The eight-strong Russian fleet is the most powerful dispatched in northern Europe since 2014 – the year Ukraine was invaded.
And it”s feared Putin, who”s ostensibly sending the ships to Syria, will take the opportunity for a show of force.
Flying drills are expected off the coasts of Britain and France and the UK Navy stands poised to track them.
But they insisted that even if the ships split five ways and can”t be marked individually, the situation was “covered”.
They said: “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.”
Lord West of Spithead, a former First Sea Lord, warned that the state of the UK navy was a “national disgrace” and that Russia was on a war footing.
He said: “When people start posturing, things become dangerous. It all raises tensions and makes things more difficult and that”s not a clever thing to do.
“The fact that the Navy is scrabbling around for a frigate is symptomatic of the fact that it”s a national disgrace we only have 19 surface escorts.”
“I find Russia very worrying at the moment. Their economy is on a war footing.”