Images taken by a Norwegian surveillance plane reveal a Russian submarine, destroyer and aircraft carrier – complete with fighter jets and helicopters – passed Scandinavia”s northern shoreline yesterday.
The vessels were apparently travelling in international waters as they made their way to the Mediterranean, where they will bolster Russia”s involvement in the war in Syria.
They were spotted by a Lockheed P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft near the remote island of Andoya.
The flagship Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier set off on Saturday from Murmansk with the Pyotr Veliky battlecruiser, the Vice-Admiral Kulakov destroyer and other large anti-submarine ships.
Russia”s defence ministry said the fleet would “respond to new types of modern threats like piracy and international terrorism”.
Admiral Kuznetsov is a Soviet-era ship launched in 1985 that helped in the rescue attempt of the Kursk submarine.
Preparing for a British response to the movements, HMS Duncan and HMS Richmond are set to be deployed if the Russian ship nears the UK next week.
A UK defence official said: “It is significant. We will track them through our area of interest.”
The exact route of the Russian warcraft is not known, as it could pass through either the North Sea and English Channel, the Irish Sea or around the West of Ireland.
A NATO source told the Telegraph: “It”s not catching us by surprise, we are working up what to do and we are all over it.
“The most likely thing is that they will go through the North Sea, down the Dover Strait, and through the Channel.”
Concerns over Britain”s ability to monitor the vessels has been heightened as the UK no longer has its own surveillance planes due to funding cut-backs.
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “UK and NATO assets routinely monitor warships from other nations when they enter our area of interest and this will be no different.”