Black Sea frigate Admiral Grigorovich back to base from Mediterranean

© Alexander Karpushkin/TASS

MOSCOW, December 19. /TASS/. The Russian Black Sea Fleet’s frigate The Admiral Grigorovich has returned to its base Sevastopol from the Mediterranean, the fleet’s spokesman Vyacheslav Trukhachyov has told the media.

He recalled that the just-ended mission was the ship’s second long voyage this year. Earlier in autumn the Admiral Grigorovich performed a variety of tasks in the Mediterranean and participated in events of the 15th public forum Russia Week on the Ionian Islands.

The Admiral Grigorivch is the head ship of project 11356, delivered to the Russian navy in March 2016. Ships of this type have a water displacement of 4,000 tonnes, speed of 30 knots and endurance of 30 days. The frigates are armed with the missile system Kalibr-NK, air defense systems Shtil-1 and Palash, 100-mm artillery system A-190, torpedoes and anti-submarine equipment. Each ship is capable of carrying a helicopter.


Russian Warships Launch Cruise Missiles on al-Nusra Front Targets in Syria

Kalibr cruise missiles


Russian warships of the Black Sea Fleet conducted three launches of the Kalibr cruise missiles on al-Nusra Front targets in Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The strikes destroyed a terrorist command center and a base Dar-Taaza, as well as a major plant producing mortar ammunition and a large arms depot in the Aleppo province, the ministry said.

“Today, at 10:55 a.m., Zelyony Dol and Serpukhov small-sized missile ships of the Black Sea Fleet carried out three launches of sea-based Kalibr cruise missiles on al-Nusra Front targets in Syria from the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea during combat maneuvering.”

“The transit corridor for the Kalibr cruise missiles from the Mediterranean Sea was planned over an unpopulated area to ensure the safety of civilians,” the ministry said.Russia’s Kalibr cruise missiles that have a range of 2,000 km were first used in combat in October 2015, when the Gepard-class frigate Dagestan, part of the Caspian Flotilla, and three other Russian Navy corvettes launched 26 Kalibr-class cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea at 11 targets in Syria as part of Russia’s aerial campaign against terrorists.

These Little Russian Corvettes Will Turn the Black Sea Into a Fortress

Project 22800 warship


The Black Sea Fleet is expected to receive a batch of five new Project 22800 ‘Karakut’ (‘Black Widow’) warships, classified as both ‘small missile ships’ and ‘small corvettes’. Commenting on the prospects for the new vessels, military journalist Boris Stepnov suggested that the new ships will allow the Navy to turn the Black Sea into a fortress.

The Zelenodolsk Plant shipyard has received another order, this time for five small multipurpose Project 22800 missile ships. The next-generation vessel has a displacement of 800 tons, is 65 meters long, 10 meters wide, and has a draught of 4 meters. The vessels have maximum speed of 30 knots, a cruising range of up to 2,500 nautical miles, and can stay at sea for up to 15 days at a time.By all indications, the new vessels will be assigned to the Black Sea Fleet. The first of them will be handed over to the Navy in 2018, the last in 2021. The ships, equipped with Kalibr cruise missiles, are designed to complement the Project 21631 Buyan-M (‘Brawler’) missile ships, also built at Zelenodolsk. The latter vessels, also a recent development, are designed specifically for the Caspian Sea and the lower reaches of the Volga.

Project 21631 (Buyan-M) corvettes
Project 21631 (Buyan-M) corvettes

Commenting on the defense order in a piece for the independent news and analysis hub PolitRussia, defense commentator Boris Stepnov suggested that compared to the Buyan-M, “the Karakut is more seaworthy and has a number of tactical and technical advantages.”

“For instance, to protect themselves from enemy air power, the Buyans feature a 30 mm Ak-630M-2 Duet machine gun, which is adequate for use on rivers and in the Caspian. But operations at great distance from its home territory require more powerful protection. The Karakut is equipped with the Pantsir-M,” a naval version of the Pantsir-S1 combined surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery system produced by the KBP Instrument Design Bureau.

