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US-UK naval group enters Barents Sea for first time since mid-1980s

The Royal Navy (RN) announced on its website on 4 May that it and the US Navy (USN) have started training within the Arctic Circle. NATO surface vessels have for the first time since the mid-1980s entered the Barents Sea bordering Murmansk and Russia’s nuclear submarine bases on the Kola Peninsula.

        practising replenishment at sea with the USNS
        Supply. (Royal Navy/Crown copyright)

HMS Kent practising replenishment at sea with the USNS Supply. (Royal Navy/Crown copyright)

Russian state-run RT and Star TV on 4 May reported a national Defence Centre announcement that Russia’s Northern Fleet had begun escorting a “NATO naval strike group” that had entered the Barents Sea.

The USN said on its website on 4 May, “The Russian Ministry of Defence was notified of the visit to the Barents Sea…to avoid misperceptions, reduce risk, and prevent inadvertent escalation.”

The group consists of the USN’s Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Donald Cook, USS Porter, and USS Roosevelt, the fast combat support ship USNS Supply, and the RN’s Type 23 frigate HMS Kent carrying a Merlin helicopter. They are accompanied by an unspecified USN nuclear-powered submarine and a USN P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.

This coincided with areas of the Barents Sea being closed by the Russian Navy to allow the Project 1164 Slava-class missile cruiser Marshal Ustinov, which departed Severomorsk on 5 May, to conduct live firing, Interfax reported.

In addition to Arctic familiarisation, the key training objectives have included anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and replenishment at sea between US and UK vessels.

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