk imminently and could pass Britain as early as next week.
The source said: “It’s not catching us by surprise, we are working up what to do and we are all over it. The most likely thing is that they will go through the North Sea, down the Dover Strait and through the Channel.
“They might even stop off the North East coast to fly for a bit.”
But the source said it was also possible the Russian warships would split, with some going through the Irish Sea or down the West coast of Ireland, “to cause more trouble”.
The source said: “Even if it splits five ways and we can’t man mark them, it doesn’t matter, we have got this covered.”
One Royal Navy Type 23 frigate and one Type 45 destroyer are being prepared to monitor the Russians, while an RAF Rivet Joint spy plane, C130 Hercules and Typhoon jets will also be on standby.
But sources said, with the Royal Navy short of ships and sailors, the warships would have to be diverted from other missions to meet the Russian vessels.
Sergei Shoigu, Russian defence minister, has said the carrier will be escorted by six warships and three or four support vessels. The Russian vessels are expected to include the battlecruiser Peter the Great and a Udaloy class destroyer.
Once in the Mediterranean, the Kuznetsov is set to take up position off the coast of Syria for four to five months, where it could uses its complement of MiG-29K/KUB jets and helicopters to carry out airstrikes.
Lord West of Spithead, a former First Sea Lord, said the Russians were entitled to sail down the Channel, and the ageing carrier was not fully operational, but he said the country’s posturing over Syria would risk inflaming tensions.
He said: “When people start posturing, things become dangerous. It all raises tensions and makes things more difficult and that’s not a clever thing to do.
“It makes sense to have them monitored by a couple of Nato ships. The fact that the Navy is scrabbling around for a frigate is symptomatic of the fact that it’s a national disgrace we only have 19 surface escorts.
He said: “I find Russia very worrying at the moment. Their economy is on a war footing.”
Dr Igor Sutyagin, a Russia expert at the Royal United Services Institute, said that as the country’s economy foundered it was left only with its military might to project influence.