Sunday, December 7, 2008

Conservation Status

Not mothballs, not stricken from the blogrolls, just a hiatus until I can figure out how I can blog AND collect a paycheck AND not burn myself out.

Meanwhile, I leave you with something that underscores the importance of Russia watching:

British scholar rails at police seizure of anti-Stalin archive

Eminent British historian Orlando Figes yesterday accused the Russian authorities of trying to 'rehabilitate the Stalinist regime' after armed police seized an entire archive last week detailing repression in the Soviet Union.

Figes, professor of history at Birkbeck, a London University college, condemned the raid on Memorial, a Russian human rights organisation. He said that the police had also taken material used in his latest book, The Whisperers, which details family life in Stalin's Russia.

On Thursday, armed and masked men from the investigative committee of the Russian general prosecutor's office burst into Memorial's St Petersburg office.

After a search of several hours, they confiscated its entire archive - memoirs, photographs, interviews, and other unique documents detailing the history of the gulag and the names of many of its victims.

Yesterday Figes claimed the raid 'was clearly intended to intimidate Memorial'. The confiscated archive included unique documents detailing the 'Soviet terror from 1917 to the 1960s,' he said, adding that the office was 'an important centre for historical research' and a 'voice for tens of thousands of victims of repression in Leningrad'. He said he believed the raid was 'a serious challenge to freedom of expression' in Russia: 'It is part of a campaign to rewrite Soviet history and rehabilitate the Stalinist regime.'

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Vladimir Putin Rears His Head Over Alaska

If those Russian flyboys aren't careful, Caribou Barbie will make moose stew out of them, you betcha!

LTC Vladimir Drik told the press that two TU-95MS strategic bombers carried out a patrol in neutral waters around Alaska on Thursday. The LTC noted that, "The Long Range Aviation crews were escorted during their patrol for an hour by two F-15 interceptors above the Arctic Ocean of the Alaskan littoral".

The TU-95s flew out of Ukrainka Air Force base. Aerial refueling was conducted during the flight. As of now the crews have successfully landed at their permanent base. The TU-95MSs were in the air more than 15 hours.

This is kind of a poke in the eye by the Russians, who are fully aware that Thursday was one of the great American holidays. This says to me that the Russians are poking us to let us know that they are still there and are doing it in a way to irritate us.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Missile Testing Update

A claim of a successful Bulava test:

Gist: There was a test of the newest ballistic missile Bulava today. It was launched from the Dmitriy Donskoy from the White Sea and a notional target was destroyed at the Kura test range. The Bulava missile can carry up to 10 independently targeted re-entry vehicles. The range is not less than 8,000 km. It is planned to introduce this super-modern missile into service next year.

(RNB Comment: Unedifying commentary by Igor' Dygalo about how all the "combat components" successfully arrived at the range in Kura follow, plus yadda, yadda, yadda).

RNB Note: There have been initial claims of success followed by reports of failure before, so take it with a grain of salt. Also, if the Bulava is deployed next year as is so often claimed, that would make it a very undertested missile. Just as a reminder, according to this Soviet era documentary, the SS-N-23 were extensive, with nine sea-based tests, 16 firings from a land based test stand and multiple firings in different configurations from the lead boat of the Delta IV class. According to the testing timeline at Russian Strategic Forces, the Russians have pretty much foregone the land-based testing and seeing as that the Yuri Dolgoruki has just started to split atoms, there will probably be just one or two tests from the boat that the Bulava was intended for before the end of next year. Then, with fingers crossed, the Dolgoruki will conduct an under-ice transit to Vilyuchinsk and be anni-dominied as "combat certified".

We shall see.

Also, despite the fact that the news reports says that the Bulava could carry "up to ten" warheads, I believe that the Russians declared six re-entry vehicles per RSM-56 (the START name for Bulava) in the last Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty Memorandum of Understanding.

Speaking of START, in anticipation of the demise of START on 04 December, 2009, the Russians have conducted their latest test of the obviously treaty violating derivative of the SS-27 (and cousin of the Bulava), the RS-24 on the 26th:

Gist: An RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a multiple re-entry vehicle front section was test launched from a mobile launcher in Plesetsk. The Strategic Rocket Forces announced that the target at the Kura test range was destroyed. (RNB Comment: The rest of the piece is about a Soyuz-U launch from Baikonur).

How the development, testing and deployment (see next clip) of the RS-24 isn't a pretty blatent violation of START Article V, para 5 4 is a mystery to me. Article V, paragraph five four states that "[E]ach Party undertakes not to deploy on a mobile launcher of ICBMs an ICBM of a type that was not specified as a type of ICBM for mobile launchers of ICBMs in accordance with paragraph 2 of Section VII of the Protocol on Notifications Relating to this Treaty, hereinafter referred to as the Notification Protocol, unless it is an ICBM to which no more than one warhead is attributed and the Parties have agreed within the framework of the Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission to permit deployment of such ICBMs on mobile launchers of ICBMs".

