Monday, November 23, 2015

Follow-Up 1: Why Did "Rostov-na-Donu" Return to the Baltic Sea?

It has become much clearer over the past three weeks why Kilo-class submarine "Rostov-na-Donu" made its mysterious port call in Kronshtadt. And it's bad news for ISIS/ISIL, FSA, or whomever Russian forces are targeting in Syria these days. As one blog reader opined, "Don't you think that stories about its malfunction was just a rumor, and in reality the submarine came for specific items that later can be [launched] from warmer waters?"

As a recap, "Rostov-na-Donu" pulled into Kronshtadt on October 29 - the 14th day of its inter-fleet transit from Polyarnyy to Novorossiysk. Claims by both official and anonymous sources covered everything from "topping off supplies of all types to required norms" to repairing broken equipment. It seems the official sources were correct.

Based on drone video, "Rostov-na-Donu" tied up at this pier in Kronshtadt

While in Kronshtadt, heightened security was put into place, limiting access to the submarine's location. However, a few adventurous photographers and one amateur drone did record enough evidence showing that missiles were handled during the submarine's visit. Given the high level of security, one might conclude that it was more likely that missiles were loaded than offloaded.

Circles indicate cylindrical objects and open torpedo tubes/loading device on "Rostov-na-Donu"

The above two images, taken from a drone flying nearby, show a floating crane ("PK-175") positioned on the opposite side of the pier where "Rostov-na-Donu" had tied up in Kronshtadt. The floating crane, assisted by three harbor tugs, transferred from Admiralty Shipyards to Kronshtadt on October 28 - the day before the submarine's arrival. Multiple long, cylindrical objects are visible on the deck of the floating crane, and the submarine's torpedo tubes are open with a possible weapons loading device attached.

Circles indicate cylindrical objects on deck of floating crane

Clearer images taken on November 4, the day the submarine departed Kronshtadt, show the cylindrical objects were visible on the deck of the floating crane. Also visible on the submarine was the flag of an embarked senior naval officer. Looking back at all the photos taken of the first Kalibr-capable Kilo submarine to transfer to the Black Sea Fleet, "Novorossiysk", it is evident that this flag was never flown at any point during its departure from Polyarnyy, during its port calls in Ceuta, Spain, and Oran, Algeria, or during its arrival in Novorossiysk and subsequent transfer to Sevastopol. The flag appears to have one star, indicating a "commander of a formation" (командир соединения) is on board. The 4th Independent Submarine Brigade, which stood up in December 2014 as the new parent command for the Black Sea Fleet's submarines, qualifies as a "formation" (соединение). Thus, it is possible that the brigade's commander, Captain 1st Rank Magaram Yagishevich Adigyuzelov, or his designated representative may have embarked in Kronshtadt for the submarine's transit.

The RF Ministry of Defense did not report on the submarine's departure until November 5. It did state, however, that "Rostov-na-Donu" would now arrive in Novorossiysk by the end of November. This differs from the MOD's earlier reporting that the submarine would arrive in Novorossiysk in early December. Thus, despite the time it took to divert from its previous transit route (~1,000nm from the North Sea to Kronshtadt + ~1,000nm back) plus the seven days it spent in Kronshtadt, the new arrival time is now one-two weeks sooner than first reported. In order to transfer from Kronshtadt to Novorossiysk by November 30, the submarine would have to travel ~5,250nm in 26 days, which equates to a speed of 8.4 knots - not an unreasonable speed. It also suggests, however, that there is no time provided for any foreign port calls as they would increase the overall speed needed to complete the transit by the end of the month. Of course, the time frame provided for completion of the transit simply could have been misstated.

The Dutch Navy keeping an eye on "Rostov-na-Donu"

Two weeks later, on November 17, Russian business news agency RosBiznesKonsalting erroneously reported that "Rostov-na-Donu" had launched land-attack cruise missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The article was reproduced by some notable media outlets, such as Delovoy Peterburg,, Kommersant, and If this were true, the submarine would have had to travel at an overall speed of nearly 16 knots for 13 straight days direct from Kronshtadt in order to launch missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea. However, the submarine was being monitored by Dutch naval ships as it transited south through the English Channel near the Netherlands on November 11. Thus, "Rostov-na-Donu" would have had to travel in excess of 19 knots for six straight days from the North Sea in order to reach the eastern Mediterranean Sea by November 17. Finally, the RF MOD has never reported that the submarine launched land-attack cruise missiles, something it most certainly would have done. Despite the improbability of "Rostov-na-Donu" launching missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea on or before November 17, RBK has neither edited nor retracted its article.

Flight bans and flight route restrictions

Earlier this month, flight bans and flight route restrictions were announced for Russian Navy exercise being held in the eastern Mediterranean Sea:

THE AREA INCLUDES BUFFER ZONE. SFC - FL660, 14-16 AND 21-23 0500-1500, 14 NOV 05:00 2015 UNTIL 23 NOV 15:00 2015. CREATED: 09 NOV 10:37 2015

2.R/UR78, M/UM978 (ALSUS-NIKAS. 14-16 AND 21-23 0500-1500, 14 NOV 05:00 2015 UNTIL 23 NOV 15:00 2015. CREATED: 09 NOV 10:41 2015

THE AREA INCLUDES BUFFER ZONE. SFC - FL660, 0500-1500, 24 NOV 05:00 2015 UNTIL 26 NOV 15:00 2015. CREATED: 19 NOV 09:20 2015

2.R/UR78, M/UM978 (ALSUS-NIKAS. 0500-1500, 24 NOV 05:00 2015 UNTIL 26 NOV 15:00 2015. CREATED: 19 NOV 09:34 2015

THE AREA INCLUDES BUFFER ZONE. SFC - FL660, 21 NOV 00:01 2015 UNTIL 23 NOV 23:59 2015. CREATED: 20 NOV 15:37 2015

SFC-FL660. 21 NOV 00:01 2015 UNTIL 23 NOV 23:59 2015. CREATED: 20 NOV 16:34 2015

Flight ban areas defined in A1459/15 and A1499/15 are identical to those previously announced for similar Russian Navy exercises. Flight ban area A1510/15 is of interest as it is not known to have been used before for Russian Navy exercises. And while all of these bans expire on or before November 26, there is no reason to believe they would not be reannounced, if needed.

Of course, it would be easy to draw a direct correlation between the flight bans (those already announced and those that could be announced in the near future) and the unusual "Rostov-na-Donu" story. But...
  • Would Moscow really announce to the world the launch location and missile flight path of a future land-attack cruise missile strike?
  • Does the geography of the Mediterranean Sea, coupled with large number of international air and maritime traffic routes, necessitate the announcement of flight bans and route restrictions for land-attack cruise missiles strikes?
  • Could these flight bans serve to distract potential foreign observers away from the true launch location?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Why Did "Rostov-na-Donu" Return to the Baltic Sea?

