How the naval mine gave St. Petersburg breathing space

January 1, 2015 Alexander Vershinin, specially for RIR
In the Crimean War of 1854-55, with Anglo-French naval forces massing against Russia and threatening the capital St. Petersburg, the Russians came up with an ingenious way of protecting the Baltic port, becoming the first in the modern era to employ floating mines.
How the naval mine gave St. Petersburg breathing space
    Russia’s Navy prepares for practical training in laying of mines in 1912. Source: Open source

It is the year 1854. Russia is locked in conflict with a strong coalition of European countries and comes under pressure across the length and breadth of its territory.In Crimea, Sevastopol comes under heavy siege, while Anglo-French forces attempt to storm Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the Far East and bombard the northern port of Arkhangelsk.

The capital St. Petersburg will be next – unless the Tsar’s overstretched fleet can throw up an effective defensive shield around Russia’s “Window to Europe”.

As the threat grows from a powerful British naval squadron, a German-born physicist working with the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moritz Hermann von Jacobi, receives orders from the top to prepare a new secret weapon.

While early forms of naval mines had been used by the Chinese since ancient times, this weapon only became known in Europe in the 16th-17th centuries. But the main drawback with early prototypes was their indiscriminate destruction of any vessel once set, friendly forces included.

Moritz Hermann von Jacobi. Source:

Russian engineers hit on the solution in the early 19th century when they fitted mines with electric detonators, using two simple contacts hooked up to a power source on land. The contacts connected as a ship passed and the flowing volts would trigger the explosive charge.

Jacobi also equipped his mines with iron detonator cylinders housed in a wooden cask 28 inches cm tall and 20 inches wide, containing 22-33 lbs of gunpowder. However, the first use of such mines showed that the rudimentary design caused the gunpowder to grow damp.

The engineer subsequently modified the mine housing, adding an additional protective layer of copper and increasing the explosive charge to 55 lbs of powder.

Mine-laying in the Baltic Sea by St. Petersburg began in April 1854 with the placement of 100 units between two artillery emplacements that protected the city, separated by a mile of open water.

The number of charges in this first ever combined mine and artillery screen was increased in June 1855. In little more than a year the entire eastern part of the Gulf of Finland was set with almost 2,000 mines, 500 of which were built to Jacobi’s design and another 1,500 under a similar project by Immanuel Nobel, son of the Swedish engineer Alfred Nobel.

Setting the Nobel mines under the city of Kronstadt. Drawn by E. Nobel. Source: Open source

Four British ships hit mines, but due to the small explosive charge, none were seriously damaged. The mines still did their job, however, keeping the enemy at a good distance from St Petersburg.

The commander of the British squadron reported to London the difficulties posed by “infernal devices” on the port’s approaches.

During the Crimean War mines also protected Russian ports in Finland, the mouth of the River Dvina near Arkhangelsk, and the Dnieper Bay in the Black Sea and the Danube delta – a total of 3,000 devices that helped to redress the balance of power between the opposing fleets.

Drawn by Natalia Mikhaylenko. Click to view the infographics.

Mine design was continually improved until the end of the 19th century, demonstrated by increasing explosive power and buoyancy, as well as the navy’s technical ability to place them at the desired depth.

In the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78, the Black Sea Fleet’s mining activity virtually paralyzed the activity of Turkish warships.

Mines were also used to great effect in the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese war, employing the new technique of dropping them from conveyor belts mounted on small boats. Each charge held 120 lbs of explosives, which was enough to send the largest ships of the time to the seabed.

The Russian forces laid more than 4,000 mines during the war, destroying 13 Japanese ships, including two battleships.

Like the British and French in the Crimean War, the Germans enjoyed overwhelming superiority at sea in the First World War. The only way to protect St. Petersburg was through the unprecedented mass mining of the Baltic Sea, where 35,000 mines were laid over three years.

The naval command devised some ingenious ruses to protect the mining fleet. In November 1914, mine layers disguised as conventional light cruisers blocked the sea lanes off the coast of Sweden with mines.

Involving the construction of a decoy third smokestack on the vessels to replicate a cruiser’s silhouette, the deception deterred enemy forces from pursuing what they took for much faster vessels.

The Germans’ underestimation of the Russian mining work cost them dearly: In November 1916, the German squadron of 11 destroyers lost seven vessels to mine strikes.

But Britain, the pace-setter in most naval matters, better appreciated Russian skills in mine warfare, and requested that Russia send experts and technology to Britain.

Meanwhile, the Russian fleet coped brilliantly with the task of protecting St. Petersburg, preventing a single enemy ship from reaching the city throughout the war.

Alexander Vershinin is an historian and holds a Ph.D in History. He is a senior researcher at the Governance and Problem Analysis Center in Moscow.

