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Royal Navy's £1.4BN HMS Audacious departs Gibraltar loaded with missiles in Putin warning

WorldRoyal Navy's £1.4BN HMS Audacious departs Gibraltar loaded with missiles in Putin warning

HMS Audacious, Britain’s most powerful submarine, arrived in Gibraltar on Saturday afternoon. One of four Astute-Class submarines operated by the Royal Navy, the £1.4bn nuclear-powered vessel is one of the most sophisticated underwater vehicles ever built. 

Launched in April 2017, HMS Audacious is a hunter-killer type vessel, and one of the largest and most advanced submarines in existence, weighing in at nearly 8,000 tonnes.

Pictures showed the 97-metre-long vessel leaving the Peñon naval base in Gibraltar on Wednesday evening after being loaded with missiles earlier this week.

Images published by the Fotografiks agency on Monday showed deadly Tomahawk-type cruise missiles being loaded onto the vessel by a crane in what has been seen as a show of strength to Vladimir Putin over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The submarine is said to be able to carry 38 weapons in six 21 inch torpedoes with state of the art fibre optic control technology.

HMS Audacious can circumnavigate the entire globe without surfacing, able to sustain long missions without need to come up for air and is capable of striking targets up to 1,200km from the coast.

The submarine was docked next to USS Georgia, another submarine which arrived at the naval base last Wednesday.

It is highly unusual for two submarines to be docked at the naval base at the same time.

The last time two such vessels were docks at the port was in 2019, when USS Olympia and HMS Talent were docked at the port.

Their presence highlights Gibraltar’s increased role as a naval logistics base for the UK’s military and its allies.

The sightings of the submarines have also been viewed as a message from the UK and its NATO allies to Putin amid fears that the war in Ukraine could spiral into a wider conflict.

HMS Audacious arrived in Gibraltar just hours after President Putin banned multiple UK politicians from entering Russia, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and several other Cabinet members.

The vessel’s first visit to the naval base also came soon after the sinking of Russia’s military flagship in what has been seen as a major blow to the country’s war effort.

READ MORE: Spain outraged as massive US nuclear submarine arrives in Gibraltar

Ukrainian officials estimate as many as 450 Russian may have died when the Moskva sank last Thursday, although Russia has not divulged how many people perished.

The appearance of the two submarines in Gibraltar has also been seen as a retaliatory signal after Putin flexed Russia’s military muscles last week.

Russian missile systems were spotted being moved towards the country’s northern border with Finland days before HMS Audacious arrived in Gibraltar.

The move was taken as a warning to Finland after it appeared to move closer to joining the NATO military alliance alongside neighbour Sweden.

The Kremlin has repeatedly warned both Nordic nations that joining NATO would “not improve” the security situation in Europe.

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The arrival of the subs has also sparked outrage in Spain, particularly among environmental groups.

Verdemar, a Spanish environmental group, said the presence of the two subs posed a risk to communities around the Bay of Gibraltar.

A spokesperson said: “These submarines are authentic floating bombs and put our families and our environment at risk.

“We do not accept submarine operations in the Mediterranean, we are committed to denouncing these entries in all the countries bordering the Mediterranean.”

The government in Madrid has also filed a formal complaint against the US over its decision to not send the USS Georgia to Rota in Spain, where America has a permanent naval base.

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