Screenshot of Ilya Kurganov blog posting -- October 29, 2015

Very early this morning, St. Petersburg blogger Ilya Kurganov (citing unnamed "navy officials") reported that Kilo-class submarine "Rostov-na-Donu" had arrived in Kronshtadt for unscheduled repairs of its electrical plant. According to the blogger:

" began its scheduled transfer to its home port of Novorossiysk on October 16, 2015, but within literally a few days it was necessary to call for a rescue tug, with which it headed to a location where unscheduled repairs will be performed by technicians from Admiralty Shipyards, where the submarine was built."

Interfax, citing an unknown source in the shipbuilding industry, confirmed that the submarine is in the Baltic Sea, but the source would only say that "it was forced to return to the Baltic for technical reasons." Finally, Admiralty Shipyards denied that any Russian Navy officials had contacted the shipyard to provide any technical assistance to the submarine.

Taking a closer look at the Ilya's blog post, we see:

  • The submarine was not in Kronshtadt when the blog posting was published. "Rostov-na-Donu" and the rescue tug, "SB-406", did not arrive in Kronshtadt until 11:50 this morning (local time), nearly 11 hours after the blog posting was published.
  • It was towed to Kronshtadt instead of Admiralty Shipyards, which is located less than 20 miles from Kronshtadt. Why would shipyard technicians have to travel to Kronshtadt to repair the submarine when the submarine could be repaired more easily at the shipyard where it was built? Vietnamese Navy Kilo submarine "Da Nang" left the shipyard yesterday, so there is plenty of room to accommodate "Rostov-na-Donu".
  • If this happened "within literally a few days" of its October 16 departure from Polyarnyy, why was it not towed back to Polyarnyy vice towing it to Kronshtadt - and, again, not even the shipyard that built it? Why risk any other mechanical failures over the course of another week or so of transit time?

In summary, Ilya's reporting doesn't add up, and it's hard to tell who's to blame: Ilya, his sources, or both.

Minutes before the submarine and tug moored in Kronshtadt, a Ministry of Defense official told Interfax that the purpose of the submarine's visit to Kronshtadt was to take on supplies. That makes little sense as the first Kilo submarine to transfer to the Black Sea this year, "Novorossiysk", was able to make it all the way from Polyarnyy to Ceuta, Spain, before having to take on fresh supplies.

This has all the appearance of a public affairs failure that has been noted before. Earlier this year, the Western Military District press service tried, but failed to cover up an actual emergency on board Steregushchiy-class frigate "Steregushchiy" during at-sea training. And military officials have yet to officially discuss what happened on board Delta IV-class ballistic missile submarine "Bryansk" in July 2015 when a crew member drowned in the submarine's sail.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Drafting Commercial Ships into the Russian Navy

"Alican Deval" (aka "Dvinitsa-50") underway in Novorossiysk - October 10, 2015
(credit: Oleg Sushkov)
Moscow apparently has figured out that landing ships are not the most effective way to move large numbers of vehicles and other military hardware to Syria. According to a blog linked to the Center for the Analysis of Strategy and Technology, as many as eight commercial vessels were recently purchased for use by the Russian Navy. The ships will be manned by a mix of military and civilian sailors. As many have noted, military ships, which include the newly acquired commercial vessels flying the Russian Navy flag, are not subject to at-sea inspections.

Last AIS position broadcast for "Alican Deval" -- October 11, 2015

The first newly acquired cargo vessel, "Alican Deval", arrived in Novorossiysk on October 7 and was last noted transmitting AIS from the same location at 13:58 UTC on October 11. The last position placed it at the Novorossiysk Trans-Shipping Transportation/Expeditionary Company (NUTEP, for short) [Новороссийское Узловое Транспортно-Экспедиционное Предприятие - НУТЭП]. On October 14, the vessel, now renamed "Dvinitsa-50", was photographed heading south through the Turkish Straits by Alper Boler (@alperboler) and Yörük Işık (@YorukIsik). To date, there have been no known AIS transmissions from a vessel named "Dvinitsa-50".

"Dvinitsa-50" (formerly "Alican Deval") heading south through the Turkish Straits -- October 14, 2015
(credit: Yörük Işık)
"Dvinitsa-50" (formerly "Alican Deval") heading south through the Turkish Straits -- October 14, 2015
(credit: Alper Boler)
A second vessel, which arrived in Novorossiysk by October 10, has been renamed "Kyzyl-60". On October 18, it transferred from NUTEP to the neighboring Novorossiysk Naval Base and could depart port at any time to begin its first cargo transfer mission to Syria. And a third vessel bearing the new name "Kazan-60" also appeared in Novorossiysk by October 18. As with "Dvinitsa-50", neither of these two new additions to the Russian Navy are broadcasting via AIS.

Formation of crews to man these new naval auxiliary ships only recently began. However, not all prospective crew members are satisfied with conditions on board the former commercial vessels. On October 9, a boiler plant technician on the Russian Black Sea Fleet's cable ship "Setun" was ordered to report to Novorossiysk to serve as Third Engineer on "Dvinitsa-50". After a brief inspection he determined that only two of the ship's three diesel generators worked, but both of them also had problems. Having discovered other material issues, the sailor complained up the chain of command, where his complaints were met with profanity and accusations of him being a coward and a traitor. On October 10, he signed a resignation letter that effectively ended his civilian naval career. He has since appealed to the Black Sea Fleet Prosecutor's Office to look into the incident.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Kalibr vs Klub: There's a Difference

Defense News' "Is Caspian Sea Fleet a Game-Changer?" article from October 11 demonstrates a confusion between Russian missile systems that has plagued other articles published following the October 7 launch of long-range land-attack cruise missiles by Russian Navy ships operating in the Caspian Sea. The main thing to remember is that Kalibr is the name assigned to the Russian domestic version of a missile complex that can launch several types of missiles (3M14 [SS-N-30 land-attack cruise missile], 3M54 [SS-N-27 anti-ship cruise missile], and 91R [antisubmarine missile]), while Klub is the name assigned to the export version of the same missile complex.

Other confusing points include:
"The inland sea features naval forces from the four bordering countries — Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkmenistan in addition to Russia..."
It's actually five, if you include Kazakhstan.

"...the Kalibr long-range version has only recently reached operational status."
Relatively recently; it reached operational status when the first launch platform, Gepard-class frigate "Dagestan", was commissioned in November 2012.

