A Guardia Civil patrol boat was challenged by the Royal Navy after it came too close to a US nuclear-powered submarine sailing into Gibraltar early this morning.
The Guardia Civil launch Rio Cedeña attempted to cross in front of the submarine but was stopped by the actions the Royal Navy’s HMS Sabre and a rigid-hulled inflatable boat, which manoeuvred in close, according to an eyewitness.
“The Guardia Civil [boat] was forced to a dead stop and made to retrace its course well away [from the submarine],” said Michael Sanchez, who saw the events unfold and photographed key moments.
A spokesman for the Governor’s office, The Convent, confirmed the incursion “…in the vicinity of an incoming submarine.”
“The professionalism of the Royal Navy and Gibraltar Defence Police ensured there was no risk to safety,” the spokesman added.
“We will be protesting this incursion to Spain.”
The Convent repeated the standard Foreign Office line that incursions are a violation of British sovereignty, but not a threat to it.
“They do not weaken or undermine the legal basis in international law for British sovereignty over Gibraltar, including British Gibraltar Territorial Waters,” the spokesman said.
The Ministry of Defence did not confirm the name or nationality of the submarine, describing it only as an “allied” vessel.
But local ship spotters who closely follow military and commercial vessel movements in British waters suggested it was the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Florida.
The vessel was in Gibraltar for little more than an hour before sailing back out into the Strait of Gibraltar.
Several years ago during the conflict in Libya, the USS Florida was deployed into the Mediterranean in support of a UN-sanctioned operation to protect Libyan civilians and enforce a no-fly zone.
The submarine launched more than 90 Tomahawk land attack missiles (TLAM) during Operation Odyssey Dawn.
The strike marked the first time a guided-missile submarine launched Tomahawks in conflict.
Main photo by DM Parody.
Photos of incursion by Michael Sanchez.