The Royal Netherlands Navy has now confirmed that its De Zeven Provincien class frigate HNLMS Evertsen, which has been sailing in the Black Sea together with the U.K. Royal Navy destroyer HMS Defender, was harassed by Russian fighter jets last week. The announcement comes after Russia and the United Kingdom entered something of a war of words last week when the Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender conducted maneuvers in an area close to Russian-controlled Crimea. Both of these ships are currently part of the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth’s multinational strike group, also known as Carrier Strike Group 21, or CSG21.
The Royal Netherlands Navy today released a statement highlighting the events that occurred last Thursday, June 24. That was the day after Russia claimed to have dropped bombs and fired warning shots to ward off HMS Defender, which Moscow claimed had violated the Russian maritime border around the Crimean Peninsula. The Kremlin seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, an annexation that neither the Netherlands nor the United Kingdom recognizes as legal.
According to the Royal Netherlands Navy’s account, HNLMS Evertsen was “southeast of Crimea” on June 24 when Russian fighter jets “created unsafe situations” in the Black Sea. No further details are provided of the warship’s location at this point, although it seems, at least, the Dutch vessel did not follow the same course as HMS Defender.
A series of photos released by the Royal Netherlands Navy today shows a pair of Su-30SM multirole fighter-bombers, likely from the Russian Navy, flying low over the warship, with at least one of the aircraft armed with a pair of Kh-31 (AS-17 Krypton) supersonic anti-ship missiles under the engine nacelles.
In what the Dutch Ministry of Defense describes as “repeated harassment,” between around 3:30 PM and 8:30 PM that day, the Su-30SMs flew “dangerously low and close by, performing feint attacks.” Su-30SMs were also involved in last week’s incident with HMS Defender, with at least one example seen shadowing the warship in an official Russian Ministry of Defense video. These Russian Navy jets are assigned to the 43rd Independent Naval Assault Aviation Regiment based at Saki in Crimea.
The Dutch account describes the Russian aircraft being armed with bombs (not immediately visible) and air-to-surface missiles. The jets also used their onboard electronic warfare systems to disrupt electronic equipment onboard the Evertsen, according to the Dutch. The Su-30SM is equipped with an internal Khibiny-U electronic warfare suite that includes powerful jammers to blind and confuse adversary radars.