NAVAL BRIEF 04 December 02nd, 2016 by LeDahu
In his annual speech to the Federal Assembly, President Putin stated, “the army and Navy proved, that is able to effectively work away from their permanent locations”.
Syrian campaign update
The Russian MOD finally confirmed the participation of the Admiral Grigorovich frigate and the missile ships Serpukhov and Zeleny Dol in Kalibr cruise missile launches against terrorist locations in Syria.
If there was one ship that deserves a mention, it goes to the Russian Navy’s Krivak II Class frigate “PYTLIVY», (Pennant 868). It finally returned home after 114 days on Mediterranean deployment. Not exactly the longest time on station, that goes to the Varyag from the Pacific fleet, reportedly still in the eastern Med since January 2016.
The media reported that the Hmeymim air base is also being expanded: (I think that this has been the case since the start of the Russian operations in Syria).
After somewhat discreet & delicate negotiations, Iran has offered the use of the Hamadan airbase, with an interesting condition: “in case the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier departs Syrian shores for a new mission.”
US State Dept spokesman Mark Toner asked other countries to not supply tankers/ Russia navy with fuel that are involved in the Syria campaign. This comes on the back of the claims made in the press that Russian tankers are breaking the EU sanctions on Syria. Probably this is actually something to do with the fact that one Russian tanker came into Limassol last week.
Exclusive: Russian tankers defy EU ban to smuggle jet fuel to Syria – sources https://t.co/bYrQ35cOLS
— Reuters World (@ReutersWorld) November 22, 2016
Predictably, the response to the US & EU whine on Russian tanker needs to be filed under “Russian understatements”: don’t get in our way of fighting terrorists if you won’t.
Russian Navy Modernisation
The last of the first batch of Varshavyanka class, the KILO-III diesel electric submarine Kolpino has been officially handed over to the Russian Navy in St Petersburg.
According to RIA, the frigate “Admiral Makarov” has just completed trials in the Barents Sea and is expected in the Baltic. In other news Russian shipyards will start building a number of Lider-class destroyers at the same time. Likewise thee Russian Navy plans to have 6 additional Su-30SM fighter jets in service and also 2 Il-38 anti-submarine aircraft & 10 helicopters by the end of the year, by the end of 2016, Navy Commander Adm. Vladimir Korolev said. This might include the new Arctic version of MIL-8. Read more:
TASS reported that the carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov” got recognized as one of the best units of the Northern Fleet. (in Russian).
Russia has begun deploying an all-encompassing maritime surveillance system, (SOSUS type), called ‘Harmony’. The system includes robotic autonomous seabed stations and won’t be fully operational until 2020. Contrast this to the long-standing US SOSUS that has been in place for decades and is found across the world.
The Syrian Express
The military shuttle service between Syria and Russia is going at a fairly hectic pace. Just trying to keep track of the various ships going back and forth is astonishing. The LSTs deployments bear the brunt of the ferrying of personnel & equipment for well over a year now. To give a glimpse of the pace of the Syrian Express: (as mentioned in NB 01), the Alexander Shabalin, (Pennant 110), returned from Syria after a week & recently was seen going back to Syria on the 1st Dec. Similarily, the Tsezar Kunikov, (158), were seen transiting the Bosporus:
Northbound: 7th Oct, 25th Oct, and 15th Nov
Southbound: on 27th Sept, 16th Oct, (?), 23rd Nov
This needs to be filed under ‘paradox’. The Russian warship, Vice-Admiral Kulakov, rescued a Ukrainian fishing boat in eastern Med, going from Montenegro to Lebanon. The mariners’ fraternity goes beyond politics.
БПК «Вице-адмирал Кулаков» оказал помощь украинскому рыболовецкому судну, терпящему бедствие в Средиземном море pic.twitter.com/KEpxKZAvvO
— Минобороны России (@mod_russia) November 25, 2016
The thing that initially intrigued me is that the Kulakov was reported as towing the Ukrainian ship over 140nm to Crete, (Gavdos Island). So it is not anymore part of the Kuznetsov group. Later news stated that the Greek authorities detained the Ukrainian fishing boat for cigarette smuggling.
