The operational mission marked the first time an RAF P-8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPDA) shadowed a Russian warship in the North Sea, near to UK waters. The Minister of State for Defence said the successful mission “showcased the UK’s readiness to defend its waters”.
The operation occurred on Monday, where a P-8a Poseidon from 120 Squadron tracked Russian warship Vasily Bykov as it passed through the North Sea.
The plane, a modified Boeing 737 jet, is armed with torpedoes, radars, classified sensors and sonar buoys, which it can drop into the water to ping hidden submarines and is based at Kinloss Barracks, north of Scotland.
The RAF said the Poseidon demonstrated its “speed and readiness” during the mission.
Typhoon fighters based at RAF Lossiemouth, north-east Scotland, and the VIP Voyager refuelling aircraft, stationed at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, supported the Poseidon.
Commenting on the operation, Baroness Goldie, Minister of State for Defence, said: “In an increasingly unstable world of persistent challenge and competition, it is important that the UK Armed Forces possess cutting edge technology to meet threats wherever they emerge.
“The sight of our new Poseidon aircraft, working in concert with the Royal Navy has showcased the UK’s readiness to defend its waters from any incursion.”
Naval sources have warned Russian submarine activity is as high as it has been since the end of the Cold War.
Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, head of the RAF, said the P-8 surveillance planes were Britain’s “response to increasing Russian adventurism across mainland Europe and the North Atlantic and stretching up into the high Arctic”.
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“The Poseidon aircraft is a key part of that development and evidence of the hard work performed by all those involved.
“This mission by the Poseidon, to monitor Russian naval activity, shows how the RAF will now be able to contribute to Maritime Security alongside the Royal Navy and our NATO allies, to secure the seas and skies.”
The Vasily Bykov, the Russian warship that risked intruding on British waters, was among a number of Russian vessels that gathered near St Petersburg for an annual Naval day parade last month.
The vessel is 100m long and armed with torpedoes, Kalibr-NK anti-ship missiles and Buk Anti-Aircraft missiles.