I guess this means that START I as we know it, from the Russian perspective at least, is dead. Now the parties have already held their treaty-mandated meeting to discuss the future of START. It will be interesting to see how Obama will handle the START situation. Obama has demonstrated a keen interest in arms control, even going as far as being the "new Nunn" in the Nunn-Lugar series of agreements known as the Cooperative Threat Reduction initiative. I hope he would consider extending the treaty as is, if only so that inspectors can get a good first hand look at the Bulava and the RS-24. After all, satellites can't see under ascent shrouds, while inspectors conducting a paragraph six inspection can.

But I'm just a cranky, old retired Petty Officer and not a lawyer or a diplomat or lawyer-diplomat or a policy wonk and shit, so what do I know?

Finally, fresh on the heels of the successful RS-24 launch, the Commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces announces that the Teykovo division will be re-armed with new mobile missiles. Although it is unclear from the text in this announcement if the new battalion will be armed with the road mobile SS-27 (a firing unit is depicted in the video) or the new treaty-mocking RS-24, the timing of the announcement certainly arouses suspicion as to the identity of the new missile:

Gist: The commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces has announced that new ICBMs will be commissioned in the Russian Army next year. The first battalion will be stood up at the Teykovo missile unit in Ivanovskaya Oblast'. According to one colonel, the combat potential of the SRF strike force is increased many-fold with the introduction of this missile. A complete replacement of systems is planned in 2015. Its development should be complete soon. The first tests will be next year.

The text of this news report is a little muddled since the first tests of the RS-24 happened last year and wont happen next year.

Again, we'll see.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Peter the Great Update: It's About Time!

Gist: The deployed Northern Fleet battle group has met Venezuelan Armed Forces. Having just barely entered territorial waters, they picked up an honor guard of Venezuelan Su-30s, the very kind that Russia has sold to Latin America. The Peter the Great and other ships will rest at anchor at the port of La Guaira, 35km from Caracas, while ashore they prepare to welcome Russian sailors, who in turn will return the favor.

Venezuela welcomes us! The task force enters territorial waters in the Caribbean Sea. This very morning two Su-30s are in the sky, made in Russia, sold to Venezuela. They circle the task group one after the other. Our sailors render honors to a friendly country and this frigate will escort us to the port of La Guaira. The exercises between the countries will last until the first of December. These will be the first exercises in history involving the submarines, frigates, cruisers and helicopters of Russia and Venezuela.

Comrade officers, I will now brief you on the exercises between Russia and Venezuela, ((missed))-2008.

They discuss the plans that lay ahead in the Navigator's shack - joint patrolling, search for and destruction of submarines and ships belonging to the potential enemy, reconnaissance and anti-air warfare. The militaries of the two countries have been preparing for these large scale exercises for a couple of months. The official language of the exercises wont be English, Spanish or Russian but the language of symbols and signs.

We have created a table of conditional signals which have been translated into both languages and both countries have approved this table of signals. These signals will be used during the exercise....

There is activity above decks as well. Two presidents will visit Peter the Great: Hugo Chavez and Dmitriy Medvedev.

This is the first time Peter the Great has visited South America. The cruiser was built for northern waters and not for the Caribbean. The air temperature is 34 degrees and the water temperature is 30.

Captain, Peter the Great, Feliks Min'kov: The ship has been at sea in the open ocean. Whether we want it or not, we have to battle against the effects of salt water, or just plain water. So we have to clean up everywhere.

The flag of Venezuela already flies on the mast. It is naval tradition to fly the flag of the countries in whose port you are conducting a friendly visit. Today the sailors checked out the missile tubes. The Peter the Great's armament will be shown to the presidents of both countries.

What is there to show? The Peter the Great is the largest non-aircraft carrier warship in the world. Two hundred and fifty meters of steel with dozens of missile tubes. And beneath each of these three ton hatches lays the main battery - the Granit nuclear anti-ship cruise missile (RNB comment - Huh! Well how about that!). As opposed to American cruise missiles, the Granit flies to its target at supersonic speed like a fighter jet. There is no ship as powerful as the Peter the Great in the world.

Peter the Great Update: Pirates of the .... Horn of Africa?

Via Murmansk TV-21:

The TRKR Peter the Great may join the fight against pirates around the Horn of Africa soon, according to K1R Igor' Dygalo.

In an interview with Zvezda TV, Dygalo said, "It isn't ruled out that the TRKR Peter Veliki would go to the Horn of Africa after the completion of her mission off the coast of Venezuela and the joint exercises there".

