As I suggested in my previous post, the Russian Navy may have decided to implement a "constant presence" near the Syrian coastline. In an April 13 news article, RIA Novosti cited a "highly-placed MOD representative," who stated:
"A decision has been made regarding the constant presence of Russian Navy ships near the Syrian coast. Another Black Sea Fleet ship will arrive in May to replace Smetlivyy... This could be the escort ship Pytlivyy or a large landing ship. A group of Black Sea Fleet ships and vessels could also be sent to this area."A couple linguistic items to note. First, the term "constant" (постоянный) does not denote a continuous, back-to-back deployment of forces, but rather a near-continuous presence. "Constant" is one step above "periodic," but one step below "continuous." Thus, there could be days or weeks when there are no naval combatants operating near the Syrian coast. And secondly, if the unnamed defense official used the term "ship" (корабль) correctly, he meant naval combatant vice the term reserved for non-combatant auxiliary vessels (судно). Thus, the presence of an auxiliary vessel in Tartus does not qualify as a "constant presence" of "ships" near the Syria coast. Western reporters will inevitably get this wrong.
According to earlier internet chatter, the Black Sea Fleet's Krivak I-class frigate Pytlivyy was supposed to relieve Kashin-class destroyer Smetlivyy off the coast of Syria next month. Fleet officials, however, apparently have decided the frigate requires dock repairs after it experienced some technical issues while chasing the high-speed, wave-piercing catamaran HSV-2 Swift (chartered by the U.S. Military Sealift Command) across the Black Sea during its recent operations there.
Thus, in order to maintain a "constant" presence off the Syrian Coast, the deployment of Kashin-class destroyer Smetlivyy could be extended until a suitable Black Sea Fleet replacement is identified. Internet chatter in February suggested Ropucha I-class landing ship Azov was preparing to deploy to the Mediterranean Sea. Alternatively, Northern Fleet Udaloy I-class destroyer Vitse-Admiral Kulakov, which departed Severomorsk on April 6 en route to a Horn of Africa counter-piracy patrol, could be redirected to replace (temporarily) Smetlivyy. If the latter option is chosen, it would result in an ever larger gap in the Russian Navy's counter-piracy operations. Pacific Fleet Udaloy I-class destroyer Admiral Tributs concluded Russia's last counter-piracy patrol in late-March.
On a related note, Chilikin-class replenishment oiler Ivan Bubnov (and possibly a tug) departed Sevastopol on April 14 en route to the Mediterranean Sea to rendezvous with Vitse-Admiral Kulakov.