"But until now it was not clear that smaller ships, including the Project 21631 Buyan-M corvettes that also took part in the Oct. 7 attacks, could operate the weapon."
-- There should be nothing unclear about this. The first two units of the Sviyazhsk class of guided missile patrol combatants, "Grad Sviyazhsk" and "Uglich", were delivered to the RF Ministry of Defense in December 2013 after sea trials and state testing, which included launches of the SS-N-27 and SS-N-30. The ships were subsequently commissioned into the RF Navy and joined the Caspian Flotilla in July 2014. The third unit, "Velikiy Ustyug" was delivered to the RF Ministry of Defense in November 2014 following a similar sea trials + state testing period; it was commissioned into the RF Navy and joined the Caspian Flotilla the next month.

"This was not a missile seen as being normally carried by the corvettes, which had [shorter-range] Klub missiles as opposed to the land-attack version..."
None of the Sviyazhsk ships were ever armed with the Klub missile complex.

"So far, the Vietnamese versions do not seem to be armed with the Kalibr missile."
-- Again, Kalibr = domestic; Klub = export.

"The six Buyan-M corvettes were known to be fitted with an eight-cell vertical launch system mounted amidships, capable of launching the SS-N-27 Klub[1] missile, but this is the first demonstration[2] of their ability to use the longer-range Kalibr."
-- [1] Should be 'Kalibr'; [2] Except for all the launches performed as part of pre-acceptance state testing.

In Putin's Own Words: Why We Launched Kalibr Missiles

Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin - October 2015
(credit: All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcast Company)

Today's broadcast of Voskresnyy Vecher [Sunday Evening] led with an interview with President Vladimir Putin that included a couple interesting items related to Russia's presence in Syria and the October 7 launch of SS-N-30 [3M14] land-attack cruise missiles.

[video time 02:00-04:05]
"I would like to confirm the fact, which is already known, that we warned our partners - our American partners, many other partners, especially those in the region - of our intentions and our plans in advance. There are those who say we did this very late. But I would like to point out that no one ever informs us in advance when they are planning such operations or when such operations begin. But we did... out of good will, out of expediency, and with the hope of showing that we are open to working together. I want to emphasize again that we are operating in full compliance with international law based on a request by official leaders of the Syrian Arab Republic. All other countries that to date have taken part in such actions are doing so illegally because there has been no resolution from the United Nations Security Council to do so, and there has been no official request from Syrian leaders. I would like to remind you that by the time our operation began, 11 countries had already carried out various strikes against Syria, in one way or another. And all this has been going on for more than a year. Understanding and knowing this, we informed our partners and recommended they work with us. The simplest thing would be to join our effort, thereby legalizing their own actions on Syrian territory. Because we have a mandate from official leaders, the simplest thing would be to join us and operate within the framework of this mandate. Unfortunately, we have not yet come to an agreement on this with our partners and colleagues. But we haven't lost hope that this can still be achieved."

[video time 09:49-11:37]
"Kalibr missiles: they have not been in service very long - since 2012. They have a range of 1,500 kilometers, as a matter of fact, which has already been stated. But these are, of course, technologically advanced, high-precision modern weapons. We plan to rearm the entire Russian military not only with these types of missiles, but also with this new generation of land-based hardware and aviation technology. These are truly complex systems, and, as their employment has proven, extremely effective... As you yourself said, [they flew] over the territory of other nations. Along the flight path, they made 147 turns, flew at altitudes of between 80 and 1,300 meters... at a speed comparable to a jet aircraft - everyone knows this. The thing is that this isn't classified information. In principle, all of our partners, at a minimum at the expert level, are aware that Russia has such [high-precision] weapons. It's one thing, at the expert level, to know that Russia supposedly has such weapons. It's another thing to be convinced that: first - they really exist and our defense industrial complex is producing them; second - that they are of high quality; third - that there are well-trained, well-prepared people who can effectively employ them; and fourth - that Russia has the will to use them if it satisfies the national interests of our state and our people."

It won't take long for others to see through Putin's own words that a driving factor for launching land-attack cruise missiles was, in fact, to prove to the rest of the world that Russia can and will carry out such launches if doing so satisfies Russia's interests -- despite the hefty price tag of the missiles.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Impending Ballistic Missile Launch From Sea of Okhotsk

Flights bans for probable SS-N-18 ballistic missile launch -- October 12-17, 2015
Flight bans have been declared for three areas in the Sea of Okhotsk for the period of October 12 through October 17:
 1. 475400N 1510600E-480600N 1514000E-475200N 1515800E-473600N 1512100E-475400N 1510600E.
 3. CIRCLE RADIUS 51KM CENTRE 5709N 14033E. SFC - UNL, DAILY 0600-1300, 12 OCT 06:00 2015 UNTIL 17 OCT 13:00 2015. CREATED: 08 OCT 08:24 2015
The number and arrangement of the three areas are identical to those used for an SS-N-18 Stingray submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) event on May 8, 2014 [NOTAM P2906/14 (May 8-11, 2014)], during which Delta III-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine "Podolsk" launched a single SLBM from a submerged location in the Sea of Okhotsk.

"Svyatoy Georgiy Pobedonosets"
(credit: TASS)

The Russian Pacific Fleet currently has two operational Delta III submarines - 36-year-old "Podolsk" and 35-year-old "Svyatoy Georgiy Pobedonosets". A third unit, 33-year-old "Ryazan", has been undergoing service life extension work at Zvezda Far East Shipyard since 2011. With the arrival of Dolgorukiy-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine "Aleksandr Nevskiy" in Rybachiy on September 30, Moscow can begin thinking about retiring the veteran "Podolsk" and "Svyatoy Georgiy Pobedonosets". As such, next week's SLBM event may mark the final launch for one of them.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Combat-Proven: Russia’s SS-N-30 (3M14) Land-Attack Cruise Missile

"Dagestan" frigate launches multiple land-attack cruise missiles against Syrian targets -- October 2015
(courtesy: RF Ministry of Defense)
According to Russian Ministry of Defense reporting, during the nighttime hours between October 6 and October 7, Russian Navy ships positioned in the southwestern Caspian Sea launched 26 long-range land-attack cruise missiles (LACM) against 11 reported Islamic State (ISIL) targets in the Syrian provinces of Al-Raqqah, Aleppo, and Idlib. The targets were characterized as “factories for manufacturing [artillery] shells and explosives, command posts, storage facilities for munitions, armaments, and petroleum-oil-lubricants (POL), as well as terrorist training camps.”

The launch platforms were identified as Gepard-class guided missile frigate “Dagestan” and Sviyazhsk-class guide missile patrol ships “Grad Sviyazhsk”, “Uglich”, and “Velikiy Ustyug”. This constitutes the entire inventory of LACM-armed ships in the Caspian Flotilla. Not mentioned in any of yesterday's reporting was the departure of Astrakhan-class patrol combatant "Makhachkala" (not LACM-armed) and Finik-class hydrographic vessel "Anatoliy Guzhvin", which departed port a few days ago to conduct "scheduled combat service missions." It is possible that these two ships provided some level of support for the strike operation.