The Pacific Fleet would also take on that mission and send there ships from that fleet. According to the Commander in Chief, the time frames of the temporary deployments have to be worked out, but it would either be one ship or a task group.


The Navy Headquarters also announced that the Northern Fleet TRKR Peter the Great will transit to the Indian Ocean in December after the Venezuelan exercises where she will take part in joint exercises with the large anti-submarine ship (BPK) Admiral Vinogradov from the Pacific Fleet. The Russian ships should also conduct exercises with India in January. The joint exercise Indra-2009 will have protection of maritime commerce and anti-piracy and anti-terrorism training as its main focus.


Because It's Monday Morning

And I'm a crotchety old man.

Via Bad Astronomy.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

USS Barry in Batumi, Georgia

(Russian Navy Blog comment: A shout out to Uncle Sam's Misguided Child lost in the Men's Department of the Navy doing the interpreting. Ooo-Rah!)

The USS Barry has made her latest "friendly" port visit to the Georgian port of Batumi. The Barry was greeted with wine and national folk dancing. Special representitives from the Georgian Ministry of Defense and the Saakashvili administration went to greet them. The goal of the Tomahawk cruise missile armed destroyer's port visit is unusual. The Georgian Ministry of Defense has said that the goal of the visit is not humanitarian, but to improve foreign relations. That will take four days. After that, the Barry plans on visiting Poti.

Re-Launch of Delta IV K-18 Karelia

The missile submarine K-18 Karelia has once again been rolled out in front of sailors. This Del'fin class nuclear missile carrier has long been an object of jealousy for other militaries. The best designers in the world have been unable to replicate such a design for their own navies. But in principle, that isn't possible. The submarine K-18 has always been undergoing modernization. But today, the submarine which has traveled 140,000 miles has once again become new. Our correspondent has become acquainted with Karelia's present capabilities.

The orchestra plays the Russian national anthem and the crew stands behind a rope line preparing for the ceremony. The boat stands on the graving dock ready for launch and in accordance with long standing maritime tradition, a bottle of champagne awaits breaking.

Karelia is a boat with a history. In 15 years of active service, the boat has gone to sea thirty eight times and has traveled 140,000 miles. It was the crew of the Karelia that planted the Andreyevskiy Flag on the North Pole for the first time. And in 2000 the boat had the honor of hosting Vladimir Putin. In 2004, the Karelia went to Severodvinsk for overhaul. Now the boat stands at 71 percent readiness. According to the shipyard, most of the modernization work went into reducing the noise levels on the submarine. that when she is in combat service, the noise levels don't exceed the norms...

The reliability of this boat is comparable to a Kalashinikov automatic rifle, but instead of bullets, she fires ballistic missiles. The captain of the shipyard crew Ivan Shindyapin says that not only will the boat go to the North Pole, but she will go considerably farther.

The possibilities are colossal, not only in terms of sailing the world oceans, but also in terms of her other capabilities. I hope that in the future other boats of her class will also be overhauled in order to support the nation security of our country.

After the modernization the boat will be armed with the new ballistic missile system Sineva which was accepted into service last year.

The champagne bottle was smashed, in two weeks the boat will be in the water. Ahead lay the pierside testing and trials and then sea trials next summer.

K-18 is the fifth boat of the Project 667BDRM class to undergo modernization at the Zvezdochka shipyard. The sixth boat, the Novomoskovsk, is next. It is said that in two years the third generation Bars (Akula) and Granit (Oscar) class boats will arrive for overhaul.

Vladimir Nikitin, General Director Zvezdochka Shipyard: This is in the 2010 defense orders. We are ready for this boat as well as the titanium hulled Project 945 Barakuda (Sierra II). We'll be ready to overhaul her at Zvezdochka.

The Project 667BDRM will be the backbone of our strategic force for the next decade. Zvezdochka will be ready to turn the boat over to the Navy next year.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bring Back That Practice Torpedo Or Let No Man Come Back Alive!

Admiral Al'fred Berzin, who last made an appearance on this blog with his reminisces about Cold War submarine encounters in K-184 vs. Guardfish has a very cool Livejournal page, too.

I don't know how the US Navy does it, but the Russian Navy apparently places a premium on retrieving spent practice torpedoes such as this one:

Admiral Berzin assures us that this is not an authorized manner of torpedo recovery, no matter HOW lost the torpedo retriever is:

And here is Hotel II SSBN K-178 demonstrating an alternative method of practice torpedo recovery back in 1989 (click for a magnified view):

Admiral Berzin offers a wealth of Cold War stories and more on his Livejournal page.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

20 Years Ago Today: Buran Saves the World From War in Space!

Gist: Today is an important date in the history of the Russian space program. Twenty years ago the reusable Buran shuttle made her maiden voyage. Without exaggerating it was a pivotal moment for the planet. Because the USSR obtained the ability to launch a nuclear first strike, it headed off the possibility of a war in space.

