Dramatic footage is being released of the moment a Scots-built warship was swarmed by 17 Russian jets as she led a Nato fleet through the Black Sea.
The action took place earlier this year as HMS Duncan sailed 30 miles off the coast of Crimea – the closest any British Royal Navy warship has come since Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014. The worrying display of airborne aggression, captured on camera by a Channel 5 documentary crew embarked on Duncan, has been branded ‘unprecedented’ by naval top brass.
At points the warplanes hurtled just a few hundred feet away from the £1bn destroyer, while brazenly ignoring repeated warnings from the ship.
The Russian pilots were flying so dangerously close to Duncan’s high-powered radar system that their jets’ electronics could have been scrambled, causing the planes to crash – and potentially sparking a major international incident.
It was the culmination in a build up of intimidation tactics in the Black Sea, which saw Duncan being shadowed by multiple Russian warships - including a specialist spy ship designed to hoover up key intelligence about Nato vessels.
HMS Duncan was constructed at the BAE Systems Naval Ships yards at Govan and Scotstoun on the River Clyde, with the ship setting sail in August 2012.
Commodore Mike Utley, who was leading the Nato task force from Duncan, said: ‘HMS Duncan is probably the only maritime asset that has seen a raid of that magnitude in the last 25 years.
The commodore felt Moscow’s tactics were a blatant attempt to try and deter the fleet from coming any closer to Crimea. He added: ‘I think their tactics are naive. What they don’t know is how capable the ship is.
‘When you see that much activity, I think it reinforces the nature of what people expect at the moment and why there is a challenge from Russia.’
The footage is due to form part of a four-part documentary, Warship: Life at Sea – the first episode of which begins on Channel 5 tonight.
It follows the Type 45 destroyer and the 280 men and women on board as they take part in one of their most challenging deployments to date.
Commander Eleanor Stack, Duncan’s captain, was full of praise for her crew’s ability to keep a cool head during their time in the Black Sea. The 40-year-old said: ‘To me it felt unprecedented. There were more aircraft than we have seen in a long time.’
Warship: Life at Sea begins tonight at 9pm.
This story first featured on our sister site, The Portsmouth News.