Defense minister Sergey Shoygu briefs President Putin on Russian military actions in Syria -- October 7, 2015
(credit: RF Presidential Public Affairs)
The announcement coincided with a meeting between defense minister Sergey Shoygu and Russian President Vladimir Putin in which Shoygu provided an update on Russian military actions in Syria to support the Syrian government.

Simulation of missile flight route over northern Syria
(credit: RF Ministry of Defense)
The computer-generated simulation of the flight route indicates the missiles flew within a dozen or so miles of the southern Turkish border, but within Syrian airspace. It is important to note that the appearance of a TU-160 Blackjack bomber icon at the beginning of the simulation (00:57-00:59) may indicate this was simply a simulation used for mission planning purposes only and not the actual approved mission profile (the MOD made no mention of a TU-160 flying over the Caspian Sea).

Simulation of missile flight route over northern Syria
(credit: RF Ministry of Defense)
Key: ЗПБВ [factories for manufacturing munitions and armaments]; КП [command post]
НВФ [illegal armed formation (group)]; СклБВ [storage facilities for munitions and armaments]
The MOD video also shows that all of the missiles were launched with an interval between launches of less than five seconds, as well as "Dagestan" conducting a five-missile salvo launch. A video uploaded to Twitter reportedly shows two of the missiles in flight. Another video uploaded to YouTube reportedly shows damage caused by one of the missiles striking a target near Aleppo.

General-Colonels Andrey Kartapolov (l) and Viktor Bondarev (r) brief reporters -- October 7, 2015
(credit: RF Ministry of Defense)

Yesterday afternoon, General-Colonel Andrey Kartapolov (Chief, Main Operational Directorate – Russian Federal General Staff) confirmed the details of the LACM strikes. He also stated that intelligence information received from Iran, Iraq, and Syria is being used to target strike locations.

«Все объекты для поражения нами тщательно изучаются, при этом используются данные космической и радиоэлектронной разведки, съёмки с беспилотных летательных аппаратов, информация, полученная по данным радиоперехвата. Мы также используем данные сирийской, иранской и иракской разведок, в том числе из агентурных источников» , — подчеркнул Андрей Картаполов в беседе с журналистами.

“All strike locations are carefully studied; additionally, data from space and radio-electronic reconnaissance, footage from unmanned aerial vehicles, and information received through communications intercepts, are used. We also use data from Syrian, Iranian, and Iraqi intelligence, to include from their human sources,” Andrey Kartapolov emphasized in his discussion with reporters.

Indeed, the four nations have established a joint information center in Baghdad for coordinating actions in the fight against ISIL. As the video released by the RF MOD indicates, the missiles flew through Iranian and Iraqi airspace, something that certainly would have been coordinated via the Baghdad center.

If one assumes that a new long-range land-attack cruise missile is an expensive commodity, why would you employ it if there was a cheaper way of striking a target? The Russian defense ministry has been touting the successes that its Syria-deployed air assets have achieved since strikes first began last week. As long as Russian aircraft have unfettered access to the targets from the air, they can use much cheaper ordnance than the SS-N-30.

According to one source, India paid USD 6.5 million per unit for the export version of the missile, but that sounds exceedingly high: a single U.S. Tomahawk LACM only cost USD 1.59 million in FY2014. Despite the possibly overstated cost in the report, it is logical to assume that missiles cost more than air-delivered bombs in Russia, as they would anywhere else.

An analyst at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington says the LACM strike “was specifically done to show bravado... it’s chest-thumping.” Well, that’s at one end of the spectrum. At the other end of the spectrum, some analysts assert that Russia is using this opportunity to prove its latest military weaponry can be employed to solve modern day missions. And still others state that nearly all of the aircraft currently deployed to Syria would be needed to achieve the same level of damage that the 26-missile strike achieved, and that the departure of this large number of aircraft at nearly the same time would have tipped off someone about the operation. Somewhere in the middle is the oft-used “strategic messaging” explanation. And way off in left field is Deputy Prime Minister Dmitriy Rogozin's explanation:

"A gift for ISIL for digging graves"
(credit: Dmitriy Rogozin/Twitter)
Of course, some would argue that the SS-N-30 LACM strike was well-timed to serve as a gift, of sorts, to President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, who celebrated his 63rd birthday on October 7.

Wouldn’t it have been simpler and cheaper to give him a new pony?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

"Yauza" Heading to Black Sea

AIS tracking of "Yauza" -- September 10-27, 2015
Since September 10, a vessel named "Yauza" has been making its way from Severomorsk, Russia, to the Turkish Straits, presumably headed for the Black Sea. The day before getting underway, the vessel was at a Severomorsk weapons handling facility (home of the 571st Technical Missile Base), where it was located between 0946 UTC on September 9 and 0456 UTC on September 10. What activity was conducted there is a mystery.
AIS tracking of "Yauza" showing it at a Severomorsk weapons handling facility on September 8-10, 2015
The vessel has made no known port calls since leaving Severomorsk. "Yauza" was noted tracking north through the Turkish Straits today when it unexpectedly turned around between 1222 UTC and 1510 UTC. The vessel continued tracking to the southwest until 1647 UTC when it reached a holding point located ~14 nautical miles east of the Greek Island of Lemnos.
AIS tracking of "Yauza" on September 27, 2015
Given the name and departure port, this appears to be the Northern Fleet cargo and personnel vessel "Yauza". If true, its apparent voyage to the Black Sea would be unusual and could be related to the ongoing transfer of Russian military personnel and materiel to Syria.
Amguema cargo vessel "Yauza" in 2007 -- before conversion
credit: Denis Nemetovskiy
Amguema-class cargo vessel (Rus: Project 550M special-purpose large naval dry cargo vessel) "Yauza" was built at Kherson Shipyard for the Soviet Navy. It was laid down in April 1974 and joined the Northern Fleet in 1975. In 1988, the vessel was resubordinated to the Ministry of Defense's 12th Main Directorate, which oversees military nuclear safety and security programs. Since then, the vessel had been used to transport cargo between the Russian mainland and Novaya Zemlya.
Commemorative booklet celebrating Nerpa Shipyard's 50th anniversary in September 2015
credit: Nerpa Shipyard
On April 3, 2008, the Ministry of Defense signed a contract (253/05/7/K/0329-08) with Nerpa Shipyard in Snezhnogorsk (Murmansk Oblast) to perform capital repairs, modernization, and conversion of "Yauza", to include increasing the number of passengers it could carry to 98. The vessel's superstructure was lengthened, and two new cranes were installed: one on the bow (Liebherr CBW 60/16, 60 metric ton lift capacity) and one on the stern (9 metric ton lift capacity). Other changes included the installation of new main (4 х 1,500 kW) and emergency (1 х 200 kW) diesel generators, steam boilers (2 x 4,000 kg/h), and modern control, safety, and communications systems. The vessel has four cargo holds.
Amguema cargo + passenger vessel "Yauza" in June 2014 -- after conversion
On October 8, 2012, “Yauza” was relaunched. The vessel commenced post-modernization factory sea trials in June 2014 and was turned back over to the Northern Fleet in May 2015. In July, employees of the 51st Central Design and Technology Institute of Ship Repairs received awards for developing design documentation for the vessel's repairs and modernization.

