THE Royal Navy was forced to scramble a warship after two Russian cruise missile submarines entered the North Sea.
The Type 23 frigate shadowed the submarines as they made their way from the Arctic to St Petersburg ahead of Russia‘s Navy Day celebrations on July 31.
One of the RAF’s new long-range maritime patrol aircraft, the P8 Poseidon, also worked with HMS Portland to hunt and track the submarines.
The Russian subs, the Severodvinsk, and the Akula-class attack submarine Vepr, surfaced in the North Sea in separate incidents on July 16 and 19 separately.
HMS Portland’s Commanding Officer, Commander Tim Leeder, said: “Our success on operations marks the culmination of many months of specialist training and exercises.
“Critically, the cohesiveness of Royal Navy, RAF and our allies’ capabilities ensures that we are capable of conducting and sustaining these types of anti-submarine operations in the North Atlantic.
“It is testament to my sailors’ dedication and professionalism, alongside that of our allies, that we are able to conduct this strategically crucial role.”
The mission comes after HMS Portland took part in a flagship Nato submarine-hunting exercise.
Portland and her specialist Merlin helicopter – both equipped with cutting-edge sonars, sensors and torpedoes for submarine-hunting operations – reported on the Russian Northern Fleet vessels’ movements.
RAF fighter jets have been forced to intercept Russian warships close to the UK 136 times since 2005.
The HMS Portland has a crew of 180 and a top speed of 28 knots (32mph).
Among its fearsome arsenal are 32 Sea Ceptor anti-air missiles, eight Harpoon anti-ship missiles, anti-submarine torpedoes, a 4.5in naval gun, two 30mm guns and two Miniguns.
The Severodvinsk and Vepr are both armed with Kalibr cruise missiles.
It follows reports that the Royal Navy is developing drones to hunt for Russian submarines to free up pilots for other missions.
The aircraft drop sonobuoys – small tube-shaped buoys – to track submarines and transmit data back to the aircraft.
If a submarine is detected, the drone will alert a crewed helicopter and call for support if needed, The Times reports.
The Ministry of Defence is set to give UK aerospace giant Leonardo £60m over four years to develop a three-tonne model that will carry out its first flight in 2025.
In an announcement this week, the MoD said the uncrewed helicopters could “provide an innovative alternative to existing aircraft for tracking adversary submarines,” and would be cheaper and safer than using crewed choppers.