The West is currently playing a game of brinkmanship with Russia over Syria, based on the “fast and loose” principle it seems.

  1. The US Navy – eastern Mediterranean 

“We prepositioned forces (the 2 US Navy ships) so that if there was an order received we could have that quick response.” US  senior defense official.

This deployment of the 2 closest US warships in the eastern Med, would have not gone unnoticed by the Russian military.  An US Navy official stated that the warships would “continue a presence mission in the Eastern Mediterranean.”  But by11 April, the USS Porter returned to Rota.

There are 4 US warships based out of Rota, Spain. The other two are the USS Carney (out in the Atlantic) and the USS Donald Cook (of the Su-24 jamming incident infamy).

Post-missile strikes sat images:

  1. The West Pacific 

Image 1 – map of CV Route

9 April-  The USS Carl Vinson group has been deployed to South Korea.   rather than the previously planned port visits to Australia. This comes after President Trump had phone calls with Japanese Abe Shinzo on the 9 April & with South Korean ‘s acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn. The group consists of the Arleigh Burke class destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer, Michael Murphy, and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser Lake Champlain (CG 57). Quite possibly also 1 or 2 Ohio class submarines, (as Trump blurted out about very powerful submarines in the area).

Personally I think that other allied navies might join in the US carrier group in the Sea of Japan, to demonstrate more “a show of force” to North Korea. In the previous Brief, Japan had earlier announced the deployment of its helicopter carrier, so other Japanese warships could integrate the US group soon, ostensibly for joint exercises.

North Korea has said it will test another ICBM later this month. Thus setting the scene for yet again another “show of force” by the US Navy. Tensions are rising as the US aircraft carrier group approaches the Sea of Japan.  North Korea has warned of a retaliation if provoked. As I said in my previous Brief, the US attack on Syria has now set a unpleasant precedent.  For more detailed analysis please refer to The Saker article:

Chinese President XI Jinping visited the US last week, where President Trump spoke to him about North Korea, putting pressure on China* to “to rein in its reclusive neighbor”.

 

Meanwhile China calls for respect of sovereignty in the wake of the US missile strikes in Syria. 

New Chinese aircraft carrier will be launched on the 23rd April

The US aircraft carrier “Eisenhower” group is currently on exercise, “to maintain their readiness and capability to deploy anywhere in the world on short notice should the need arise.”

Meanwhile another group of US warship has called into Hawaii, The USS Sterett (DDG 104)  & Dewey (DDG 105), Surface Action Group. The Sterett-Dewey SAG is on a Western Pacific deployment.

 

In other news- Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Ballarat has been deployed to South East Asia.

 

 

Russian Navy

According to the USNI: ” Following the strike on the Syrian airfield by Porter and Ross, the Russian Navy has sortied at least five surface ships set to operate in the Eastern Mediterranean near Syria.”

Incorrect, as it wasn’t “following the strike” as you will see below. 5 ships includes an oiler and an ocean-going tug!

  1. Admiral Grigorovich

Image 2 Daily mail – Russian battleship

Note: my bad for putting 2 + 2 and getting 5. The deployment of the “Admiral Grigorovich” wasn’t a response to the US Navy strikes on Syria, since a contracting party of the Montreux Convention has to give eight days notice to Turkey prior to transiting the Bosporus. This is done through diplomatic channels.  I still stand by the fact that not having a modern all-purpose warship stationed off Syria is an oversight, particularly given that it went ‘home’ to take part in PASSEX with Turkey briefly. The Grigorovich’s Shtil-1 naval missile self-defense system is capable of bringing down a Tomahawk.

 

Pacific Fleet- South Korea

As mentioned in my last Brief, the ” Varyag” has called into Busan, South Korea on a courtesy visit.  Brilliant bit of timing, to be in the middle of a geopolitical power tussle. The Russian Navy Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Sergei Avakyants also arrived in the port of Busan as part of the ‘friendship’ visit.

 

Baltic Fleet ships – North Atlantic deployment 

It took 3 days for some US MSM to pick up on the departure of the “Steregushchiy-class corvettes “Boikiy” (532) and “Soobrazitelnyy” (531), accompanied by tug MB-123 and oiler “Kola” on the 7 April.   Then the MSM and US officials decided that the corvettes were heading for Syria, “…expected to arrive in the eastern Mediterranean in the next five days…” well it was 5 days after they left port, when the article was written, lasted reported as being off Denmark on Apr 11, 2017 at 15:37 UTC.

Unlike what was reported in the MSM, Steregushchiy-class corvettes do not carry Kalibr missiles. These are dedicated surface ship and submarine killers. The Russian MOD has not mentioned Syria whatsoever. They are going to participate in anti-submarine drills in Northern Atlantic, just like they did 5 months ago, in the Northern Sea along with the Admiral Kuznetsov group.