The “Yauza” conversion was not completed without a few scandals. In October 2013, investigators claimed that Nerpa Shipyard had not completed RUB 415 million in work for which it had already been paid. Additionally, the price of the original contract had grown an additional RUB 159.8 million. Contracts fulfilled just between July 2013 and December 2014 totaled RUB 28,006,934, including RUB 6,000,000 for round-trip towing services between Nerpa Shipyard and Severodvinsk in 2014. The final cost of the project reportedly more than doubled from the original RUB 1.6 billion to nearly RUB 4 billion. In July 2015, former Nerpa Shipyard general director Aleksandr Gorbunov was sentenced to four years in prison and fined RUB 600,000 for falsely claiming the shipyard had completed repairs on "Yauza" for which it received RUB 10 million. In September, shipyard employees were still waiting to be paid salaries for June through August. When one worker asked via social media where the money for employees' salaries had disappeared to, another responded it had "sailed away" with "Yauza".

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Russian Navy Exercise in Eastern Mediterranean Sea

Flight bans (yellow) and flight route restrictions (green) for Russian Navy combat drills -- September 30-October 7, 2015

Amidst the ongoing transfer of military personnel and materiel from Russia to the Syrian port of Tartus and the deployment of Russian aircraft to Syria comes the announcement that Russian Navy ships will hold drills in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in September and October. According to a September 24 Russian defense ministry press release, Slava-class cruiser "Moskva", Kashin-class destroyer "Smetlivyy", Alligator-class landing ship "Saratov" and an unknown number of auxiliary vessels will conduct anti-submarine, anti-air, and anti-ship warfare drills in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in the coming weeks; "Moskva" will serve as the command ship for the exercise.

Flight bans and route restrictions for the exercise were announced in early and mid-September:
THE AREA INCLUDES BUFFER ZONE. SFC - FL660, SEP 30 AND OCT 05-07 0500-1500, 30 SEP 05:00 2015 UNTIL 07 OCT 15:00 2015. CREATED: 03 SEP 07:25 2015

2.R/UR78, M/UM978 (ALSUS-NIKAS).

SEP 30 AND OCT 05-07 0500-1500, 30 SEP 05:00 2015 UNTIL 07 OCT 15:00 2015. CREATED: 03 SEP 07:30 2015

THE AREA INCLUDES BUFFER ZONE. SFC - FL660, 01-07 0500-1700, 01 OCT 05:00 2015 UNTIL 07 OCT 17:00 2015. CREATED: 17 SEP 09:55 2015

2.R/UR78, M/UM978 (TOSKA-TOBAL).
01-07 0500-1700, 01 OCT 05:00 2015 UNTIL 07 OCT 17:00 2015. CREATED: 17 SEP 10:03 2015
"Moskva" departing Sevastopol on September 24, 2015
(credit: A. Balabin)
Flight bans and route restrictions for Russian Navy activity in the eastern Mediterranean Sea have become a routine occurrence. Similar activity took place as far back as July 2012 (A0614/12) and more recently in July 2015 (A0819/15 + A0820/15 + A0821/15 + A0822/15) and August 2015 (A0959/15 + A0964/2015).

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Impending Bulava Missile Launch

Area closure, flight bans, and flight corridor restriction for Bulava missile launch -- September 11-15, 2015

On September 9, RIA Novosti and TASS, citing their separate anonymous sources, reported that Dolgorukiy-class nuclear-powered submarines would launch Bulava (SS-N-32) ballistic missiles in the October-November time frame. According to RIA Novosti, "Vladimir Monomakh" would launch first, followed by a dual launch by "Aleksandr Nevskiy" and "Vladimir Monomakh". TASS's source stated that "Vladimir Monomakh" will perform a salvo launch in November, and that no other Bulava launches will occur this year.

It is odd that neither of them mentioned this week's scheduled ballistic missile launch.

Area closures, flight bans, and flight corridor restrictions have been issued for a missile launch that will occur between 11 and 15 September. The missile will be launched from the White Sea and impact at the Kura Test Range on the Kamchatka Peninsula.


DNC 22.
1. HAZARDOUS OPERATIONS 111300Z TO 112000Z, 131000Z TO 132100Z, 141000Z TO 141900Z SEP AND 1000Z TO 2300Z DAILY 12 AND 15 SEP IN AREA BOUND BY 73-05N 051-00E, 72-30N 052-47E, 71-24N 049-25E, 72-00N 047-20E.
2. CANCEL THIS MSG 160001Z SEP 15.

SFC - UNL, 11 1300-2000, 13 1000-2100, 14 1000-1900, 12 15 1000-2300, 11 SEP 13:00 2015 UNTIL 15 SEP 23:00 2015.

720000N 0472000E-730500N 0510000E-724700N 0514000E-714500N 0504000E-712400N 0492500E.
SFC - UNL, 11 1300-2000, 13 1000-2100, 14 1000-1900, 12 15 1000-2300, 11 SEP 13:00 2015 UNTIL 15 SEP 23:00 2015.

SFC - 1500M AGL, 11-15 1000-2300, 11 SEP 10:00 2015 UNTIL 15 SEP 23:00 2015.

SFC - 1500M AGL, DAILY 1000-2300, 11 SEP 10:00 2015 UNTIL 15 SEP 23:00 2015.

SFC - UNL, 11 1300-2000, 13 1000-2100, 14 1000-1900, 12 15 1000-2300, 11 SEP 13:00 2015 UNTIL 15 SEP 23:00 2015.

