Royal Navy taskforce set to protect vital undersea cables from Russia

A Royal Navy taskforce in the face of ongoing Russian aggression. From December, seven warships and military aircraft will patrol the seas of northern Europe as part of an allied effort to protect undersea infrastructure, including vital cables and pipelines,

The decision comes after European security alliance agreed to step up efforts to protect undersea cables and pipelines from potential Russian threats earlier this year. The fleet will take part in surveillance operations and act as a deterrent against interference, after an unprecedented agreement by the 10 Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) nations.

Since the destruction of the NordStream pipeline in September 2022, there has been increasing concern around the safety of critical underwater infrastructure. December’s deployment will mark the first time a so-called “JEF Response Option” has been activated and is aimed at demonstrating how the alliance would respond to an emergency.

The UK contribution to the deployment will include two Royal Navy frigates, two offshore patrol vessels and mine countermeasures vessels, as well as a Royal Fleet Auxiliary landing ship. They will be supported by a Royal Air Force P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft based at RAF Lossiemouth.

The warships will be spaced out to cover a large area of the sea, with patrols understood to be taking place in the North Atlantic and North Sea. Defence Secretary Grant Shapps explained: “This historic and unprecedented agreement will see a Royal Navy task force of seven ships, supported by the RAF, join allies from across northern Europe as part of a joint operation to defend our shared critical infrastructure against potential threats.

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“The UK and our JEF partners will do whatever it takes to defend our mutual areas of interest, and today’s display of unshakeable unity sends a powerful message of deterrence that we stand ready to meet any potential threat with force. Together, we stand firmly in support of peace, security, and a steadfast resolve to uphold the rules-based international order.”

Ministers from the 10 JEF nations agreed the deployment at a virtual meeting on Tuesday. Frigates HMS Richmond and HMS Somerset, patrol vessels HMS Severn and HMS Tyne, will be part of the taskforce, as well as minehunters HMS Cattistock and HMS Penzance and the landing ship RFA Mounts Bay.

More than 20,000 British troops to be deployed across Northern Europe next year. Speaking last month, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “It is vital that we stand united against those with malign intent.

“As the international order continues to be challenged by desperate dictators, rogue states, and terrorist organisations – like Hamas – we must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our international friends and partners to defend our values, security and prosperity. Northern Europe is vital to our national security, which is why it’s more important than ever that we work with our Joint Expeditionary Force neighbours to protect our backyard and deter damaging hybrid threats.

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