The Royal Navy has fired a warning shot at a Spanish patrol boat which sailed too close to a US nuclear-powered submarine as it sailed in waters off Gibraltar.
Flares were fired across the bow of the Spanish Guardia Civil vessel Rio Cedena as it twice attempted to sail across the front of the ballistic missile submarine USS Florida.
The Royal Navy’s HMS Sabre was sent to intercept the boat and the Spanish vessel then retraced its course away from the submarine.
Then a second Spanish patrol boat also got in the ships’ way – on this occasion a flare was fired by the Royal Navy to warn the boat that it needed to change its course.
This incident is believed to have taken place outside of British Gibraltar Territorial Waters but could still be seen from the rock.
According to The Sun, a source told them:
“This is not only a very dangerous game for the Spanish to play but it is unbecoming of a NATO ally to treat the US Navy with such contempt.”
The incident reportedly took place in mid-April. Britain was given Gibraltar in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, but Spain has said it will never renounce its claim to sovereignty.
The Governor’s Office in Gibraltar has praised the actions of the Royal Navy and says it has protested to Spain about the incursion into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters.
A Royal Navy spokesperson, meanwhile, said:
“We don’t comment on force protection measures or submarine operations.”
Earlier this year, a Spanish warship entered British Territorial Waters off Gibraltar without her weapons covered and undertook dangerous manoeuvres, in what was described as a “provocative” act by the Foreign Office.
In 2011, during the battle to oust Libya’s dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, the USS Florida became the first Ohio-class submarine to perform combat operations, when it fired over 90 Tomahawk missiles during operations aimed at protecting Libyan civilians and enforcing a no-fly zone.