1. ПУСКИ РАКЕТНЫЕ 11 СЕНТ 1300 ДО 2000 12 СЕНТ 1000 ДО 2300 13 СЕНТ 1000 ДО 2100 14 СЕНТ 1000 ДО 1900 15 СЕНТ 1000 ДО 2300 ЗАПРЕТНОМ ПЛАВАНИЯ РАЙОНЕ 65-13.0С 036-27.0В 65-38.0С 036-27.0В 66-12.0С 037-17.0В 65-52.0С 038-35.0В 65-13.0С 037-39.0В
2. ОТМ ЭТОТ НР 152359 СЕНТ

НАВАРЕА 200 139/15 КАРТА 11163
1. ПУСКИ РАКЕТНЫЕ 11 СЕНТ 1300 ДО 2000 12 СЕНТ 1000 ДО 2300 13 СЕНТ 1000 ДО 2100 14 СЕНТ 1000 ДО 1900 15 СЕНТ 1000 ДО 2300 ПЛАВАНИЕ ЗАПРЕЩЕНО ТЕРВОДАХ ОПАСНО ИХ ПРЕДЕЛАМИ РАЙОНЕ 73-05.0С 051-00.0В 72-30.0С 052-47.0В 71-24.0С 049-25.0В 72-00.0С 047-20.0В
2. ОТМ ЭТОТ НР 152359 СЕНТ

Reporting from last week indicated "Vladimir Monomakh" had arrived in Severodvinsk in advance of a scheduled Bulava launch. As there is no other submarine known to be currently available in the White Sea to launch a ballistic missile, the most likely scenario is that "Vladimir Monomakh" will launch at least one Bulava. "Vladimir Monomakh" last launched a Bulava in September 2014.

Is it just a coincidence that this missile launch will occur on the eve of the opening of the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, which will be attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Follow-Up 1: Where in the World is "Aleksandr Nevskiy"?

Since "Aleksandr Nevskiy" departed Gadzhiyevo in mid-August for its interfleet transfer, Russia's three main news outlets have all taken a stab at reporting when the submarine will arrive in Rybachiy. Below is a summary of their reports.

Note: In Russia, a calendar month can be broken into three 10-day periods, known as a dekada. Thus, the first dekada equates to the first 10 days of the month, and so on.

  • Source: "source familiar with the situation"
  • Comment 1: "arrival in Vilyuchinsk is expected in the early part of the third dekada in September" -- This would roughly equate to September 21-24.
  • Comment 2: "[source] linked the submarine's interfleet transfer to the actions of a number of Northern Fleet ships currently operating along the Northern Sea Route" -- This seems unlikely, as the Northern Fleet ships, as in previous years, are likely hugging Russia's northern coastline to avoid frequent interaction with ice, while the submarine should be operating under the ice.
  • Source: "fleet headquarters source"
  • Comment 1: "departed Gadzhiyevo on August 15" -- That seems to be incorrect based on the previous blog entry showing crew members updating their social media accounts through August 18.
  • Comment 2: "expected in [Rybachiy] in the second dekada of the month" -- This would equate to September 11-20.

  • Source: "highly placed Pacific Fleet HQ source"
  • Comment 1: "will arrive in Kamchatka, as planned, in the third dekada of September" -- This would equate to September 21-30.
  • Comment 2: "Vladimir Monomakh" will arrive in Kamchatka either in late 2015 or in 2016 -- This is a strange statement for two reasons. First, under-ice transfers appear to be timed to coincide with the period when the ice edge has receded to its farthest northern point in a given year. Thus, an under-ice transfer later than October seems unreasonable. Second, all previous statements (albeit unofficial) on the transfer of "Vladimir Monomakh" indicated the submarine will transfer in the fall of 2016. That being said, there have been a few instances of submarines transferring between the two fleets via a southern route: Atlantic Ocean > Drake Passage > Pacific Ocean. This route was used in February-March 1966 for the transfer of two nuclear-powered boats, an Echo II and a November. It was also used for the transfer of two Delta III-class ballistic missile submarines in January-April 1979.
As the above shows, all of the sources had incorrect or highly implausible information that suggests the dates they provided are speculative and may or may not be backed up by any substantive knowledge of the transfer. The fact that the Interfax and RIA Novosti sources both stated the submarine will arrive in Rybachiy in the third dekada is probably just a coincidence. And if "Aleksandr Nevskiy" arrives during the second dekada, it doesn't necessarily mean TASS' source actually knew that time frame to be true when he (or she) provided the information to TASS.

When it comes to any media outlet anywhere in the world... beware of anonymous sources, despite any official-sounding job title attributed to them.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Musical Submarine Rescue Ships

"Sayany" submarine rescue ship in Valletta, Malta - September 3, 2015
[credit" Emmanuel L.]
On August 31, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that Black Sea Fleet Prut-class submarine rescue ship "EPRON" had departed the Black Sea en route to India for unspecified "international military cooperation" with that country's naval forces. The ship transited the Suez Canal, entered the Red Sea on September 3, and is scheduled to arrive in India in early October. "EPRON" last deployed out of the Black Sea in 2011 to support NATO's Bold Monarch submarine rescue exercise near Spain.

What exactly "EPRON" will do in India and for how long is unknown. With the departure of the Black Sea Fleet's sole fully functional submarine rescue ship, this would appear to indicate no submarine operations will occur in the Black Sea for some time. However, Pacific Fleet Rudnitskiy-class submarine rescue ship "Sayany" is currently in the Mediterranean Sea. It was photographed in Valletta, Malta, on September 3, and there is reason to believe it will head into the Black Sea in the near future.

So, what's really going on?

All of Russia's four fleets have submarine rescue ships in their inventories:

- The Northern and Pacific Fleets each have two Rudnitskiy-class ships equipped with deep-submergence rescue vehicles (DSRV); the Pacific Fleet also has the DSRV-equipped Elbrus-class ship "Alagez". Both fleets also have two DSRVs; however, one of the Northern Fleet's DSRVs is currently undergoing a two-year maintenance cycle at Kanonerskiy Shipyard (St. Petersburg).

- The Baltic Fleet has one DSRV-equipped Kashtan-class ship - SS-750.

- The Black Sea has the "EPRON" and the 100-year-old Kommuna-class ship "Kommuna". While "EPRON" is equipped with a rescue chamber, since 2007 the "Kommuna" has had no equipment capable of bringing stranded submariners to the surface. It is equipped only with small remotely-operated vehicles (ROV) capable of surveying the distressed submarine and providing limited support to rescue operations.

Thus, the Pacific Fleet is the only fleet with two operational DSRVs, and the only fleet capable of deploying it (on board "Sayany") to the Mediterranean Sea. As with the Baltic and Northern Fleets, the Pacific Fleet can continue submarine operations with a single operational DSRV.

"Kommuna" submarine rescue ship with "AS-5" DSRV on board - December 2005
In a July 17 Krasnaya Zvezda article about "Kommuna" was this tell-tale paragraph:

In the future, "Kommuna" will again have rescue work. In the near future, six new diesel-electric submarines will arrive in the Black Sea Fleet, and the safety of their operations needs to be ensured. And so plans for "Kommuna" include receiving a rescue submersible and carrying out rescue ship missions.

