Nine Royal Navy vessels have shadowed seven Russian warships after detecting “unusually high levels of activity” in the Channel and North Sea.
It comes as the Royal Navy, and other divisions of the armed forces, are preparing to help the NHS and other government departments deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Royal Navy’s servicemen have been monitoring every movement of the Russian ships by radar, surveillance cameras and sensors, allowing them to accurately track the course and speed of the Russian vessels as they passed the British Isles.
The Royal Navy ships were supported by Merlin and Wildcat helicopters of 814 and 815 Naval Air Squadrons.
HMS Tyne’s executive officer, Lieutenant Nick Ward, said: “As the Armed Forces are helping the NHS save lives in the UK, it’s essential the Navy continues to deliver the tasks we have always performed to help keep Britain safe.”
He added that the work “represents one of the many roles our patrol vessels perform in support of the Royal Navy’s commitments”.
“This is our core business and represents an enduring commitment to uphold the security of the UK,”
Of those Russian vessels, the operations, saw three Steregushchiy-class corvettes, two Ropucha-class landing ships and two Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates in the channel and North sea, as well as their supporting auxiliary ships and tugboats.
HMS Sutherland watched on as a Merlin helicopter carried out a number of operations gathering intelligence on the Russian ships as they passed through the Channel.
HMS Sutherland’s operations officer, Lieutenant Hannah Lee, said: “Our successful integration into the maritime group proves our ability to adapt to task group operations at short notice.
“Having proved we can work together and contributed once again to NATO operations, we now look to return to UK national tasks in support of the very highest defence priorities.”