THE Royal Navy’s new £1billion pound nuclear submarine was pictured being loaded with a deadly Tomahawk missile as Britain issued a fresh warning to Vladimir Putin.
HMS Audacious, which can carry rockets capable of hitting targets some 745 miles away, was spotted off the coast of Gibraltar in what appeared to be a call to arms.
The new vessel was first launched in 2017 and is said to carry 38 weapons in six 21 inch torpedoes with state of the art fibre optic control technology to match.
The Sun previously reported that more than 39,000 acoustic tiles mask the vessel's sonar signature, meaning she slips through the seas with less noise than a baby dolphin.
The 7,400-tonne BAE Systems-built sub is the fourth of seven Astute class submarines and can circumnavigate the entire globe without surfacing.
And it’s recent sighting off the Iberian coast is expected to be a tell-tale sign that the UK, and its Nato allies, are bolstering its flanks amid fears that the war in Ukraine could spiral into a wider conflict.
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Last week, Russian missile systems were spotted being moved towards the country's northern border with Finland.
It came as the country is believed to be on the cusp of joining Nato – along with Sweden.
Russia has repeatedly warned both Nordic nations not to sign up for the defensive alliance.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov warned the move would "not improve" the security situation in Europe.
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While Moscow lawmaker Vladimir Dzhabarov later added more bluntly it would mean "the destruction of the country".
At the time, a chilling video showed trucks believed to be carrying the K-300P Bastion-P mobile missile system designed to strike warships driving past a sign to Helsinki as Russia continued to escalate their bid for all out war.
President Vladimir Putin has done nothing to alleviate any of those fears in recent week as he was spotted on more than one public outing around what appeared to be Russia’s secret nuclear briefcase.
Its visible presence is thought to be a sign that the crazed Russian leader could deploy devastating nuclear weapons at any time.
On Saturday, ex-security chief Lord Ricketts warned that Putin could be ready to strike a NATO base in a bid to choke off arms to Ukraine.
And he predicted attacks on convoys or aircraft being shipped into the nation from the West could be on the way next.
On Putin's thinly-veiled threats of chemical weapons attacks, he said: "I suppose what President Putin wants us all to fear is that he might want to use a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, which would be a momentous escalation and ensure Russia was isolated around the world.
"More likely, I think what they're looking at is some way of preventing or limiting this flow of arms into Ukraine, keeping the Ukrainian Armed Forces going.
"So we may see attacks on convoys or aircraft bringing the arms in from the west.
"At worst, possibly, some kind of missile strike on a base in NATO, where the arms for Ukraine were being prepared.
"And that will certainly pose the NATO countries with a real dilemma."
On Monday, footage emerged of such an escalation as one of the tyrants favoured nuclear bombers was caught flying close to the Ukrainian border.
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Larger Tu-95s have been used a number of times to strike targets in Ukraine with non-nuclear weapons, notably Kh-55 and Kh-101 air-launched cruise missiles.
Putin has deployed the Tu-95s to buzz Britain at moments of high tension – used as recently as February this year when the Royal Air Force scrambled Typhoon fighters to escort two Bears off northern Scotland.
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