These people have gathered once again after twenty years. Today, as back then, cosmonauts, test pilots, engineers and designers have all gathered here in the hall of the Energiya Design Bureau, united by the multi-use space shuttle Buran. This is footage of the Energiya launch vehicle with the Buran aboard. It may be history now, but back on 15 November, 1988, the people sitting here watched this live holding their breath. The Soviet government placed great hopes on this project. More than a 1000 design bureaus worked on the project. The Buran was designed to put a then record 30 tons of payload into near-Earth orbit.

For a long time we debated on where to put the booster rocket, on the Buran or on the launch vehicle. In the end we put it on the rocket, like the Americans. So we got two ways to launch payloads into orbit. One way was to put a hundred tons of payload on the rocket and the other was to put up to thirty tons on the sub-orbital vehicle.

The system worked fine during its 206 minute flight, making two orbits around the Earth. But all the tasks hadn't been carried out. Now came the most complicated step - a one of a kind landing in autonomous mode. After a few minutes, for the first time in the history of flight a multi-ton aircraft came in for a landing using only electronics into the airfield at Baykonur, strictly on course, not a centimeter off.

The multi-use Buran was a new type of space craft for her time. Her flight demonstrated the high level of acheivement of the Soviet space program. Her flight parameters were unparalleled, even surpassing those of the American Space Shuttle. To this day the American space shuttle is landed manually. Today it is known that the shuttle had a secret side.

The Buran deterred war in space. She deterred American plans for war in space. With one flight we canceled out everything the Americans were going to do with ten. You can imagine what an accomplishment that was back then.

Depite it's success, the program was canceled because of a lack of financing, but specialists consider the program to be viable. They are sure that a need for a shuttle will arise. And technology developed for the program like heat resistant materials and the automatic landing system have found wide use.

Where are they today?

A Buran test model floats down the Rhine to her final resting place in a German Museum.

(Photo: Siberian Light)

And here is the actual Buran that traveled into space:

(Photo: Buran Homepage)
The roof of the hanger where it is stored in Baykonur collapsed in 2002, killing eight workers.

Here is a great series of pictures of the Buran getting unloaded from the An-225 and placed on the launch vehicle in the assembly hall in Baykonur.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Peter the Great Update: Guns, guns, guns

Gist: The nuclear missile cruiser Peter the Great repelled an enemy attack. True, it was a notional enemy. The ship carried out a practice firing. Sailors say that the Atlantic is not just a unique firing range. It is priceless training - on land, there isn't the kind of rocking like there is here.

On board the TRKR Peter the Great in the Atlantic Ocean. These shots are from the ship's helo. It is searching for submarines in the area around the cruiser. It lowers the hydrophone and that which is normally hidden is visible to the operator on the monitor. The radius of operation for the device is dozens of kilometers.

The crew is performing the mission along a designated route and reports back to the ship, either on the air or after returning to the ship, about any surface contacts gained.

Coordinates of unfriendlies are relayed to the ship. This is the Marine zone. They are also conducting training. The reliable AK-47 isn't the main Marine weapon. They also have a machine gun. It weighs 45 kg and fires 600 rounds a minute at a range of 3.5 km. It can even be used as an anti-aircraft weapon.

You can know the feeling of a powerful Russian weapon because its a large caiber weapon.

The enemy survived even after large caliber machine gun fire. Two shots from a grenade launcher dealt a shock. The enemy was destroyed, but a new enemy appeared on the horizon. The main universal gun mount will deal with that one.

The AK-130 is the most powerful weapon in its class. It has a 22km range. That means that the enemy could even be beyond the horizon and not visible. It takes a few seconds to transmit the coordinates of the target from the Peter the Great's radar to her guns and only a few seconds more to send a 70kg shell. When this gun is fired, all the external hatches on the ship are secured and to stand as close to the gun as I am now is deadly. Sixty tons of metal and explosives fly from the barrels of this gun in a minute. It can destroy anything.

Small, fast moving surface targets or fixed, unseen land-based targets. Also low-flying missiles, the most threatening kind of missile. They can also be repelled.

The deck on the Peter the Great shakes when the AK-130 fires. The 27,000 ton ship recoils a bit.

The "metal-cutter" is in operation. That is what the sailors call the anti-air Kortik system, which fires 6000 rounds/second.

This kind of training will go on for almost the entire week on the way across the Atlantic to the shores of Latin America.

