The UK is to acquire two specialist ships that will be used to protect underwater infrastructure such as cables and pipelines, UK Defence Minister Ben Wallace said on Sunday October 2nd.
However, the ships will not be in action any time soon. The first “multi-role survey ship for seabed warfare” will be bought this year and will be operational by the end of 2023, he said, while the second vessel would be built in the UK and launched at an unspecified date in the future.
The announcement followed last week’s underwater explosions that led to leaks and depressurization in the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines. While the EU have stopped short of blaming Russia for the explosions, Russia has said that the US and/or NATO is responsible.
Wallace referred only to “mysterious damage” to the pipelines. He then made it clear that the acquisition of the two specialist ships was a response to a perceived threat from Russia to the UK’s underwater infrastructure.
“It should remind us all how fragile our economy and infrastructure is to such to such hybrid attacks … Our internet and our energy are highly reliant on pipelines and cables. Russia makes no secret of its ability to target such infrastructure,” Wallace said during the opening day of this year’s Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, adding that “for that reason I can announce we have recently committed to two specialist ships with the capability to keep our cables and pipelines safe.”