USS Rhode Island, the world’s largest nuclear submarine, has docked in Gibraltar for a scheduled port visit in what will be seen as a clear signal to Vladimir Putin about Western capability. A senior US commander has said the vessel’s arrival should be seen as evidence of the United States’ “ironclad commitment” to its allies – reinforcing a similar message by UK Armed Forces minister James Heappey hours earlier.
The 560ft submarine, equipped with Trident II ballistic missiles, is a US Navy Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine which has been in commission since 1994.
Ohio-class subs are on constant patrol and make up an important part of the USA’s nuclear capability.
Rhode Island was escorted by Royal Marine vessels as it arrived at the British overseas territory.
In a statement issued by the US Navy, Captain John Craddock, commander, Task Force 69, which is responsible for US submarine warfare operations, said: “Rhode Island’s port visit to Gibraltar reinforces our ironclad commitment to our allies and partners in the region.
“The US and UK share a strong history of cooperation, through exercises, operations, and cooperation activities such as this, that enhance our combined capabilities and partnership.
“The complexity, lethality, and tactical expertise of Rhode Island epitomises the effectiveness and strength of the submarine force.”
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“Which just goes to show how valuable Gibraltar is to the Western Mediterranean and mid-Atlantic, as Cyprus is to the eastern Mediterranean.”
Speaking today, the Russian ambassador to the UK, claimed Britain was being drawn “too deep” into the conflict in Ukraine, warning that it risks a “dangerous” escalation of the crisis.
Andrey Kelin also claimed British “specialists” had been involved in an audacious drone attack on Russia’s Black Sea fleet at the weekend in which three warships were reportedly damaged, including the flagship HMS Makarov.
Mr Kelin, who said the Kremlin would publish its proof “pretty soon”, added: “We perfectly know about participation of British specialists in training, preparation and execution of plans against the Russian infrastructure and the Russian fleet in the Black Sea. We know that it has been done.
“It is dangerous. It can bring us to the line of I would say no return – return is always possible – but we should avoid escalation.
“This is a warning actually that Britain is too deep in this conflict. It means that the situation is becoming more and more dangerous.”
Mr Kelin said Russia was also continuing to investigate the explosions which damaged the Nord Stream 1 and 2 undersea gas pipelines in September, adding that UK special forces had been involved in training the Ukrainians in the use of explosives and undersea drones.
A UK Government spokesman branded the Russian allegations an attempt to “distract attention” for its illegal invasion of Ukraine and its continuing losses on the battlefield.
A spokesman added: “We do not plan to give a running commentary on these allegations; it is no secret that the United Kingdom has taken a public lead in our support to Ukraine – this has been enduring since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.”