Russia to India: Don't Make Me Commission Your Ship Into My Navy

If Russia wants to demostrate to the world that it just isn't a reliable partner just look no further than the Indian carrier refurbishment project, which is taking on a distinctly Guns and Roses record release quality:

While talking about needing another $2 billion from the Indians to refurbish a 20 year old hull out of one side of their mouth, the Russians are talking about commissioning the carrier into their own Navy if the Indians don't accept it.

The modernization of the Gorshkov for the Indian Navy will require two billion more dollars according to the Deputy General Director of Sevmash Sergey Novoselov.

"The price of such a ship on the open market ranges from three to four billion dollars. The repairs that we are doing at Sevmash are sixty to seventy percent of the cost of a new carrier. This is about two billion dollars. Of course, this number needs a little clarification."

According to Novoselov, Sevmash is in fact constructing a new carrier and not repairing or modernizing an old one. "The fact of the matter is that we are building a new aircraft carrier in the dock at Sevmash. The last two years of work have proceeded only because we have gotten credit. The construction of any ship, most of all like this one demands a steady, unbroken line of financing."

He noted that 617 billion dollars was the agreed upon sum back in 2004. "But when the contract was signed, a deep search for defects wasn't done, the equipment wasn't removed and tests of the cabling system wasn't done."

He emphasized that there isn't any fault for the differences between today's price and the original price. A Russian-Indian commission is currently resolving issues surrounding funding.


Then there is this:

The Admiral Gorshkov could be transfered to the Russian Navy if India refuses to further finance modernization of the ship according to a source in the Russian military-industrial complex.

Uh huh.

(Note: I edited this post shortly after I posted it because it was unnecessarily inflamatory and prominently displayed the La Russophobe side of my personality. The Russian Navy Blogger is quite cranky at the end of this week. My original advice to the Indians about sunk costs still applies...)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Peter the Great Update: Clip Your TLDs to Your Belt Please

Gist: The Peter the Great has been at sea for almost two months now and is on her way to Venezuela. Our team takes a look at the heart of the ship, the reactor compartment.

The first step of the Russian Navy flagship's journey is done. Now the Peter the Great has passed through the Straits of Gibraltar, the gates of the Mediterranean Sea. Ten thousand km of sailing is behind with friendly visits to Libya, Turkey and France. Ahead lies three weeks of sailing across the rough Atlantic and Venezuela. The Peter the Great is moving at 18 kts, almost 32 km/hr. Those numbers don't sound like much, but considering great weight of the 27,000 ton ship, it becomes clear what kind of power plant is required to move such a mountain of metal. Our camera team was permitted to check out the reactor zone. To go down there with the crew we needed to obtain special passes with a lot of signatures and stamps on them.

"This is the most powerful shipboard engine in the world. It allows the ship to circle the earth at the equator 50 times. The steam generated by the reactor turns turbines that each generate 70,000 hp."

That's a total of 140,000 hp. The nuclear power plant could supply electricity to a small city. The processes in the reactor are controlled second by second, 24 hours a day by special equipment manned by specially trained sailors. Each one receives a dosimeter and when leaving the reactor area they revceive a scan for radiation.

"So what has gone on during the month and a half at sea...well, so far there hasn't been any leak of radioactive substances into the sea or ocean."

And here is the TsUP - central control. The sailors jokingly call it "being in the soup". From here all the electrical supply systems for the ship are controlled. The scale of the equipment is grandiose - huge buttons and breakers and redundant systems.

"The ship is built for battle. If the ship is damaged in battle, it has to tranfer operations to secondary systems and continue to function."

This is the main propulsion shaft on the Peter the Great. There are two on the ship, each more than 100 meters long. The reactor makes 400 degree high pressure steam which turns two screws, each with a diameter of three meters and weighing seven tons. These screws literally make the water boil, throwing up a white wake larger than any other non-aircraft carrier warship in the world and trailing the ship for kilometers.

Nerpa Disaster Update


1. The boat departed on sea trials in the Sea of Japan from Bol'shoy Kamen'.

2. The fire fighting system activates in the 1st and 2nd compartments at a depth of 80 meters. There are forty one people in the two compartments. The anti-submarine ship Admiral Tributs and the salvage tug Sayany along with a helicopter depart Vladvostok to render assistance.

3. The boat surfaces. The four worst injured people are taken by helo to a hospital in Vladivostok. The rest of the injured and the bodies of the dead are transferred to ships. The Nerpa proceeds under her own power to port.

4. The boat arrives in port and the injured are flown by helos to hospitals in Fokino.

Il'ya Kramnik, RIA Novosti military commentator.

The incident on the Nerpa which has taken the lives of 20 people has become the biggest event on Russian submarines since the loss of the Kursk in 2000. As with any other event on nuclear submarines, this incident has drawn the attention of the Russian and the world press as well as giving birth to a multitude of rumors and versions.

