NATO is to begin live-fire missile drills as an armada of Russian ships lurks close to the UK.

Vladimir Putin’s warships, some carrying nuclear capable missiles, are converging in the North Sea from three separate directions – the highest level of Russian naval activity there for three years.

More than 20 warships, 35 aircraft and eight onshore units from 13 nations will take part in the Nato exercise Formidable Shield, which kicks off on May 8.

The exercise is aimed at training air and missile defence systems.

It comes as the Royal Navy yesterday scrambled a Type 23 frigate warship to follow the Russian armada lurking dangerously close to the UK.

As well as the warship, the RAF scrambled Poseidon P-8 maritime patrol aircraft alongside Norwegian and US allies to track the Russians.


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The Norwegian armed forces said: "Right now, there are several Russian vessels operating in the North Sea, and this activity is the highest since before the pandemic."

Putin’s ships are capable of carrying nuclear weapons and it's thought they are attempting to put on a show off force ahead of King Charles' coronation.

A UK defence source said told The Sun: "We are aware of a small number of Russian vessels which are exercising around the UK and are monitoring the situation closely.”

Seven Russian warships plus two support vessels popped up yesterday in the waters off the UK and all are equipped with Kalibr cruise missiles.

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The warships include the destroyer ‘Vice Admiral Kulakov’, four corvettes, the tanker ‘Kama’ and the frigate ‘Admiral Grigorovich’. 

The Kalibr is a Russian land attack cruise missile with a range of up to 1,500 miles.

The missile can carry 1,100lb of conventional explosives or a thermonuclear warhead, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies 'Missile Threat' data base.

It has become a mainstay in the Russian Navy’s ground-strike capabilities and has been widely used in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The Kalibr was first used in action by the Russians in Syria in 2015, when they were fired at forces fighting dictator Bashar al-Assad.

Meanwhile, the Royal Navy, Norway, Germany and America have all deployed hunter-killer attack submarines as part of the Nato drills.

Warships from Denmark, France, Iceland, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain will also take part.

The United Kingdom and Norway that are host nations for the exercise, which includes some 4,000 personnel. 

The presence of the Russian warships comes after RAF Typhoons scrambled to intercept a Russian spy plane flying close to UK airspace.

The Tu-142 aircraft – known as a Bear-F – flew in international airspace over the Norwegian Sea and North Atlantic Ocean north of Scotland on Sunday.

Earlier this year, Royal Navy ships intercepted a Russian vessel carrying Putin's new "unstoppable" 7,000mph hypersonic missiles.

HMS Portland tracked the guided missile frigate Admiral Gorshkov as it sailed close to the UK in the North Sea.

The Type-23 frigate shadowed Vladimir Putin's warship that set sail with much fanfare for a mission to the Atlantic.

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