France and Nato's help needed to defend British waters against Russian spying

The first Trident submarine, the HMS Vanguard sits in dock at Faslane Submarine baseJeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The UK is relying more and more on France as well as other Nato allies to help counter Russian spying operations on British waters.

Ministry of Defence (Mod) records show that there has been a 76% spike in the number of foreign maritime patrol aircraft stationed in the UK.

Following the scrapping of Nimrod in 2010, Britain's armed forces have been left with no patrol aircraft of their own at a time when Russia is ramping up spying operations on the UK's nuclear deterrent, the Telegraph reported.

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As the RAF does not get its new P8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft until 2020, there are concerns at a gap left in Britain's defences.

Nato allies guarding against foreign ships were stationed at RAF Lossiemouth 37 times last year, up from 21 times the previous year.

One fifth of the foreign aircraft in Scotland carry out operations and the rest deal with exercises and training. The Telegraph reported that American, Canadian and French aircraft patrolled offshore after reports of suspicious vessels in British waters.

Admiral Lord West told the paper: "There has been an increase in the amount of Russian interference in our waters and that interference generally is in our ballistic missile submarine, Trident.

"I find that extremely worrying. They are trying to obtain Trident's fingerprint, its acoustic signature."

Nia Griffith, Labour's Shadow Defence Secretary, said: "These figures highlight the extent to which we are now reliant on the goodwill of others to keep Britain safe. We are thankful for our allies' support but this level of dependence is simply unacceptable."

But defence minister Earl Howe said it was Labour that mishandled the Nimrod replacement and that most foreign aircraft stationed at Lossiemouth were used in training exercises.

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"The hypocrisy of Labour complaining that the UK has relied on allies to help provide maritime patrol when we fix the mess they created is as breathtaking as it is irresponsible," he said.

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