Amid rising tensions with the West, heavily armed Russian vessels took an unexpected route close to the Irish Sea, hinting at a transit between two estranged neighbors – the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Independent Naval Analyst H.I. Sutton stated that a fleet of Russian Navy ships entered the Irish Sea on August 30. The vessels were expected to sail up and around the United Kingdom, which would have brought them dangerously close to the Submarine base of Faslane.
The group was led by SLAVA-class Cruiser Marshal Ustinov, a sister-ship of now sunken Moskva. According to Sutton, it was accompanied by Udaloy-class destroyer Vice Admiral Kulalov and a tanker Vyazma.
The incident came just after the US Navy’s destroyers of the Ticonderoga-class set sail in the disputed Taiwan Strait for its “Freedom of Navigation Operations.” However, while the US Naval operations in the region are customary, Russian vessels usually take the English Channel route or the west coast of Ireland to avoid locking horns with the Royal Navy.
Shortly after it was first spotted, the group was shadowed by the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom, following which it reportedly took a U-turn. The Royal Navy Duke-class frigate HMS Lancaster intercepted the warships amid concerns they were preparing to transit through the Irish Sea between UK and Ireland.
Well, since posting this, they have done a U-turn.
Both the tanker and RN shadow, and by implication the Russian warships, currently heading back.
However, this is a fluid situation
Maybe the PR guys called up the Navy? pic.twitter.com/djyQOGrVOB
— H I Sutton (@CovertShores) August 30, 2022
The transit would have allowed the group to sail close to the Royal Navy’s Faslane submarine base, where Royal Navy’s strategic submarine fleet is docked.
The Faslane Submarine base (Official name: HM Naval Base Clyde) is the Royal Navy’s principal base in Scotland. It houses the nation’s nuclear deterrent submarines and the newest generation hunter-killer submarines, which make up the backbone of the submarine service.
Russian Advances Against The West
Early in February, Marshal Ustinov, a member of the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet, headed a surface action group into the Mediterranean and established a base of operations off the southern coast of Crete, while Varyag, located in the Pacific, operated closer to Syria and the Russian logistical base in Tartus.
The deployments took place concurrently with NATO, and American presence activities centered on the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), its escorts, and an air wing already aboard. Since December, Truman has been stationed in the Mediterranean, and its air wing has flown up to 90 sorties daily.
USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) pic.twitter.com/wVnxdOuwyp
— Manu Gómez (@GDarkconrad) August 28, 2022
After operating in the Mediterranean Sea since early February, RTS Marshal Ustinov (055) passed through the Strait of Gibraltar last week. According to Sutton, Russia has limited facilities in the Mediterranean and cannot maintain individual vessels there indefinitely.
According to images posted by ship spotters, the Russian cruiser was followed two hours after it passed the Rock of Gibraltar by the USS Cole (DDG-67) and USS Bainbridge (DDG-96), two US guided-missile destroyers that are part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, USNI reported.
The Russian vessel’s transit to the Irish Sea is unprecedented as it would have led it to sail between the UK and Ireland, both of which remain marred in tensions due to post-Brexit disagreements.
Two US warships cross through the Taiwan Strait, the first such passage since Nancy Pelosi's trip to Taipei, per Reuters.
— unusual_whales (@unusual_whales) August 28, 2022
Earlier in January, Russia reportedly planned naval drills within the Ireland Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). However, the Irish Foreign Minister said the drills were “not welcome” or “wanted right now” at the time due to a massive Russian build-up along Ukraine’s borders and fears of an impending invasion.
At the time, Russia had withdrawn its plans to conduct drills off the Irish coast. However, its unexpected voyage to sail through the Irish Sea near the United Kingdom is being seen as provocative due to recent tensions between the UK MoD and Russia and the former’s mammoth military support to Ukraine.
Russian state media threatened to destroy the United Kingdom with its Sarmat ICBM not long ago. On the other hand, the UK Ministry of Defense has been bringing about new anti-Russian military narratives every other week.