UK Royal Navy HMS Audacious carries out NATO patrols in Mediterranean Sea in show of force

Russian base bombed by Ukrainian troops using NATO Howitzer

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The battleship is the fourth of seven new cutting-edge £1.3billion Astute-class submarines – the largest and most powerful ones ever operated by the United Kingdom’s naval warfare force. It completed exercises with NATO allies, including Greece, Turkey and the United States, at a time of increased cooperation brought by Russia’s war on Ukraine between the Alliance’s members.

The HMS Audacious joined her sisters — HMS Astute, Ambush and Artful — on the frontline for the first time in January last year after being formally commissioned in September 2021, spending months in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

The submarine left her home of Clyde Naval Base in Scotland and, after two months of intensive sea training designed to test its equipment’s and sailors’ readiness, left for Gibraltar, where it loaded Tomahawk missiles.

Once in the Mediterranean, its ability to evade, track and engage her foes underwater and on the surface was challenged – offering NATO allies the chance test-tackle a nuclear attack submarine.

READ MORE: ‘EU big beasts’ Scholz, Draghi and Macron panic over Kyiv bomb alert moments after arrival

This was a relatively rare training chance for many navies, as they looked to hunt down Audacious beneath the waves.

HMS Audacious commanding officer Commander Jim Howard said: “These exercises helped HMS Audacious to demonstrate her prowess as the newest, most capable SSN that the UK has to offer while also strengthening NATO capability and interoperability and demonstrating our resolve towards NATO Missions.”

The exercises, which were followed by a period of NATO operations in which the HMS Audacious provided security to the region, come at a critical period for the North Atlantic Alliance, as it pledges to work on a “combat-ready presence” in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s war.

On Tuesday, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said the Alliance must build “even higher readiness” and strengthen its weapons capabilities along its eastern flank.

Speaking after informal talks in the Netherlands with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the leaders of Denmark, Poland, Latvia, Romania, Portugal and Belgium ahead of a June 29-30 NATO summit in Spain, he said: “In Madrid, we will agree [on] a major strengthening of our posture.

“Tonight we discussed the need for more robust and combat-ready forward presence and an even higher readiness and more pre-positioned equipment and supplies.”

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Responding to a call by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky earlier that day for more long-range weapons, the NATO chief said he agreed that Kyiv should be supplied with more heavy weaponry, though provided no details.

Dutch leader Rutte said: “In terms of weaponry, we stand united here that it is crucial for Russia to lose the war.

“And as we cannot have a direct confrontation between NATO troops and Russia, what we need to do is make sure that Ukraine can fight that war, that it has access to all the necessary weaponry.”

Russians share thoughts on West supplying Ukraine weapons

In a meeting of defence ministers on Thursday, the Alliance confirmed it has placed over 40,000 troops under its direct command, mainly on the eastern border.

Mr Stoltenberg said allies will decide on the scale of their posture in the longer run “to ensure that we can defend every inch of Allied territory”.

He also welcomed Washington’s decision to send an additional $1bn in military aid to Ukraine, adding that NATO allies are “prepared to continue to provide substantial, unprecedented support” to the war-torn nation.

The US said its latest package includes anti-ship missile launchers, howitzers and more rounds for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) that US forces are training Ukrainian servicemen on now.

The aid is the largest single tranche of arms and equipment since Moscow’s full-scale began in late February.

President Joe Biden, who spoke by phone with Mr Zelensky on Wednesday, also said the US will send $225mn more in humanitarian assistance to provide safe drinking water, medical supplies, food, health care, shelter and money for families to buy essential items.

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