(As mentioned in previous Brief) Technical info-

 

Ship launch

Yantar Shipyard is scheduled to launch the 2nd Project 11711 landing ship “Pyotr Morgunov” before the end 2017. The first one “Ivan Gren” is expected to be commissioned into service with the Russian Navy in November 2017.

 

African tour

Russian destroyer “Severomorsk” called at the port of Malabo (Equatorial Guinea) as part of its ongoing clockwise circumnavigation of Africa. It was originally part of the Admiral Kuznetsov group, but has been making courtesy port calls in various African states since February.

 

Technical aspects and question

Would it be possible for Russian warships to be equipped with an navalised version of the Khibiny System? (Electronic Countermeasures- ECM)?  This could act as “Mini-EMP” on nearby missile radar systems. The Russian military has deployed to Syria, its EMP electronic warfare equipment “Krasuha-4”, to Lattakia coastal region. Or a ship-variant of the Richag-AV system? It’s interesting, because the likely Russian response in using ECM against the incoming missiles, might hopefully been adequate as a deterrent for the time being.

A comment on the technical aspects of the ‘missing’ US Navy missiles. I’m a naval analyst not a missile/ electronics expert so I prefer others who are more knowledgeable – experience on this topic to comment so thanks to Flankerbandit for the comprehensive info provided in the last Brief comments. Of course I could have a go and have a stab in the dark, but with caveats.

Briefly venturing into this new territory, I’d concur with the comments about some of the missiles being spoofed in some way rather than getting shot down.  It is said that the Tomahawks were Block IV versions, so recent, thus making it even more interesting and potentially disturbing for the US.

One part ended up in someone’s garden in Karto, close to the Lebanese border, Tartus region, (some 54km from the Russian AD at Hmeymim). Others landed near to the airfield, unfortunately with civilian casualties. Others landed directly through the roofs of the Hardened aircraft shelters. The US Navy themselves stated that 1 crashed into the sea. I doubt that the ECM was done to a large extent because although the actual final target might have been known by Russian AD,  misleading the missiles such a way that they landed offset to the target could only have been done in a limited way, in order to minimise the risk over populated areas.   In my opinion, the ECM was also done in a limited way so as to send a message to the US, but without compromising the systems too much. (See the Syrian ECM duel)

Then this Sputnik article appears

 

I also suspect that the US gave prior warning was to not only get Russian troops out of harm’s way, but so that Russia placed its defenses on full alert, thus giving the US and allies a window for more intelligence gathering and thereby gauge its response. Likewise it would  have an opportunity for the Russians to gather countermeasures intel and as well. Remember that US general Breedlove once complained about Russia creating a A2/AD “bubble” over the Mediterranean & Syrian coast, in a German Marshal Fund talk back in 2015.

I want to add that both S300 and S400 based at Hmeymim, would not have been used in fully in angry, given that Russia stated that they were only for the protection of their bases, which was set out in the “airspace safety memorandum” between Russia and the U.S.-led coalition. “The flight path was set to bypass our missile-defense system so that they would not enter our strike range. The Americans are also not idiots.” Aytech Bizhev, ex-Russian Airforce commander to Interfax. 

The S-400 is theoretically capable of downing a Tomahawk, (in Russian)  but only at a 40km range, due to the very low altitude flightpath of the missiles. The mountainous terrain of the Syrian coast probably didn’t help either if the Tomahawk flight plan was parallel to the coast.

Image Tomahawk tech

The missiles could have been potentially a first wave strike, hence the use of ECM first. I say this because both US ships can carry around complement of around 120 missiles combined. So the Russian AD was playing cautiously.

In 1993, 46 Block II Tomahawks (TLAM) were fired into Iraq, with about considered a 91% “effectiveness rate”. Move forward a decade, thus time with more than 802 were launched into Iraq, it was 98% rate. In 2011, 214+ Block IV TLAMs were launched into Libya, but there’s no info (AFAIK) on the “effectiveness rate”.  

2017- Syria strike of 59 TLAMs –  23 or 34 hits allegedly on target, (depending on who’s counting) Oops, there goes the 98% effectiveness rate, if proven.

 

US admiral interview with Reuters – 

(Bovine excrement meter set on high)

Recent Russian naval activity in Europe exceeds levels seen during the Cold War,…”

Sure ?  Seriously?  The BovExc meter” is set on high here

Seems someone senior in NATO/US is touting for more money and wilfully misguiding/ scare-mongering. I could have a field day unpicking the US NATO narratives in the article. Just to concentrate on 1 point, since Adm Michelle Howard mentioned the “Admiral Kuznetsov” deployment. Well it wasn’t it’s first deployment to the Mediterranean, but importantly, the first done in anger. After a lengthy time spent by West defence commentators deriding the Russian aircraft carrier’s latest mission, it now seems that the US head of U.S. naval forces in Europe, can’t remember the Soviet Union sending out their Kiev-class ships out on multiple deployments. The MSM are singing from the same hymn sheet, because the Daily Mail also picked up on this story.

