Monday, September 16, 2013

UPDATE: Is Russia's Surface Fleet Being Stretched to the Limit?

In a brief update to my previous blog entry:

  • Admiral Panteleyev finally returned to the Mediterranean Sea last week following possible repairs of unknown equipment that broke down some time in July.
  • Russia had to use a Tarantul III-class patrol combatant to escort another "Syrian Express" landing ship to the Mediterranean Sea and back in mid-August.
  • Rumors abound that Udaloy I-class destroyer Vitse-Admiral Kulakov suffered some type of propulsion problem in early-August shortly after its Havana, Cuba, port call. The ship failed to meet its previously scheduled port calls despite Moscow's insistence that the destroyer has been tagging along with Slava-class cruiser Moskva the entire time. Instead of bringing the ship home early, naval officials apparently decided it was better to keep the destroyer out of sight and tow it back to the Barents Sea on/about its scheduled return date. Given that no immediate tow service was required, it's possible the destroyer is as least partially operational, which means it has enough power to limp into port while TV cameras are rolling. As soon as the sailors hit the shore, we'll learn more... According to some internet chatter, Sorum-class oceangoing tug MB-304 may be towing the destroyer northeast in the Atlantic Ocean, and both units may rendezvous with Baklazhan-class salvage and rescue tug Nikolay Chiker, which has been hanging around the United Kingdom for several weeks -- most recently southeast of Cork, Ireland.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Is Russia's Surface Fleet Being Stretched to the Limit?

The ongoing "Syrian Express" (using Russian Navy landing ships to transfer materiel between Russia and Syria) and possible shipboard casualties apparently have necessitated changes in foreign port calls and participation in international exercises by Russia's larger naval combatants in 2013.

  • Since at least 2004, Russia has been represented by Ropucha I/II-class landing ships Azov, Novocherkassk, Tsezar Kunikov, and Yamal in semi-annual Black Sea Naval Force (BLACKSEAFOR) activations. Novocherkassk, which participated in this spring's activation and which was also scheduled to participate in this month's activation, has been replaced by Dergach-class patrol combatant Bora.
  • Neustrashimyy-class frigate Yaroslav Mudryy, which had participated in FRUKUS-2012 and which was scheduled to participate in FRUKUS-2013, was replaced by the much smaller Steregushchiy-class corvette Steregushchiy. No reason was provided for the change of plans.
  • Udaloy I-class destroyer Admiral Panteleyev, which departed Vladivostok in March 2013 to conduct a counter-piracy patrol, was diverted to the Mediterranean Sea by early-May to support the Syrian Express. In late-June, the destroyer was spotted in Novorossiysk. Not much information is available about its whereabouts in early-July, but by mid-July it was again spotted in Novorossiysk, where it has been ever since. This leaves no major combatant controlling the recently established Mediterranean Sea task force that Russia touted earlier this year. While there is no reliable reporting that explains Admiral Panteleyev's need to stay in Novorossiysk, the destroyer apparently will remain in Novorossiysk for some time, as a Tarantul III-class patrol combatant (R-60) was dispatched this month to deploy to the Mediterranean Sea. The prolonged presence of Admiral Panteleyev in Novorossiysk suggests there may be some type of shipboard casualty.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Another "Surprise" Inspection

At approximately 5pm (MSK) on July 12, President Putin directed defense minister Sergey Shoygu to order a surprise inspection of the Eastern Military District to begin at 1am (MSK) the next day. In fact, the inspection will involve forces in both the Eastern and Central Military Districts, as well as Long Range Aviation and Military Transport Aviation assets. The numbers of personnel and equipment to be involved in the exercise (as of July 14) include:

  • 160,000+ personnel
  • 1,000+ tanks and armored vehicles
  • 130+ fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters
  • 70+ combatant ships and auxiliary vessels
The aircraft mentioned to date (as of July 14) include:
  • IL-20 Coot A
  • IL-38 May
  • IL-76 Candid
  • SU-27SM Flanker
  • TU-95MS Bear H
  • TU-142 Bear F
The ships and auxiliary vessels mentioned to date (as of July 15) include:
  • Alligator LST Nikolay Vilkov
  • Dubna AO Irkut
  • Finik AGS GS-397
  • Goryn ARS SB-522
  • Grisha V FFL Metel
  • Grisha V FFL MPK-221
  • Grisha V Ust-Ilimsk
  • Nanuchka III PGG Iney
  • Nanuchka III PGG Razliv
  • Ob AH Irtysh
  • Ropucha I LST Oslyabya
  • Slava CG Varyag
  • Sonya MSC BT-215
  • Sonya MSC BT-245
  • Sorum ATA MB-99
  • Sovremennyj DDG Bystryy
  • Tarantul III PGG R-11
  • Tarantul III PGG R-14
  • Tarantul III PGG R-18
  • Tarantul III PGG R-19
  • Tarantul III PGG R-20
  • Tarantul III PGG R-79
  • Udaloj I DD Admiral Vinogradov
  • Udaloj I DD Marshal Shaposhnikov
  • Yug AGOR Vitse-Admiral Vorontsov
Part of the RF Navy's Pacific Fleet surface fleet is currently tasked with shuttling weapons in the Mediterranean Sea. As a result, the following units are not available to participate in the exercise:
  • Baklazhan ARS Fotiy Krylov
  • Dubna AO Pechenga
  • Ropucha I LST Admiral Nevelskoy
  • Ropucha II LST Peresvet
  • Udaloy I DD Admiral Panteleyev
Was this really a surprise? How could it be when the Russian ships were spotted near the La Perouse Strait on July 13. And when Khabarovsk residents noticed armored vehicles being loaded onto trains two days before the announcement? Of note, the PRC Navy ships that had departed Vladivostok on July 12 after participating in the joint China-Russia exercise Naval Cooperation-2013 followed the Russians through the La Perouse Strait. Very odd... It will be interesting to see what role, if any, the PRC Navy ships played in this exercise scenario.

I almost forgot to mention two IL-20 Coot A intelligence aircraft flights on July 12 and July 14. Further indication (to me, at least) that this was no "surprise" inspection.