UK’s Newest Warship Could Sail as Early as 26 June
Some time in the next week – perhaps as early as 26 June – the Royal Navy’s (RN) largest ever warship, the aircraft carrier HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH, will set sail from Rosyth to embark on sea trials that will last six perhaps weeks. She will be accompanied by at least one RN escort vessel. But it is likely (for which read certain) she will also have unwelcome distant companions, in the form of Russian warships, submarines and maritime patrol aircraft (MPA).
Reports circulating in the national press this weekend seem predisposed to regard this as some sort of underhand ‘dirty tricks’ undertaking by Moscow. The truth is, this is perfectly normal behaviour – behaviour in which we ourselves engage, albeit without too much public trumpeting. The Cold War saw permanent patrols in the North Sea and the Arctic in which NATO forces kept a watchful eye on the comings and goings of Soviet warships from their home ports – particularly when a new model of warship first appeared. In November 2014 HMS TYNE shadowed a small Russian task force transiting the Channel.
The 65,000t carrier and its sister ship will subtly change the balance of naval power in the north Atlantic – especially given the uncertainty Russia entertains regarding Britain’s post-Brexit role. Uncertainty leads to instability and it is therefore absolutely understandable (and arguably even in British interests, in a roundabout way) that Russia does its utmost to determine QUEEN ELIZABETH’s capabilities, her acoustic signature and her radar reflective characteristics.
Were the situation reversed, we would do no less.