Now, it transpires that the Vice-Admiral Kulakov has left the Mediterranean on the 30th Nov on a long planned journey (in Russian) My hunch is that it might be heading for West Africa, to carry out anti-piracy patrols, as announced by the Russian Foreign Ministry. Coincidentally, pirates off Benin has just captured a Russian ship and subsequently taken hostage 3 Russian sailors.
- Su-33 operations
As stated in naval Brief 01, my hunch on the Kuznetsov’s Su-33s not flying out from the carrier has been confirmed by satellite imagery, seen at Hmeymim. This really doesn’t come as a surprise, but the defence experts & pundits are “making a meal” of it, by saying that it shows the Kuznetsov is an expensive glorified taxi service for its naval aviation.
For me it logical to use Hmeymim as a forward operations base, especially in light of the report that Su-33s were seen above east of the Shaer oil fields, (thus giving them more loiter time & possibility to accomplish missions). Additionally, it gives the naval pilots more valuable broad range of combat experience, particularly since the SU-33s had recently been electronically upgraded for bombing missions. Videos still show Su-33s, on QRA, on the deck of the Kuznetsov, but in their original capacity as air superiority fighters.
- The MIG 29 ditching at sea
I still think that there is more to this story, given that the ditched MIG-29 was piloted by one of the best carrier & a high-ranking senior pilot in the air wing. I personally believe that engine failure may something to do with the crash and not lack of fuel, since the MIG-29 has a history of engines troubles. [Link] [Link]
Maybe if it the Kuznetsov’s flight deck length permits it, one of these fitted at the next refit might save a $35 million or so plane from crashing into the sea. Maybe it is something to consider first for testing on their land-based “ski jump” trainer, (NITKA).
- Tartus naval base
In Brief 02, I commented on the cargo ships activity that are part of the Syrian Express, well the West’s media have finally picked up on this story. According to the media, the Russian navy landing ships and freight ships are delivering ammunition to the Russian Air Force, (these journalists are not quite in the rocket scientist category, if it takes them a year to make this connection).
- Greece & Russian Navy visits
Sputnik reports that a Greek Defense Ministry source said that Greece “will continue allowing Russian warships to resupply in Greek ports and will not tolerate any pressure in regard to its relations with Moscow”. Evidently, “NATO staunch unity” illusion trick is not working, similar to the on-going naval spat between Spain and the UK over Gibraltar waters.
- NATO activities in the Med
- The Turkish-led Mavi Balina exercise has finished this week, with some of the ships re-joining Op Sophia.
- Ocean Shield
This NATO operation has seen piracy activities in the Horn of Africa decrease quite considerably & there has been zero incidents in the last two years. Hence Ocean Shield will finish on the 15th Dec and NATO resources will now focus on Op Sophia and Russia, (Baltic & Black seas) as well. (Well there’s a surprise, NOT).
One such example is the UK’s HMS Bulwark, which arrived in Israel last week and is now located off Cyprus.
In contrast to NATO, the EU is continuing its counter-piracy operations. EUNAVFOR Operation ‘Atalanta’, taking place off the coast of East Africa has been renewed for another two years. The EU Council agreed on 25 November to extend Atalanta’s mandate until 31 December 2018. It also set aside just over EUR11 million (USD11.6 million) for this purpose.
The Russian Foreign Ministry stated that the Russia will continue to take part in counter-piracy operations in the area of the Horn of Africa. The Russian navy is no stranger to those waters, as it was the Priazovye that helped the evacuation of hundreds of civilians from Yemen in 2015
- The Kuznetsov curse strikes again
NATO pundits & MSM made fun of the old Soviet era Russian carrier, but at least the Kuznetsov arrived off Syria, unlike the latest RN warship, HMS Duncan, which broke down during a FOST exercise. Ironies of ironies as it just happens that HMS Duncan was one of the Kuznetsov NATO escorts back in October. Earlier there were rumours of mechanical troubles for a Canadian warship that also escorted the Kuznetsov.
It is also the turn of the US to emulate the Russian Navy, if we had to believe Western media & experts that only Russian Warships have the exclusive right to break down spectacularly.
The MSM message on the Russian Navy is something along the lines of:
7. More US deployment in Med
— Scott's Humor (@ScottsHumor) December 2, 2016
Thanks you for your time,
The featured image: Obama says to a Russian sailor: “Are you trying to deter NATO with this floating bathtub?”
At the bottom of the picture, – a drawing of the SSBN Borey class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine.