Aircraft scrambled after Russian ships spotted off Irish west coast

Irish Air Corps flying maritime patrol
Ross Mahon /

Two Russian government ships caused alarm among Ireland’s Defence Forces after acting suspiciously in waters off the Irish west coast.  

According to the Irish Times ships and aircraft were deployed this week after it was suspected the Russian ships could be interfering with new subsea cables linking Ireland and Iceland. 

The two Russian ships, the Umka and the Bakhtemir, were reportedly sanctioned by the United States government recently due to their involvement in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. 

Both vessels were monitored by the Air Corps aircraft and Naval Service, which eventually concluded that the ships were probably avoiding bad weather rather than having any malicious intent.  

Umka and the Bakhtemir left the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) on March 27, 2023, heading for Africa.  

According to Vessel Finder, Umka is a 1998 offshore tug and Bakhtemir is a 2019 built salvage ship. 

The Defence Forces confirmed it was involved in an operation but did not release any specific information.  

A spokesman told the Irish Times: “Both the Air Corps and the Naval Service are aware of the ships, but we won’t be releasing any further information on the operation.” 

In September 2022 both Russian Nord Stream pipelines were attacked with explosives resulting in gas leaking from the pipes. Ukraine, the US and Russia have all denied responsibility.  

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