It’s known that the Karakut uses the 3S13 launcher, allowing the vessel to use both the Onyx anti-ship and Calibr-NK cruise missiles.

Area covered by the Kalibr-NK class cruise missiles based on their maximum range; the circle on the left indicates range from the Black Sea, the circle on the right that of ships in the Caspian.
Area covered by the Kalibr-NK class cruise missiles based on maximum range; the circle on the left indicates range from the Black Sea, the circle on the right that of ships in the Caspian.

Pointing out that the cruise missiles onboard have an effective range covering much of Europe and most of the Middle East, the journalist suggested that while “the ability to ‘Kalibrate’ the enemy from a distance…is certainly important, it is not the direct function of small corvettes. This class of ships is used for escort and patrol missions, for anti-ship warfare and to defend the airspace around naval bases. They are not destroyers of course, but for tactical operations, they are optimal.”

At the same time, the ships’ modular design allows for the construction of several different versions. “It is logical to assume designs including a ‘shock unit’, a patrol vessel and an anti-ship model. The order we are discussing obviously does not apply to the anti-ship modification, but is great for patrol functions, which are extremely important in the waters of the Black Sea. With a speed of 30 knots, the Karakut is a sufficiently fast ship, and will be able to cause serious problems for the enemy with the help of its P-800 Onyx medium-range anti-ship missiles.”Meanwhile, Stepnov added, “the ship’s 100 mm automatic naval gun (likely to be the A-190 Burevestnik) has implications for any conflicts over water boundaries; here we can recall the feat of the Bezzavetniy and SKR-6, which successfully kicked the American cruiser USS Yorktown and the destroyer USS Caron out of Soviet waters in 1988, after these ships blatantly cruised 7 miles into our territorial waters.”

The Karakut may be small, but will certainly be able to “bite” even cruiser-sized vessels, the journalist suggested.

“At the same time, small missile ships are suitable for patrolling precisely due to their small size, which provides for a low profile and high maneuverability. Therefore, the Karakut is effective both as a patrol vessel, and as a platform for the Kalibr, which does not fall under any international restrictions on the limitation of missile weaponry.”

Ultimately, Stepnov noted, “Russia, as usual in recent years, is building weapons which are of very high quality from the technical standpoint, but also very practical in terms of their application.”

US-Ukrainian ‘Sea Breeze 2016’ Exercises Threaten to Blow Up the Black Sea

USS Donald Cook, left, and Ukrainian Navy flagship, frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy, are moored in the Black Sea port of Odessa, Ukraine, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015


Next Monday, US Navy ships will join their Ukrainian counterparts in Black Sea naval drills dubbed Sea Breeze-2016. However, some analysts are concerned that the content of the exercises could lead to devastating consequences for the entire region.

The ‘Black Sea Breeze-2016′ drills are set to start in southern Ukraine on July 18. Speaking to the Ukrainian media, Defense Ministry spokeswoman Oksana Gavrilyuk vaguely explained that the exercises’ will focus on a ‘multinational security operation’ in a ‘crisis region’.

For his part, independent Russian military analyst Sergei Ishchenko is concerned that the operation amounts to a rehearsal for an invasion of Crimea.

In a worrying analysis for Svobodnaya Pressa, a Russian online newspaper, Ishchenko, a retired Navy captain and graduate of the Sevastopol Nakhimov Naval School, warned that despite the exercises’ regularity (this is their 15th year), a closer analysis reveals that they are anything but regular.

Incidentally, ‘Breeze-2016’, a separate set of exercises with a similar name, began earlier this week in the territorial waters of Bulgaria. Involving 25 vessels, two planes, two helicopters and some 1,700 personnel from Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, as well as Greece and Spain, the exercise also includes the participation of the alliance’s ‘Partnership for Peace’ partners.Those drills are being closely monitored by the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s intelligence ship Liman.

However, as Ishchenko pointed out, the US-Ukrainian exercises beginning on July 18 are an entirely separate set of drills. In this connection, a question arises, according to the analyst: “Why the confusion? Why call two separate military training events involving different participants by the same name, even if they are planned in the same headquarters?”