For now it is difficult to paint an accurate picture since there hasn't been an official investigation yet, but one can get to the approximate root of the incident. To begin with, we have to define our terms and emphasize that the boat was still formally going through sea trials and wasn't accepted into naval service.

There was a catastrophe on K-152 Nerpa. That means an incident leading to the death of people when many people us the word accident which means an incident not leading to deaths. Officially the cause of the incident is the unsanctioned activation of the fire suppression system.

Further we have to deal with equipment that submariners use to fight on board fires. Russian submarines are equipped with two fire suppression systems. The first is a foam system, designed to fight local fires. The second is a chemical compartment flooding system, designed to extinguish large volume fires (except solid rocket fuel and ammunition fires) by means of filling the compartment with freon or its derivatives. Freon bonds with sticks to oxygen in order to put out the fire.

Freon is the most effective way to extinguish a fire, while it is also toxic and breathing it can lead to poisoning and death. This risk is justifiable in the harsh conditions on submarines and some have commented on the availability of individual breathing apparatus.

The compartment flooding system is located in all compartments on the boat except the reactor compartment (there isn't a permanent watch in the reactor compartment and it is protected by stations in the neighboring compartments) and it has two modes: "right there" and "from the neighboring compartment".

The system can be operated directly from the compartment, although on board third generation submarines, experts assert that it can also be activated from the control panel in central control (the "Molybden" system). In any case, activation of the system requires human intervention - all submariners stress that "self activation" is impossible. There is one incident recorded regarding an accidental discharge and it wasn't in the same compartment (the incident on K-77 on 13 Feb 1976) because of a mistake made during the assembly of the system during overhaul (markings on a valve were confused in the factory). But, in any case, the activation of the system can only occur with human intervention.

This system is installed on all boats in the Russian Navy and since there is no evidence that some other kind of, or new, system has been mounted on the K-152, it stands to reason that K-152 carries the standard equipment.

The order to use the system can not only be given from the central command post, but also by the commander of of the compartment on the scene. In accordance with damage control regulations the commander of the compartment has the following rights to use the system:

- when there is no comms with the central command post,

- when it isn't possible to find a fire or when the fire can't be extinguished immediately by other means,

- during a flash fire,

- where there is a fire in the regeneration substances (Russian Navy Blog comment: presumably meaning where there is a fire in substances that produce their own oxygen, like oxygen candles),

- during fires in uninhabited hermetically sealed spaces.

If crew members are caught in a fire and the resulting discharge of the fire suppression system, they have personal breathing devices, the IDA-59 or IDA-59M which allows 10 to 30 minutes of oxygen in a poisonous atmosphere (the amount of time depends on the intensity of breathing - when strenuous work is being done, the oxygen reserve depletes quicker).

The central command post can decide to activate the system in a compartment and issue a corresponding order automatically through the fire alarm system or on the ship wide announcing system. It should be noted that the computerized fire alarm system gives false alarms once in a while, so comms between the affected compartment and the central command post are important. But it is only a fire alarm and generally not a command to activate the fire suppression system.

Having been briefed on the fire suppression system, we can again turn our attention to what happened on K-152. It is known that the boat, which has just been recently constructed, was undergoing trials. There was more than just the Navy crew of 81 on board in connection with the trials. There were a lot of civilian specialists - workers and engineers, a total of 208 on board. It has to be noted that the majority of these people don't have damage control experience or know what to do during a casualty on board a submarine - they just don't learn that, or at a maximum, they have a short theoretical course.

The civilian specialists were part of the sea trials, preparing the boat for transfer to the Navy together with the crew, checking the systems.

So what happened in the bow (torpedo) compartment on K-152? Sifting through the official version produces evidence that none of the injured (21 total) didn't have burns. One can deduce the following: there wasn't a fire on the boat. It's possible that there was a small local fire, leading to smoke in the compartment and a false alarm in the fire alarm system. As a result, either by command from the central command post where they didn't investigate the situation thoroughly, or on the scene - they decided to activate the fire suppression system in the first and second compartments simultaneously.

As a consequence of the discharge, the atmosphere in the first and second compartments became unbreathable, leading to deaths. It must be noted that 36 out of the 41 casualties were civilians which means that they either didn't know how to use their emergency breathing devices or, possible but less likely, there wasn't enough of them to go around in the crowded conditions on the submarine.

Since the truth isn't known yet, the guilty haven't been found yet. But conclusions can already be drawn from the incident. At a minimum, workers and engineers participating in construction and sea trials have to be trained to the same standard of the crew in what to do in the event of a casualty on a submarine, including during a fire and activation of the fire suppression system. Beside that someone has to ask if its necessary to take to sea triple the normal compliment during trials and testing - a crowd like that produces nothing except disorder.