Like this comment on the Yahoo page:

Dear Admiral “Michelle” dear, I was serving in the Navy on destroyers during the Cold War and the activity today is nothing like it was then. Suggest you get back to your knitting and let men run the Navy.”

It seems that Obama’s “affirmative action” might have paid off, judging from her bio,  becoming the US Navy first 4-star admiral in 2014-

Admiral Howard also said “The country has stepped up patrols in the north Atlantic and Arctic region”. That wouldn’t be the bit of Arctic that happens to be sovereign territory of the Russian Federation, would it? Since Russia’s “Arctic zone” does include the 200-mile EEZ, so oil and gas can be exploited and more importantly safeguarded. Yet this seems to be all persuasive threat for the US. It is only a threat because the Northern Sea Fleet can gain unhindered access to the Atlantic and also the Pacific at certain times. The Baltic and Black Sea Fleet who can be effectively bottled up by narrow straits.

Furthermore, the fact that the Russian Navy sends out 2 warships with 2 auxiliary ships on an Atlantic cruise fleet is apparently enough to scare the pants of NATO? Gimme a break. The Russian Navy has been regularly sending out ships into the North Atlantic since 2005, why is the US & NATO so twitchy about the Russian Navy, when they themselves are ceaselessly encroaching on Russian land & sea borders?

A perfect example of US – NATO teeth gnashing over the limited resurgence of the Russian Navy. Limited in the sense that only a quarter of its surface ships have full “blue-water” capabilities.

Image Bastion Defence

Another article about Admiral Howard, the Russians and the USS Porter in the Black Sea:  

There’s a lot of systemic bias being presented in the article, ironically going back to how the Soviet Navy was perceived in the West. It effectively shows the US mindset mindset at work though.

NB: images speaks louder than words, practically every image of the Russian Navy in the MSM is the “Admiral Grigorovich”. Well done Russia – carry on and build, commission a few more, (without major delays).

For statistical purposes, here is an article comparing the Russian Navy with the Soviet Navy:

“…despite Russia’s military modernization attempts, the Kremlin’s military might remains deeply inferior to that of the former Soviet Union.”

 

Jordan – US ops

More US equipment was delivered to Aqaba in Jordan on the 7 April by the “Liberty Passion”. Now on the 9 April, reports * was circulating on some kind of US incursion into Syria from Jordan. (See the reference on the Liberty Passion)

This is getting ridiculous, another re-run of “Saving FSA Sunni Saeyd” out of the supposed clutches of ISIS, while several days previously, a major Syrian airbase with a leading role in fighting ISIS was attacked by a US missile strike. No confirmation as of yet what this US incursion in southern Syria from Jordan was really all about. It is known that US special forces have carried out many minor operations against ISIS in recent years, on the Syrian – Jordanian border, along with UK special forces. All of this being done in support of the US-trained feeble FSA. US activities is based around Al-Mafraq, allegedly with the Jordanian Army’s 3rd Division.

 

Piracy

Piracy is returning to the Horn of Africa and attacks are on the increase, with 4 high profile cases so far in this year. This comes after the highly publicised pull-out of NATO back in December, (see item 7  )

and after a five-year lull in attacks. Notwithstanding this, there is still an EU force Op Atalanta and other navies patrolling*1. Illegal fishing, onshore lawlessness have a part to play in creating conditions for piracy to flourish again.

*1

The Chinese Navy has participated in counter operations for 8 years.

It too participated in the Syrian Chemical Weapons removal operation 3 years ago.

Lately, the Chinese Navy in cooperation with the Indian Navy, thwarted a piracy attack on Lebanese registered bulk carrier “OS 35”, in theGulf of Aden.

 

In March, the tanker ” Aris 13″ was taken but released after negotiations with local authorities.

 

A sorry joke of the US media & UK tabloid

Fox News reported that a Russian warship, (Adm Grigorovich), entered the Mediterranean, in an apparent confrontation with U.S. forces. Yeah right ho! I’d call that a war mongering dumb statement.    The Grigorovich is joining until summer, the Mediterranean Squadron, based in Tartus. There are several other Russian navy ships in the area. (A normal 3-month deployment).

Now for the UK tabloid. How about this for a great example of geographical wisdom:

F for Fail- As can be seen from the image: UK journalist got confused on what is the Pacific.

The Essential Saker: from the trenches of the emerging multipolar world