“The answer,” the analyst suggested, “lies in the second part of the question: their unified command.” Those involved in the planning of the closely timed naval exercises apparently wanted to demonstrate their common overall purpose and common enemy which, naturally, is Russia.

The fact that Sea Breeze and Breeze aren’t just one large exercise may have more to do with political considerations, according to Ischenko.

Last month, prior to the start of either exercise, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov bowed out of a proposed NATO project to create a permanent naval task force in the Black Sea, emphasizing that Bulgaria “doesn’t need a war in the Black Sea,” and adding that “send[ing] warships as a fleet against the Russian ships exceeds the limits of what I can allow.”Effectively, Ishchenko noted, the ‘Breeze-2016’ exercises set to begin next week will see the “hesitant powers return to base, while the likeminded forces from the United States and Ukraine come onto the stage. It has already been announced that their joint maneuvers will last 25 days, in patches, all the way through to October. On what days they will flare up and die down again depends, it can be assumed, on Russia’s reaction.”

If the unprecedented geographical scale of the exercises is anything to go by, the US-Ukrainian drills bode trouble, according to the analyst. “Their spread is much wider than in previous years – stretching to Kherson, Mikolaiv and Odessa – that is, those Ukrainian territories which directly border Russia’s Crimea.”

“The focus of the drills, judging by statements from the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, should also ring alarm bells in Russian ears,” the analyst noted. Their talk of joint operations by a multinational force in a ‘crisis region’ is clearly distinguished from the drills of years past. “In previous years, Breeze was covered by the semantic fig leaves of ‘anti-piracy’, ‘earthquake relief’, and so on. Now, the masks have been thrown off. If one wants to be really brief and precise, an operation of a multinational force in a crisis region is normally referred to as an ‘intervention’.”

The military planners behind the joint US-Ukrainian operation “are not making any particular secret” regarding their plans, Ishchenko warned. “The main role is clearly assigned to combat aircraft. Just take a look the list of Ukrainian military airfields expected to be used in the upcoming exercises: Shkolniy near Odessa (basing Su-27 fighters and military transport aircraft), Kulbakino in Mykolaiv (featuring the 299th Air Tactical Brigade, with Su-25 close air support aircraft), Chernobaevka in Kherson region (home to the 11th Army Aviation Brigade, including Mi-24 and Mi-8 helicopters), plus landing areas on the Tendra Spit near Ochakiv, and on Pervomaiskiy Island…In addition, when necessary, the Odessa International Airport is also expected to be used.”The exercises will reach all the way to the mouth of the Danube River, where amphibious assault training is expected to take place. Furthermore, “as stated in Kiev, Ukrainian and US combat swimmers and divers will engage in demining operations.”

Effectively, Ishchenko suggested, clearing the approaches to the shore is a mandatory component of preparations for amphibious landings. The resources for this already exist, and could include US Navy SEALS, recently reported to have been deployed in Bulgaria, as well as Ukraine’s 2nd Detachment of the 73rd Maritime Special Operations Center in Ochakovo.

The composition of forces also reveals a great deal about the exercises, the analyst explained. “From the US side, it includes five ships and two submarines. The subs’ participation is particularly noteworthy, given that the US only has nuclear submarines in its fleet, and that all subs, even non-nuclear ones, may enter the Black Sea only in accordance with international agreements.”

Essentially, “the US’s multipurpose cruiser subs will only be able to participate in the exercises from the Mediterranean Sea. What tasks can they effectively solve there? Only one: subjecting Crimea or other Russian Black Sea territories with a massed Tomahawk cruise missile strike.” There’s literally nothing else for them to do, according to Ishchenko.

The Ukrainians will use up to eight aircraft and helicopters, plus 50 ground vehicles, and most importantly – nine ships and smaller vessels.In consideration of the derelict condition of much of Ukraine’s Navy, it’s likely, according to the analyst, that the forces used will include the flagship frigate Hetman Sahaidachny, the recently restored tanker Fastov, the search and rescue vessel Donbass, the supply vessel Shostka, the fire boat Borschev and the Novoozernoe tugboat. This list might also include the missile boat Priluki, which was recently restored at the Mikolaiv docks. That ship has only begun mooring trials, and appears to be unprepared to maneuver alongside US cruisers and frigates.

