Navy

The Moment 17 Russian Fighters Surround British Vessel

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson described the incident as "brazen Russian hostility".

(Warship: Life at Sea will continue Mondays at 9pm on Channel 5).

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has said a Royal Navy warship faced "brazen Russian hostility" as 17 fighter jets buzzed it off the coast of Crimea.

Footage of the encounter with HMS Duncan as it led a NATO fleet through the Black Sea in May this year has been released as a four-part documentary on the Type 45 destroyer.

The Russian jets are seen flying so close that the aircraft's electronics could have been scrambled by the Portsmouth-based warship's radar system leaving the potential for them to crash.

Mr Williamson said: "Over the past year, HMS Duncan and her crew have embodied the key role the UK plays in NATO.

"As NATO flagship, she has faced down brazen Russian hostility in the Black Sea with jets buzzing overhead, been stalked by Russian spy ships and played a vital role protecting NATO allies during the British, American and French strikes against Syrian chemical weapons facilities."

HMS Duncan buzzing
(Picture: Channel 5).

Commodore Mike Utley, who was leading the NATO task force from Duncan, said: "HMS Duncan is probably the only maritime asset that has seen a raid of that magnitude in the last 25 years."

He added: "I think their tactics are naive. What they don't know is how capable the ship is.

"When you see that much activity, I think it reinforces the nature of what people expect at the moment and why there is a challenge from Russia."

Earlier this year, 150 British troops deployed to Poland on Operation Cabrit, part of a deployment to four countries surrounding Russia.

The footage shows the jets circling the ship before returning to Russian airspace with one of the pilots sending a message to Duncan's crew, saying: "Good luck, guys."

The documentary shows one of Duncan's sailors saying they felt the message could have been a warning to the ship while another said:

"They had 17 aircraft, we have 48 missiles - I think we're going to win that one."

Commander Eleanor Stack, Duncan's captain, said: "To me if felt unprecedented. There were more aircraft than we have seen in a long time."

Earlier, Duncan had launched its Merlin Mk2 helicopter to hunt a Russian spy ship spotted on radar.

Warship: Life at Sea continues on Channel 5 on Monday.