By Andrei Martyanov, exclusively for the Saker Blog
For the US Navy ships to enter the Black Sea and hope to survive in case of the, God forbids, any kind of a conflict with Russia—yes, you read it right—is a fantasy, or, to be even more precise—an unscientific fiction. This group, let alone a single US destroyer of the Arleigh Burke-class (these are the most active types in the US Navy), which enter the Black Sea periodically to “demonstrate flag” and US/NATO presence in this crucial body of water are aware of the fact that the Black Sea for all intents and purposes is Russia’s lake. Everyone can recall a wide-spread (spread most likely by some overly zealous, but not very literate, Russian “patriots”) rumor about DDG-75 USS Donald Cook having her electronics “burned” by a couple of intrepid Russian Su-24s in April of 2014, who allegedly forced this American ship to fast return to Constanta, where, allegedly some of her crew expressed a desire to abandon the ship. NYT and other US media, not without justification, called those rumors to be Russian “propaganda”. They have a point.
Reality of the events with USS Donald Cook had very little to do with Su-24s or some magical ECM. The reason for cutting American ship’s voyage short was the fact, as Russian President Vladimir Putin himself stressed not for once, that Donald Cook was detected, tracked and, when the necessity arose, was locked on by the radar of both K-300P Bastion and Bal coastal anti-shipping cruise missile complexes located on the shores of Crimea, which, no doubt, made a lot of noise, literally, when Donald Cook’s passive radiation detectors started to signal that the ship was locked on by one of the most fearsome weapons in Russia’s inventory—a launcher of the P-800 Oniks (Onyx) missiles. This long-range M=2.5 missile is what makes the first line of defense of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet so deadly, because it is precisely a type of weaponry designed to over-saturate air defense of US Aegis Combat Control System and Spy-1 radar-equipped ships. American naval officers are well-educated in terms of missile salvos and capabilities, including saturation thresholds, of their on-board Air Defense systems and know that 4+ P-800 Oniks or 8+ subsonic X-35 missile salvo, in the active ECM environment in the Black Sea are impossible to defend against such a salvo. Russia can repeat these and even much larger salvos many times over, with a desirable frequency and density.
But these are just the capabilities of a single 15th Independent Costal Defense Missile-Artillery Brigade in Sevastopol, which can deploy its launchers anywhere in Crimea, including in highly defended, by both aviation of the Black Sea Fleet and Air Defense forces in Crimea, locations which conceal the launch. Russia’s ISR systems provide updates for both operational situation and distribute targeting for any receiver on Russian side in real time. Of course, one has to always keep in mind that two squadrons (24+ combat aircraft) of SU-27SM/SU-30SM are also located in Crimea and each of those aircraft can carry a variety of strike weapons, including X-31A M=3.5 anti-shipping missile and X-31P anti-radiation missile, plus Aviation Regiment in Simferopol, which deploys 22 Su-24Ms is being reequipped with SU-30SMs. Incidentally, these venerable warriors (Su-24Ms) also carry X-31As, which, when counted realistically, provide for the first salvo (multiply by 0.5) consisting of 30 to 40 missiles by aviation wing alone, add here missiles from coastal complexes and we are looking at 60 to 70 missiles in the first salvo, at least. That’s enough to sink several Carrier Battle Groups even with their air wings airborne and all Aegis-Spy-1 systems working properly.
Of course, no one should forget that Black Sea Fleet also happened to have ships and those, even considering a cruiser, couple of frigates and SSKs attached to Mediterranean Squadron around Syria, still pack a massive anti-shipping punch by 3M54 missiles of Kalibr family which accelerate to M=2.9 on terminal and effectively are not interceptible in the salvo of 2+. All those missiles named here are AI-driven in salvo and posses a very high resistance to jamming (some of them can jam enemy’s sensors on their own). And this is not all, of course. Black Sea Fleet is supported by the forces of Southern Military District, part of which it is, and if these news above were bad for any combination of US/NATO naval forces entering the Black Sea, this is where this news becomes even more depressing for the Pentagon. 4th Air Force and Air Defense Army which is part of this district deployed those pesky MiG-31Ks (they originally were based in the District and continue to fly missions from there since 2017) armed with Kinzhal Kh-47M2 hypersonic missiles, whose M=10+ and violent maneuvering and incredible range of 2000 kilometers make them impervious to any air defense technology the United States has today and in the nearest future (7-10 years at least). It is even doubtful that these missiles are actually detectable. These combat aircraft are capable to sink not just anything in the Black Sea but also in the Eastern Mediterranean, without even crossing the shore line of Russia’s Krasnodar Region or Crimea, obviously Russia doesn’t say where each moment those aircraft are based. Who knows where? Well, US intel may know but it is a classic case of a good deterrence. In this case, the probability of hitting any target in the Black Sea for Kinzhal is driven not by the ability of the target to respond but by the probability of the missile itself being in full combat order.
So, as you can see, there is plenty of subsonic, supersonic and hypersonic goodness to spread around by Russia’s Black Sea Fleet alone and competent people in the Pentagon know this. That is why the appearance of those two US destroyers in the Black Sea is, literally, for the appearance primarily and for trying to collect some intel for what seems today a diminishing probability of confrontation in Donbass. I often write that many people in the US, and I am talking about policy-makers, cannot grasp the scale of America trailing behind Russia in firepower in all domains. It is not just quantitative; it is qualitative and the gap only continues to widen. But I warned about it for years, didn’t I?