Saturday, August 30, 2008

Overview of Russian Black Sea Fleet OOB and Capabilities


Navy Day, 2006. The Black Sea Fleet striking power on display.

(TR Note: Mistakes in ship types and capabilities are the article's, not mine).

Ships Have Entered Our Sea…

30 August 2008, by Igor' Chubakha

In the near future, the North Atlantic Alliance plans to raise the number of ships in the Black Sea to 18 units. Granted, the approximately 25 units of fully combat capable Russian Black Sea Fleet units seem weaker in fire power than the NATO complement. It seems that the achievement of this notional superiority is the main goal of the American “humanitarian operation” and is official “cover” which the delivery of help to the population of Georgia supports.

And thus, right now there are 10 NATO ships in the Black Sea. They are the destroyer “McFaul”, the frigate “Taylor” and the guard ship “Dallas” (all are part of the American Navy), the frigate “General Pulaski” (Poland), the frigates “Lubeck” (FRG) and “Admiral Juan de Bourbon (Spain) and also four Turkish vessels.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, eight more ships are expected, including the Sixth Fleet flagship, the destroyer “Mount Whitney”, which poses a serious threat of introducing strategic electronic reconnaissance and command and control of various operations. The Turkish government has also been notified that the American cruiser “Cowpens” will be transiting the straits.

The destroyer “McFaul” is armed with two torpedo mounts, two 20mm guns, a 54mm anti-aircraft cannon, two 25mm cannons and four 12.5mm machine guns. There are ASROC anti-submarine missiles, Standard air-defense missiles and Tomahawk anti-ship cruise missiles which can be armed with nuclear warheads and are capable of being employed against land targets in the vertical launch tubes. Some estimates say that there are 50 Tomahawks on board “McFaul” capable of hitting targets at a range of 3000km.

The other NATO ships are armed with 64 Harpoon anti-ship missiles and around eight helicopters of various classes.

The frigate “Taylor” is armed with Harpoon missiles and Standard anti-aircraft missiles. She has two helicopters for ASW. The Coast Guard vessel “Dallas” is fulfilling the role of auxiliary vessel. Built in 1971, the destroyer “Mount Whitney” belongs to the “Blue Ridge” class of amphibious command ships and has weak defensive weaponry, since it is designed to travel with a heavy escort. The crew numbers 720 an there is a helo deck. The missile cruiser “Cowpens” is armed with the multi-function automatic anti-air system “Aegis” and also can carry Tomahawks on-board.

That such a quantity of cruise missiles is on board ships delivering humanitarian aid alarms Russia, to put it mildly. The deputy Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Colonel-General Anatoliy Nogovitsyn, commenting on this fact announced: “We take this into account and make conclusions.”

During this press conference he reminded the gathering of the similarity to the run up to operations in Iraq in 1991. “The Americans have experience chartering civilian ships during Desert Storm to carry military cargos to build up their forces,” Nogovitstyn recalled.

At the same time last Wednesday in the port of Sukhumi, two small missile boats and the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, the missile cruiser “Moskva” made the first official visit in the framework of Russia’s recognition of an independent Abkhazia. The Russian Black Sea fleet, besides auxiliaries, consists of the following units:

- The 30th Division of Surface Ships, including the 11th Brigade of ASW shps (Guards missile cruiser (RKR) “Moskva”, the large anti-submarine ships (BPK) “Kerch’” and “Ochakov”, the guard ships (SKR) “Smetlivyy”, “Ladnyy”, and "Pitlivyy" ).
-The 197th Brigade of landing ships (the large landing ships (BDK) “Nikolay Fil’chenkov”, “Orsk”, “Saratov”, “Azov”, “Novocherkassk”, “Tsezar’ Kunikov”, “Yamal’” ).
- The 247th Independent Division of Submarines consisting of the diesel submarines (PL) “Alrosa” and “B-380” (which is in overhaul at the moment).
- The 68th Waterspace Guard Brigade, including the 400th Anti-Submarine Warfare Division (small anti-submarine ships (MPK) “Aleksandrovets”, “Vladimirets”, “Muromets” and “Suzdalets” ) and the 418th Minsweeper Division (four ships).
- The 41st Brigade of Missile Boats including the 66th Novorossiyskiy Division of small missile ships (MRK) – surface effects missile ships “Bora” and “Samum” and also the MRKs “Shtil’” and “Mirazh”, and the 295th Sulinskiy Division of missile boats (six units).
-The 184th Waterspace Guard Brigade (Novorossiysk) including the 181st ASW Division (MPKs “Povorino”, “Yejsk” and “Kasimov” and the 170th Minesweeper Division – six units.

It is worth noting that a significant portion of the Russian ships of the Black Sea Fleet are in pitiful condition. Therefore the numbers vary when evaluating the combat readiness of Black Sea Fleet forces. According to the head of the Navy League in Saint Petersburg, Admiral Nikolay Orlov, today the Black Sea Fleet is “a small detachment which covers the southern border and no more. Twenty five ships, what’s that, a task group? That’s not enough to support the South”. Orlov is sure.

On the other hand, part of the military mission of the Russian ships based in Sevastopol’ and Novorossiysk can be done without leaving the pier. But that turns them into convenient static targets.

(Tr Note: Article outlines combat capabilities of certain Black Sea Fleet units, which can be found here.)

No one wants to fantasize about what would happen if NATO and the Russian Black Sea Fleet entered into a military clash and opened fire.

As the former commander of the Black Sea Fleet and Chief of Staff of the Navy Admiral Igor’ Kasatonov said, “If we take into account only ships with regard to the combat potential of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and NATOs planned buildup – NATO has the advantage. But, if it’s necessary, Russia will use all of her armed forces, including aviation.”

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