Russia's submarines circling Britain's coastline', says Ben Wallace

Russia’s submarines are circling Britain’s entire coastline as Putin’s forces remain ‘our number one threat’, says Defence Secretary Ben Wallace

  • Defence Secretary said Russian submarines are ‘circling UK’s entire coastline’
  • Ben Wallace, 51, attacked Moscow for ‘regularly’ sending ships into UK waters
  • He said a kilo-class submarine had been seen in Irish Sea at the end of last year
  • Russian ships are normally only spotted in the North Sea or the English Channel 

The Defence Secretary has said that Russia’s submarines are ‘circling Britain’s entire coastline’ and warned that Putin’s force remain our ‘number one adversary threat’.

Ben Wallace, 51, attacked Russia for ‘regularly’ sending their ships to UK waters, and claimed Moscow had carried out ‘a number of operations, deliberately at Britain’.

Mr Wallace, who has been the Secretary of State for Defence since 2019, also told The Telegraph that a Russian kilo-class submarine was spotted in the Irish Sea for the first time in a ‘very, very long time’ at the end of last year.

He told the publication: ‘We’re regularly visited by nosy Russian ships, and we are regularly visited now by a number of Russian warships.’ 

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, 51, (pictured) said Russia’s submarines are ‘circling Britain’s entire coastline’ and warned that Putin’s force remain our ‘number one adversary threat’

It is the first time that the Government has confirmed the presence of Russian vessels in the Irish sea. 

Russian ships are normally spotted in either the English Channel or the North Sea, with at least 150 occasions of Russian vessels being detected by the UK since 2013.  

Mr Wallace added: ‘We have tried de-escalation, we have tried methods but at the moment until Russia changes its attitude, it’s quite hard to see where we’re going to go.’

While confirmed sightings of Russian vessels are rare, it was reported that at least seven Russian naval ships and a submarine were spotted off the UK last year. 

Meanwhile in February, Portsmouth-based patrol ship HMS Mersey tracked a Russian kilo-class submarine as it moved through the North Sea and the English Channel on a journey from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean.

Mr Wallace’s comments come after the Royal Navy flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth departed from Portsmouth for Asia on Saturday evening for a 28-week operational deployment.

Mr Wallace, 51, attacked Russia for ‘regularly’ sending ships to UK waters, and claimed Moscow had carried out ‘operations, deliberately at Britain’. Pictured: Russian submarine being monitored by HMS Mersey

He told The Telegraph that the deployment showed Britain was ‘back’ as a global military force, and denied claims that the voyage will avoid travelling between China and Taiwan.

Mr Wallace said: ‘We are going there [to Japan] in a confident manner, but not a confrontational manner.’

The deployment of the fleet, named the Carrier Strike Group (CSG) will cover 26,000 nautical miles travelling through the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, then from the Gulf of Aden to the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean to the Philippine Sea. 

It has been organised as part of the ‘UK’s tilt to the Indo-Pacific region’ in a bid to ‘bolster deep defence partnerships’ as well as to take part in an exercise to mark the 50th anniversary of the Five Powers Defence Agreement with Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Wallace previously said the deployment ‘will be flying the flag for Global Britain – projecting our influence, signalling our power, engaging with our friends and reaffirming our commitment to addressing the security challenges of today and tomorrow’. 

Kilo-class attack submarine


6 x 21 in torpedo tubes

18 x torpedoes

4 x land-attack cruise missile, anti-ship missile and anti-submarine missile 

24 x mines

8 x surface-to-air missiles  


With snorkel: 6,000–7,500 nmi (6,900–8,600 mi) at 7 kn (8.1 mph)

Submerged: 400 nmi (460 mi) at 3 kn (3.5 mph)

Full run: 12.7 nmi (14.6 mi) at 21 kn (24 mph)


Surfaced: 17 knots (20 mph)

Submerged: 20 knots (23 mph)

Size: 70.0–73.8 m 

Crew: 52

The CSG will carry out visits to 40 countries including India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore with more than 70 engagements, including sailing alongside the French carrier Charles De Gaulle in the Mediterranean.

As well as the UK military units involved in the CSG, HMS Queen Elizabeth will also have a squadron of 10 US Marine Corps F35B Lightning II jets embarked and be accompanied by the US destroyer USS The Sullivans and the Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen. 

Accompanying HMS Queen Elizabeth is also a surface fleet made up of Type 45 destroyers HMS Defender and HMS Diamond, Type 23 anti-submarine frigates HMS Kent and HMS Richmond, and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s RFA Fort Victoria and RFA Tidespring.   

The Royal Navy Astute-class submarine will also be deployed, armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles.

As well as the stealth fighters, four Wildcat maritime attack helicopters, seven Merlin Mk2 anti-submarine helicopters and three Merlin Mk4 commando helicopters will be embarked – the greatest quantity of helicopters assigned to a single UK Task Group in a decade.

Before its departure, the Queen, 95, toured the £3billion warship, which is affectionally called ‘Big Lizzie’, on Saturday afternoon in Portsmouth to bid her well-wishes to Royal Navy personnel. 

The carrier had not been expected to return to Portsmouth after taking part in a major exercise off the coast of Scotland while the CSG had been expected to gather in the Solent prior to departure.

But heavy winds led to the unscheduled stop in the naval base in Portsmouth with most of the other ships waiting at Devonport to regroup before sailing for the Mediterranean on Saturday.

It comes just months after Portsmouth-based patrol ship HMS Mersey tracked Russian surfaced submarine, RFS Rostov Na Donu, as it moved through the North Sea and the English Channel in February.

The Kilo-class diesel powered attack submarine was moving through on its journey from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean.

A navy spokesman said at the time: ‘Mersey reported on the movements of the Russian Black Sea Fleet submarine, so that Nato allies could track her progress as she continued her onward journey.’ 

Launched in 2003, HMS Mersey is one of the busiest ships in the Royal Navy Fleet, averaging 220 days at sea every year. 

It comes after patrol ship HMS Mersey tracked a Russian submarine, RFS Rostov Na Donu (pictured), as it moved through the North Sea and the English Channel in February

Mr Wallace’s comments come after the Royal Navy flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth (pictured) departed from Portsmouth for Asia on Saturday for a 28-week operational deployment

The patrol ship predominantly works on fishery protection missions, ensuring that fishing boats and trawlers stick to agreed quotas and regulations on behalf of the Marine Management Organisation.

Given her regular presence in home waters, Mersey is also frequently involved in monitoring the movements of foreign warships as they pass the UK. 

River-class offshore patrol vessel HMS Mersey was also on duty when a kilo-class submarine made a reverse journey in October last year, as it returned from operations in the Mediterranean back to the Baltic. 

The Royal Navy also shadowed nine Russian warships around the UK towards the end of November in 2020.

The ships – which included a surfaced submarine, a destroyer and a patrol ship – were spotted in the English Channel, the Celtic Sea and the west coast of Scotland. 

Navy patrol ship HMS Severn shadowed Russian corvette Boikiy, while HMS Northumberland was seen watching Udaloy-class destroyer the Vice-Admiral Kulakov.

In July last year, a Russian submarine carrying land attack missiles was also intercepted in the Channel by two Royal Navy warships.

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