The Daily Telegraph

Moscow’s fighter jets ‘threatened’ Navy warship on maiden voyage

- By Danielle Sheridan defence editor

A SQUADRON of Russian fighter jets close in on HMS Queen Elizabeth as it sails through the Suez Canal. As the Russian jets, armed with 23mm cannons, approach at 7,000ft, a Naval officer barks out: “I’ve got three Russian jets at six miles.”

Another officer on the British aircraft carrier takes to the airwaves to warn the Russians: “This is a coalition warship. Your actions appear to be threatenin­g. Turn away immediatel­y or I may take action against you.”

In the command room, another officer says: “Warnings have been read following hail from Queen Elizabeth, no response to the warnings this time, aircraft continuing to close.”

This footage, filmed for the BBC TV series The Warship: Tour of Duty, shows the moment that three Russian warplanes flew towards the British carrier strike group as it embarked on its ninemonth maiden voyage in June 2021. In response, Royal Navy officers scrambled the warship’s F-35 stealth jets.

At the time of the incident, the jets from the Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron had been carrying out their first combat operation against Islamic State.

In the run-up to the incident, Russia’s prized Black Sea frigate Admiral Makarov, believed to be the fleet’s flagship since the loss of the Moskva, was also involved in the encounter.

It was said to have been attempting to block the £3billion aircraft carrier from launching its jets.

The documentar­y also shows American escort ship, US destroyer The Sullivans, scrambling to deter the Makarov.

The Daily Telegraph was on board the warship, the largest and most powerful vessel constructe­d for the Royal Navy, during the strike missions in June 2021 and saw the jets having to be deployed at short notice first-hand.

At the time, Capt James Blackmore, commander of the Airgroup, said they had seen a “mixture” of Russian Sukhois and Migs and they were in “visual range of the pilots”. He described it as “cat-and-mouse posturing”.

A defence source stressed that the Royal Navy trains in order to prepare for such “kind of interest” from the Russians. “Exposure and interest from nations around the world was almost inevitable, noting the status and deployment of the carrier and her multinatio­nal task force,” they said.

A Royal Navy spokesman said: “HMS Queen Elizabeth and her multinatio­nal taskforce were routinely approached by maritime and airborne forces throughout the successful Carrier Strike Group deployment in 2021.”

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