"Kommuna" was last equipped with a DSRV (Project 1837-class "AS-5") between 1998 and 2006. In 2007, "AS-5" was transferred to the Baltic Fleet, where it served until being stricken from service last year. The above statement, however, suggests the rescue ship may once again serve as the mothership for a DSRV. And that DSRV may be delivered by "Sayany".

If the Krasnaya Zvezda article is correct in suggesting "Kommuna" will take on the Pacific Fleet DSRV on a permanent basis, that means "Sayany" will return to Vladivostok empty, leaving the Pacific Fleet with only one DSRV. While that may be workable for a short time, it would be impossible to operate submarines were the sole remaining DSRV to be out-of-service, either for routine or unscheduled maintenance, for many months. And while Russian Navy's four newer Project 18551/Priz-class DSRVs can be transported via air, road, and train between fleet areas, that is far from the optimal way of providing submarine rescue support.

Yet, the Pacific Fleet was forced to operate in just this way in 2005-2008 and 2012-2013 when the fleet's two DSRVs took turns undergoing long-overdue repairs and upgrades. And it is under these conditions that the Northern Fleet is currently operating - one operational DSRV, one undergoing upgrades. However, from a geographical perspective, the impact on the Northern Fleet is negligible compared to the Pacific Fleet. The farthest distance between Northern Fleet submarine bases (Kola area and Severodvinsk) is approximately 330 nautical miles. Placing a rescue ship somewhere between those two bases would ensure a DSRV could be on station to support operations near both bases and could arrive at the location of a distressed submarine in less than 10 hours. The Pacific Fleet, on the other hand, has two submarine bases (Vladivostok and Kamchatka Peninsula) that are located nearly 1,200 nautical miles apart. Placing a DSRV-equipped submarine rescue ship at 600 nautical miles from either base means it would not arrive at the location of a downed submarine for nearly 30 hours.

"Igor Belousov" with "AS-40" DSRV on board - May 7, 2015
[credit: Curious]
Enter Russia's newest submarine rescue ship, "Igor Belousov", with the fleet's newest DSRV, Project 18271/Bester 1-class "AS-40". Since leaving Baltiysk in August for Phase 4 of factory sea trials, the "Igor Belousov" crew has been testing the ship's diver chamber and Pantera Plus ROV at design depths in the Atlantic Ocean. After being commissioned, the rescue ship will eventually join the Pacific Fleet, probably in 2016, which means the fleet will once again have two DSRVs in its inventory.

The transfer of the Pacific Fleet DSRV will provide the Black Sea Fleet with a much needed boost in submarine rescue capabilities. With the arrival of the first new Kilo-class submarine in the Black Sea later this month and five more over the next 18 months, the Russian Navy cannot risk supporting its growing undersea arsenal using 1950's technology.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Where in the World is "Aleksandr Nevskiy"?

"Aleksandr Nevskiy" and her crew -- December 2010
On August 27, Russian media outlets ran two competing stories about the transfer of Dolgorukiy-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine "Aleksandr Nevskiy" from the Northern Fleet to the Pacific Fleet. TASS, citing an unnamed General Staff source, reported that the submarine departed port in mid-August and will arrive "in Kamchatka" [presumably its new homeport of Rybachiy] in the first week of September. Later that day, Interfax, citing its own unnamed shipbuilding industry source, reported that the submarine remains in the Northern Fleet base of Gadzhiyevo and won't depart for the under-ice transfer until mid-September. The Russian Ministry of Defense has made no statement to support or refute either claim.

So, who's right? Since the Interfax article was aimed at refuting the TASS article, we'll start with the TASS article.
  • The submarine departed in mid-August. This is true if you believe in coincidences. A survey of the submarine's crew members' social media accounts shows many of them were active up until 18 August, but none of them have been active since. And with comments like "I'll be gone until October" and "I'm planning to head to sea (with several bags of candy bars, cookies, and other snacks)," one might conclude that the submarine did, in fact, depart port on August 18 or a few days later.

  • The submarine will arrive in Rybachiy during the first week of September. The distance from Gadzhiyevo to Rybachiy is approximately 4,000 nautical miles. In order to travel that distance in 21 days (using August 18 as the departure date and September 7 as the arrival date), the submarine would have to travel 190.5 nautical miles per day at an average speed of ~7.9 knots. Of the eight Delta I/III SSBN under-ice transfers conducted between 1980 and 2008, four completed the transit in 24-32 days. The other four conducted patrols after transferring to the Pacific Fleet area (but before arriving in Rybachiy), extending the total length of their transfers  to 78-84 days. If TASS's source is correct, then "Aleksandr Nevskiy" will make a direct transit and may even break the SSBN transfer record.

As for the Interfax report, all that can be said is that the source's claims are in direct contradiction to those of the TASS source. Moreover, it should be noted that all eight Delta I/III SSBN transfers mentioned above began in mid- to late-August -- never in September.

Thus, based on previous SSBN transfers and on clues provided by the submarine's own crew, it appears more likely that "Aleksandr Nevskiy" commenced its under-ice transit in mid-August and is no longer in Gadzhiyevo. If true, then Interfax's source is clearly uninformed, or someone may be intentionally trying to confuse those who read the TASS story.

The below image depicts the most recent ice-edge reporting and the locations of Russian icebreakers and ice-capable research vessels in the Arctic region. While they may not be tasked with directly supporting the under-ice transfer, they could be called upon to respond in the event of an emergency involving the submarine.

Ice-edge reporting and locations of select vessels in the Arctic region -- August 30, 2015

Friday, August 14, 2015

Did Egypt Take Possession of a Russian Tarantul?

Egyptian President el-Sisi and Russian President Putin meet in Moscow - May 9, 2015

Ten months after Russian Air Force tankers deployed to Egypt to support Russian strategic bomber flights...

...six months after Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Egypt...

...five months after Egyptian defense minister General Sedki Sobhi visited his Russian counterpart (General Sergey Shoygu) in Moscow...

...three months after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi visited Moscow on one of Russia's holiest of holidays (Victory Day)...

Exercise Bridge of Friendship-2015

...two months after Egypt and Russia held their first joint naval exercise (Bridge of Friendship-2015)...

...and one week after a Russian Navy patrol ship took part in celebrations marking the opening of the new Suez Canal (attended by Russian Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev)... appears Egypt may have just acquired that same missile-armed patrol ship from Russia.

According to unofficial reporting, the Russian Baltic Fleet's Tarantul-class patrol ship "R-32" was officially handed over to Egypt in a ceremony held in Alexandria, Egypt, on August 10.