Now it remains to be hoped that some lessons will be learned from this tragedy and that nothing like this happens again. Not on the Nerpa or any other submarine.

U-96 commenter Timofey Sklyankin adds the following:

Like I promised, here is some more detailed information which was received directly from participants in the event and also from representatives of NPO Avrora, the manufacturer of the fire suppression system on board this class of nuclear submarine.

In order:

1. Project 971I (I for Import) SSN K-152, factory number 518. The boat was designed for leasing to the Indian Navy through RosOboronEksport and the cost of the contract was about $670M. The boat was conducting sea trials at periscope depth with the factory crew on board, the regular crew and a large number of contractors on board. There were representatives from NPO Avrora on board.

2. Around 2030 there was an unsanctioned activation of the fire suppression system and as a result freon was released into the second compartment (where the central command post is located) and the alarm system activated. According to eyewitnesses who were using their IDAs (a second, the rep from Avrora, managed to get out of the compartment), the alarm was very quiet compared to the usual "roar", which evidently played its own unpleasant role for those sleeping.

3. Before we move on to possible causes, it is worth going over the fire suppression system installed on the Nerpa in detail. The system is controlled by the Molibden-BS, manufactured by NPO Avrora and has the following structure:

In each compartment (designated in Roman numerals) there is a 200 liter freon gas tank (C) and each tank has three exits controlled by electromagnetic valves. One exit leads to the compartment where the tank is located and the other two lead to the neighboring compartments. In this way the second compartment can by supplied with freon from the tanks in the three compartments, which is what happened in this case (according to eyewitnesses, the concentration of freon was so high that droplets formed on the walls and equipment!).

The tanks can be controlled three ways (I will emphasize that none of these methods are automatic):

First, there is the Molibden system (A) in the central command post, located in the second compartment, where the operator or watch stander can decide which tanks to fire into which compartments. This choice is made with a combination of barrel switches. Second, in each compartment there is a Molibden control panel for that compartment (B) which controls the flow of freon from the three tanks into a given compartment. The compartment commander or the watch decides to enter the info on a keyboard, verifies it on a liquid crystal display and then uses the control lever. Third, like I already said, every exit from the tank has a valve which can be opened manually like the "turn of a faucet".

4. Now the most interesting part:

The freon was delivered to the second compartment from all three tanks. Since one can pretty much exclude the possibility of that all three taps were turned by three different people simultaneously in three different compartments and the control panel (A) in the command post is under the control of an operator, one of two things most likely happened.

First version: The choice to empty three tanks of freon into a compartment of sleeping people was entered into the system from the keyboard on control panel (B) located in the second compartment. Since an excessive amount of freon was released, this raises the question of sabotage. This issue will probably be resolved since there is a sub-system of Molibden called Rotor (D), which functions like the black box of an airplane and records all the parameters of the system. This equipment block, as it was explained to me, has already been removed by the FSB and is the object of investigation.

Second version: There was a technical fault in the Molibden system which led to a mistaken activation of the system in the second compartment. The NPO Avrora representatives exclude this possibility. Honestly, I also doubt such a "happy" mistake since the firing of all three tanks into one compartment seems doubtful for now.

In general, we await the expertise of the Rotor system. Taking into account how many procurators are there now (a personal representative of the President himself has taken charge), it wont be soon. I'll keep you updated if I find out anything.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Commentary by a Russian Submarine Writer on the Nerpa Tragedy

(Caption: Project 971 K-152 Nerpa at Bol'shoy Kamen',

Russian author and long-time submariner Alexandr Pokrovskiy on the accident on board the multipurpose submarine Nerpa.

"While departing her base at the closed military city (ZATO) Bol'shoy Kamen' for sea trials on the 8th of November at 2030 local time on board the multipurpose submarine Nerpa (Project 971 Shchuka-B, NATO Akula II), there was an uninteded discharge of the firefighting system and Freon. Six service members and fourteen civilians were killed. Another twenty two were hospitalized. There were 208 on board, eighty one of them military", which is all the mass media has told us so far.

One of the peculiarities of the Project 971 Shchuka-B is its reliance, in comparison with other submarine classes, on automatic combat and technical systems. Control is effected from one center - the main command post. The crew usually numbers seventy three. Since there were 208 on boards, that means that there was a big sea trials crew on board and it also means that it was crowded and there was no where for people to sleep. Unfortunately, this is the way sea trials are done since the ships systems and mechanisms must be tested for reliability. This is common during sea trials.

The mass media has talked about "a fire outbreak" which led to an "unplanned release of extinguishing agent (Freon)".

