Tuesday 20 February 2018

Russia calls Britain's new warship a 'sitting target'

British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon at the Nato meeting in Brussels yesterday. Photo: Reuters
British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon at the Nato meeting in Brussels yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Dean Gray in London

The Russian military has mocked Britain's new aircraft carrier, saying the HMS Queen Elizabeth presented "a large, convenient target" and would be wise to keep its distance from Moscow's warships.

The giant vessel, Britain's most advanced and biggest warship, embarked on its maiden voyage on Monday, prompting British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon to say he thought the Russians would look at it "with a little bit of envy".

HMS Queen Elizabeth on trials. Photo: PA
HMS Queen Elizabeth on trials. Photo: PA

Stung by that remark and angered by Mr Fallon calling Russia's sole aircraft carrier "dilapidated", the Russian defence ministry issued a strongly-worded statement yesterday, criticising Mr Fallon and deriding the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

"These rapturous statements about the supremacy of the new aircraft carrier's beautiful exterior over the Russian aircraft-carrying cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov expose Fallon's utter ignorance of naval military science," the ministry said.

"Like a bee, the British aircraft carrier is only capable of independently releasing planes from its belly closely flanked by a swarm of warships, support ships and submarines to protect it.

"That is why the British aircraft carrier is merely a large, convenient naval target."

The ageing Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia's only aircraft carrier, and a ship that Mr Fallon has criticised more than once, was by contrast armed with an array of defensive missiles, the ministry said, warning the HMS Queen Elizabeth to keep her distance from the Russian navy.

"It is in the interests of the British Royal Navy not to show off the 'beauty' of its aircraft carrier on the high seas any closer than a few hundred miles from its Russian 'distant relative'," the ministry said.

Mr Fallon offended Russia's military at the beginning of the year when he dubbed Moscow's sole aircraft carrier "a ship of shame" as it passed through waters close to the English coast on its way back from bombing raids in Syria. It was escorted past Dover.

Russia said at the time that Britain was staging a show by escorting the ship through the English Channel designed to distract attention away from the shortcomings of the British navy.

The Admiral Kuznetsov, which entered service in 1991 in the Soviet Union's dying days, is part of Russia's Northern Fleet based near Murmansk and is awaiting major repairs.

Russia, striving to promote a more assertive foreign policy amid chilly ties with the West, is in the process of re-arming its army and navy.

But some experts at home and abroad say the Cold War-era Admiral Kuznetsov is now obsolete and that Russia needs a new generation of aircraft carriers.

Irish Independent

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