“Black Hole” to be launched on August 28


Photo from

Submarine “Stary Oskol” to be launched on August 28 at the Admiralty Shipyards in St. Petersburg, Interfax reported, citing the Ministry of Defense.

“Stary Oskol” is the third multi-purpose diesel-electric submarine of the series 636.3, for his reticence it has received NATO’s nickname “Black Hole”. The boat is the most low noise one in the world, it has the optimal combination of target detection range and acoustic stealth, equipped with an automatic information-management system and a modern navigation system.

Thanks to powerful missile torpedoes the “Black Hole” is the world’s leading non-nuclear submarines.

Russian Navy sending 3 more ships to Mediterranean

Russian Navy sending 3 more ships to Mediterranean

ST. PETERSBURG, September 13 (RIA Novosti) – The Russian Navy is bolstering its strength in the Mediterranean Sea from seven to ten warships, its top commander told journalists on Friday.

The guided-missile cruiser Moskva, the destroyer Smetlivy and the assault landing ship Nikolai Filchenkov are on their way to join Russia’s naval task force already stationed in the Mediterranean, the Russian Navy’s commander-in-chief Viktor Chirkov announced.

“The tasks are very clear: to avoid the slightest threat to the borders and national security. This is the practice of all navies of the world – to be located where the level of tension is increasing,” Chirkov said. “They [ships] are all acting according to the operational command plan of the offshore maritime zone.”

Russia began its military buildup in the Mediterranean in 2012. Starting in December last year, the navy established a standing task force in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in response to heightened regional tensions due to Syria’s ongoing civil war, now well into its third year.

From May 1, 2013, all Russian warships operating in the region have been grouped under a single task force under a special offshore maritime zone operational command.

Russia’s naval task force in the eastern Mediterranean currently consists of seven warships – the assault landing ships Peresvyet, Admiral Nevelskoi, Minsk, Novocherkassk, and Alexander Shabalin, the anti-submarine destroyer Admiral Panteleyev and frigate Neustrashimy.

The Russian Navy said in an earlier statement that the guided-missile cruiser Moskva had passed through the Straits of Gibraltar on September 10. The RT television channel reported that it is expected to join the Mediterranean fleet by September 15 or 16.

Automated antiaircraft gun and Amphibious rifle unveiled in St.Petersburg

Automated antiaircraft gun and Amphibious rifle unveiled in St.Petersburg

A unique amphibious assault rifle and the Palma automated antiaircraft gun were unveiled at the 6th International Maritime Defence Show (IMDS) in St. Petersburg. Watch this RIA Novosti video to see what the new weapons systems look like.

VI International Maritime Defense Show is opened in St. Petersburg

VI International Maritime Defense Show is opened in St. Petersburg

05.07.2013. VPK
In St. Petersburg is opened the VI International Maritime Defence Show (IMDS-2013), held every two years.

Permament exhibition section is located in the four pavilions of the exhibition complex “Lenexpo” a total area of ​​17 thousand square meters and in open areas in the Gulf of Finland, and at the quays of the Maritime Station.

“In the demo section at the quays of the Maritime Station and on water area will feature the 36 ships, boats and ships from the Navy, Border Guard Service of Russia and enterprises – participants of the salon. It is expected the arrival of three foreign warships: submarine and frigate of the Royal Navy and the Netherlands, as well as the Polish Navy ship.

At the landfill of the Russian Defense Ministry “Rzhevka” for official foreign delegations and representatives of the media it will demonstrated the action of naval artillery systems and small arms, “- the JSC” Sea salon” said.

“Currently there are 458 members, 89 of them – foreign companies from 30 countries. Confirmed the arrival of 71 official delegations from 50 countries, “- noted in the company.

The USC will present more than 40 exhibits at the International Maritime Defense Show in St. Petersburg

The USC  will represent more than 40 exhibits  at the International Maritime Defense Show in St. Petersburg

02.07.2013 ARMS-TASS
MOSCOW, July 1. (ARMS-TASS). More than 40 exhibits will be presented by the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) at the Sixth International Maritime Defense Show (IMDS-2013), which will be held from 3 to 7 July in St. Petersburg. This was reported by ITAR-TASS, the press service of USC.

“USC is the largest member of the IMDS in St. Petersburg. Total area of ​​the stand will be nearly 1,200 square meters, which will feature more than 40 items, grouped into five thematic areas: long-term projects, submarines, frigates / corvettes, boats and civic projects,” – the representative of USC
According to him, the key to the exhibition will be the USC: Non-nuclear submarine “Amur-1650” with airindependent engine (designed by CDB ME “Rubin”), diesel-electric submarine “Amur-950”, the development by the same “Rubin”, a multi-purpose Project 22356 frigate (designed by the North PKB), corvettes and patrol vessels develop CMDB “Almaz” and Zelenodolsk PKB, as well as a range of modern boats for different purposes.