[UPDATE: Egyptian officials have now disclosed that "R-32" was transferred from the Russian Navy to the Egyptian Navy.]

"R-32" in Baltiysk -- May 28, 2015

"R-32" is the little ship that no one wanted:
  • laid down at Vympel Shipyard in 1994, launched in 1999, then transferred to the Black Sea for fitting out and sea trials;
  • after being mothballed for several years, "R-32" was transferred back to Vympel Shipyard in 2007 for repairs;
  • transferred to Caspian Flotilla in October-November 2008, then to Makhachkala in the spring of 2009 to prepare it for transfer to Turkmenistan;
  • after Turkmenistan backed out the contract to acquire "R-32", the unit was commissioned into the Russian Navy in June 2010;
  • beyond its participation in annual Navy Day parades in 2010-2013, the unit remained inactive;
  • transferred to Baltic Fleet in October-November 2013;
  • transferred from St. Petersburg to Baltiysk in January 2014;
  • several of the ship's onboard components were inspected and/or repaired earlier this year: M-15E.1 main gas turbine, refrigerator units, Afalina emergency communications radio-buoy, and emergency lighting equipment.
Oddly, there has been no official announcement yet by either country regarding this possible transfer.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Russian Combatant Participates in Suez Canal Opening Ceremony

If you were watching coverage of today's opening of the new Suez Canal, you were probably surprised to see that the Russian Navy was quietly represented in the ceremony by the Baltic Fleet's Tarantul-class patrol combatant "R-32" (visible at 1:47:55, 1:49:11, 1:52:09, 1:55:47, and 1:56:11; see screenshots at the bottom of this post). Neither the RF Ministry of Defense nor the Baltic Fleet made any prior announcements that the patrol ship would be visiting Egypt or participating in the celebrations.

So, when did "R-32" arrive in Egypt? Polish amateur radio operator Tomasz Golojuch may have provided the only clue in this July 28 tweet:

While Tomasz provided no other data, the presence of "SB-921" (a Baltic Fleet Sliva-class tug) in Egypt last week suggests the possibility that "SB-921" is supporting "R-32" during its unannounced deployment.

"R-32" spotted in Baltiysk in early July 2015
(credit: Lex Kitaev)
The participation of a Russian combatant in today's was surely arranged to coincide with Russian Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev's visit to Egypt and attendance at today's ceremony.

Where will "SB-921" and "R-32" head to next?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

"Bryansk" Officer Dies in Submarine's Sail

"Bryansk" surfaces through the ice -- August 21, 2007
One week ago, July 25 - the day before Russian Navy Day, a 45-year-old warrant officer (Vitaliy Shimanskiy) died on board Delta IV-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine "Bryansk". Investigators remain tight-lipped while they continue questioning crew members, as well as relatives and friends of the officer. The only details to emerge so far are that he was found dead in the submarine sail after the submarine surfaced and that he was tied to something inside the sail.

The first clue that something had gone wrong came in the form of an urgent plea via social media for Shimanskiy's contact information during the early afternoon hours on July 25. And then silence... until Komsomolskaya Pravda published the first article about the incident two days after Navy Day. The item quickly spread through social media and was republished by regional and national media outlets.

While there are few other clues about Shimanskiy (he was a member of the submarine's Second Crew), a quick internet search revealed that a Senior Warrant Officer Vitaliy Vitoldovich Shimanskiy had appealed to the Gadzhiyevo Garrison Military Court in February 2014 to force defense officials to pay him money owed following decrees by the Western Military District that had increased his salary. The description of Shimanskiy's job title matches that of a technician working on a nuclear-powered submarine.

Many questioned why Shimanskiy remained in the sail as the submarine was submerging (no one knew he was missing? possible suicide?) and why he was tied to the sail (so his body would be found?). Several current and former servicemen from the submarine's home port of Gadzhiyevo did admit that there was at least one other similar situation, although the submariner(s) in that instance survived.

Warrant Officer Shimanskiy is survived by his wife and daughter. A memorial service was held on July 30; the burial will take place in St. Petersburg.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Pacific Fleet Launches Another SSC-6

SSC-6 Sennight area closure -- July 27-August 1, 2015

According to a spokesman for Russia's Eastern Military District, a Pacific Fleet missile unit recently launched an SSC-6 Sennight (Russian name: 3K60 Bal) anti-ship cruise missile from a position near Cape Povorotnyy. The target was stricken auxiliary vessel located 50 kilometers from shore. The target was reportedly "destroyed", earning the missile unit a score of "outstanding."

The missile launch occurred within an announced area closure:

HYDROPAC 2421/15

DNC 23, DNC 24.
41-13-00N 133-36-00E, 42-05-30N 133-04-42E,
42-17-30N 133-03-00E, 42-37-00N 133-01-18E,
42-41-30N 133-03-12E, 42-42-00N 133-10-00E,
42-41-48N 133-10-18E, 42-33-30E 133-34-30E,
42-28-00N 133-49-12E, 41-48-12N 134-43-00E,
41-36-30N 134-26-18E, 41-28-00N 134-12-42E,
41-21-00N 133-56-12E.
3. CANCEL THIS MSG 311100Z JUL 15.//

Authority: NAVAREA XIII 85/15 240902Z JUL 15.

Date: 240945Z Jul 15
Cancel: 31110000 Jul 15

This is at least the second SSC-6 launch in the Pacific Fleet this year; the first occurred on April 28.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

All Aboard the Bulava Production Retooling Train!

Between 2013 and 2015, at least a dozen Russian enterprises have announced retooling plans connected with the production and assembly of 3K-30 Bulava [SS-N-32] missile components. The names of known companies and retooling costs are listed below:

Name of Enterprise Retooling Costs
Central Scientific Research Institute of Automatics and Hydraulics RUB 14,000,000
Elektron Central Scientific Research Institute RUB 4,918,000
Geofizika-Kosmos Scientific Production Enterprise not specified
Iskra Factory RUB 3,850,000
Lebedev Scientific Research Institute of Synthetic Rubber RUB 52,680,500
Moscow Institute of Thermal Technologies RUB 76,897,249
Pulsar State Factory RUB 6,870,000
Scientific Research Institute of Applied Chemistry RUB 3,100,000
Scientific Research Institute of Physical Measurements RUB 197,980
Scientific Research Institute of Semiconductor Devices RUB 3,646,180
Soyuz Federal Center for Dual-Purpose Technologies RUB 199,871
Votkinsk Factory RUB 3,943,971
Zvezda Factory RUB 30,628,260

The above costs (totaling RUB 200,932,011) cover everything from design documentation for retooling of fabrication facilities to the delivery of  specific machinery required in the production of missile parts.