British Frigate to Escort Russian Warships Through English Channel

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British frigate HMS WESTMINSTER was dispatched Monday morning to escort a group of Russian warships through the English Channel.

The Anti-Submarine Warfare frigate was deployed to escort the Russian ships as they made their way through British territorial waters, reports the Daily Mail. While the English Channel, the busiest shipping lane in the world, is split between British, French, and Belgian territorial waters, Britain’s Royal Navy stands a guardship for the area to escort foreign warships and respond to emergencies in the area.

As the fastest route from Russia’s northern ports to southern destinations including the Mediterranean — and with it Syria, the site of a large and ongoing Russian military deployment — the English Channel has seen a large number of Russian warship transits in recent years.

The most recent was the transit of Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov in the North Sea by the British frigate HMS ST ALBANS on Christmas day, with two other Russian ships monitored by a Royal Navy helicopter, and a Russian intelligence ship escorted by patrol ship HMS TYNE.

HMS WESTMINSTER has freshly returned to service after entering a period of refit in 2014, in which she received new weapons and radar systems. She completed a successful test firing of the Royal Navy’s new Sea Ceptor surface-air missile system in December, just the second ship in the fleet to receive the weapon.

The weapon replaces the 1970’s era SeaWolf system and is used to defend a ship and other friendly vessels within a 500 square mile area from missiles and airborne attack.

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