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participated in this spring's activation and which was also scheduled to participate in this month's activation, has been replaced by Dergach-class patrol combatant Bora.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.