But even that does not amount to nine ships. Accordingly, Ishchenko suggested, the other Ukrainian vessels are likely to include the US patrol boats recently supplied to Kiev. “These are large inflatable rubber boats with powerful motors and machinegun mounts, designed for covert landings of Special Forces groups on an enemy coast.”

Effectively, the analyst warned, “if this reasoning is correct, it becomes clear that the main event of the upcoming US-Ukrainian exercises will be the landing of forces near the mouth of the Danube. Then the question becomes how similar are these places to the Crimean coast. And how well will the upcoming training battles replicate real ones?”

“By and large, the main question can be worded differently: how prepared is the world for nuclear war? Even if it is just a limited one using tactical nuclear weapons in the Black Sea and in the Mediterranean theater? Because given the vast superiority of NATO and Ukraine over our military in terms of conventional arms, there is no other way for such a conflict to end. There is no other ending to any large-scale attack on Crimea.”

Ultimately, “it would be interesting to know whether a hypothetical nuclear exchange has been taken into account in the planning in Washington and Kiev for Sea Breeze-2016,” Ishchenko concluded.

Zeleny Dol Corvette Enters Mediterranean to Join Russia’s Task Force

Flags raised at Russian Navy's new ships Zelyony Dol and Serpukhov


The Zeleny Dol Buyan-M class missile corvette of the Russia’s Black Seas Fleet will conduct tasks in the Mediterranean sea for the first time, according to the Russian Defense Ministry’s head of Black Sea Fleet’s information department.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The Zeleny Dol Buyan-M class missile corvette of the Russia’s Black Seas Fleet has entered the Mediterranean Sea to join the country’s permanent naval task force in the Mediterranean, the Russian Defense Ministry’s head of Black Sea Fleet’s information department said Saturday.

“Today, the Zeleny Dol missile corvette and the Kovrovets minesweeper of the Black Sea Fleet left Sevastopol to begin carrying out tasks as part of Russia’s permanent naval task force in the Mediterranean,” Vyacheslav Trukhachev said.

He added that the corvette will conduct tasks in the Mediterranean for the first time.A Buyan-M corvette has a displacement of 949 tons and a maximum speed of 25 knots. It is armed with Kalibr (SS-N-27) anti-ship missiles, 100-mm and 30-mm guns, as well as Igla-1M air defense missiles


Russian Warships Equipped With Kalibr Missiles Join Black Sea Fleet

The ‘Zelyoniy Dol’ (left) and ‘Serpukhov’ warships, equipped with the versatile ‘Kalibr-NK’ missile system, have joined the Russian Black Sea Fleet, based in Sevastopol


The ‘Zelyoniy Dol’ and ‘Serpukhov’ warships, equipped with the versatile ‘Kalibr-NK’ missile system, have joined the Russian Black Sea Fleet, based in Sevastopol, commander of the Black Sea Fleet Alexander Vitko said.

On Saturday, St. Andrew’s flag, a sign of the Russian Federation’s Navy, were sanctified and raised on the new ships. The solemn ceremony was attended by commanders of the Black Sea Fleet led by Admiral Vitko, as well as the head of the Republic of Crimea Sergey Aksenov.

“The ships were put on combat duty today. Previously, the ships were only tactical, but now they will include operational tasks. Their combat capabilities were seen by the whole world in the Caspian Sea and now they have appeared in the Black Sea Fleet,” Vitko said.Vitko thanked the creators of the ships, the labor collective of the Zelenodolsk plant, noting that the fleet is expected to supply a few more combat units.

The ‘Green Dol’ and ‘Serpukhov’ small-missile carriers are the fourth and fifth ships of the modernized series of ‘Buyan-M’, built as part of the Navy’s shipbuilding program at the Zelenodolsk plant named after AM Gorky.

They have increased displacement and are equipped with the latest ‘Kalibr-NK’ long-range missile system.