"Zelenyy Dol" -- February 14, 2016
(credit: Yörük Işık)
After a three-week break, "Serpukhov" and "Zelenyy Dol" are headed back to the Mediterranean Sea - possibly with a final destination in the Baltic Sea.
|(credit: Main Intelligence Directorate - Ukrainian Ministry of Defense)|
On September 16, the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine's Ministry of Defense reported on its website that the two patrol combatants were scheduled to begin a transfer to the Baltic Fleet on September 24 using Russia's inland waterway system. Such a transfer would have required sufficient lead time to remove a portion of the ships' superstructures. With such a tight timeline (September 17-24), this option seemed unlikely. And the ships remained idle until they departed port yesterday.
"Serpukhov" and "Zelenyy Dol" could temporarily increase the Russian Navy's presence in the eastern Mediterranean; however, the Malta Ship & Actions Photos website claims the two ships will call in Valletta, Malta, in mid-October. According to the website, the ships will be supported by salvage tug "SB-36", which has been deployed to the Mediterranean Sea since last month. It should be noted that Malta Ship & Actions Photos reported last month that "Serpukhov" and "Zelenyy Dol" would visit Valletta on September 29-October 2, which did not occur. As the website has a good record of reporting on future Valletta port calls, the discrepancy in the Russian ships' port call dates is likely related to a scheduling change.
Having traveled that far west with a tug, it seems even more likely that "Serpukhov" and "Zelenyy Dol" will continue to the Baltic Sea. But the small patrol combatants will require several port calls (Ceuta? Lisbon?) and/or logistical support by a naval tanker.
The Baltic Fleet would benefit greatly from the introduction of Kalibr-armed warships. While Kalibr-capable ships and submarines are tested in the Baltic Sea before being transferred to the Black Sea Fleet, the Baltic Fleet currently has no Kalibr-capable ships or submarines in its own permanent inventory.