If a fire breaks out completely unexpectedly, then "an unplanned release of extinguishing agent" couldn't happen - let us remember that all control of technical systems takes place from one center on this class of boat. Freon just can't "get released" into the space. It needs to be released there. By the way, a little bit about freon. Freon is only used in big fires in submarine spaces. Before it is used, all people in the compartment have to be connected to the emergency air lines. That or death by suffocation. Besides that, after a release of freon, all the electrical panels and electronic systems go out of service. That is to say, the compartment ceases to function after a freon discharge. Therefore submariners don't like to use freon.

In domestic shipbuilding, the use of freon extinguishing systems has its partisans and opponents. For many years there has been a fight to put modern methods of fire supression on board submarines. There has been talk of special nitrogen systems. Nitrogen floods the compartment lowering the concentration of oxygen to 12 percent and the fire extinguishes. In this case even people who couldn't hook up to low pressure air would remain alive and the equipment in the space doesn't suffer.

People have asked me: why does the automatic fire suppression system on board use freon?

I answer: because in Russia, its always been like that. They construct a super-modern boat, but they put previous century equipment on board. And so it goes...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Accident on Akula II K-152 Nerpa?

So far reports of 20 dead:

Moscow, 08 November - RIA Novosti. More than 20 people dead as a result of an incident on a nuclear submarine in the Pacific Fleet according to the Navy Public Affairs officer, K1R Igor' Dygalo.

A malfunction of the automatic fire supression system during sea trials on one of the Pacific Fleet submarines killed more than 20 people today. Among the dead were shipyard workers and servicemen.

The boat wasn't damaged. THe reactor compartment is normal. Background radiation on the boat is within standards.

The Commander in Chief of the Navy has ordered a halt to testing. The decision to return the boat to its temporary base has been made.

Comment: The commenters at Live Journal user U-96's blog seem to think that the boat was Akula II K-152 Nerpa based on the fact that it was 1) during sea trials, and 2) shipyard workers were among the dead.

I'm sure we'll hear more about it later.

Update from U-96:

The incident which killed 20 people on board a Russian Pacific Fleet nuclear submarine occured in the bow of the boat. There is no threat to the reactor, which is located in the stern section of the boat a source in the Pacific Ocean Fleet Headquarters told RIA Novosti.

There were 208 people on board the submarine, 81 of them military. The BPK Admiral Tributs and the salvage tug Sayany are escorting the boat. Twenty one injured have been evacuated to the Tributs in various states of health.

U-96 comments: Two hundred and eight on board instead of the 73 normally assigned. Of course there weren't enough EBAs to go around. "In the bow section" must mean compartment one. Torpedo room.

Update 2: Novosti reports on the types of fire suppression systems found on Russian submarines:

Now there are two fire suppression systems on board nuclear submarines: air-foam and chemical.

The air-foam system is designed to extinguish local fires and consists of two stations located at either end of the boat. The foam reserve supports six foam stations. Each station can produce one cubic meter of foam which can be applied by means of a 10 meter long hose. The stations are placed such that they can deliver foam to any corner of the compartment.

The chemical system is designed to extinguish any type of fire in a space except for fuel and ammunition fires and consists of a fire supression station located in all compartments except the reactor compartment. The reactor compartment is covered by stations located in the 5th and 7th compartments.

The extinguishing agent is Halon 114B2. The system can deliver three shots of extinguishing agent to each space. The system can be activated remotely from the central command post or from a local control panel as well as manually from the station in the compartment.


Update 3: The traditional Russian reflex to find and punish the guilty kicks in as a criminal investigation is launched into the tragedy under Article 352 of the Criminal Codex - hazarding a military vessel leading to death.

Lots of cool shots of of Akulas underway in this video clip along with word that it was an accidental Freon discharge:

Update 4: Looking at the casualty list, except for two unidentified, it doesn't look like there were any Indian specialists on board.

Update 5: Footage purporting to be K-152 returning to port. The audio recaps what is known about the incident so far, adding that there will be a special commission to investigate the incident and that the President Dmitriy Medvedev is on top of making sure that families get help and compensation.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

USS Mount Whitney in Ukraine: Pindostanis at the Gate


The American flagship in Sevastopol'. The sailors are not expecting a warm welcome.

The American command ship USS Mount Whitney sailed into Sevastopol'. The Americans are due to make a two day port visit to Crimea. For now these plans are under review. Their visit was almost canceled today. The Mount Whitney spent almost three hours at the outer roadstead waiting and then unexpectedly went back out to sea. Only after a few hours was the ship able to enter harbor. Meanwhile the sailors are not expected to receive a joyous welcome. Hundreds of people are demonstrating against the American ship in Sevastopol'. Interview with Yevgeniy Dubovik, Sevastopol' City Councilman:
We know that according to Article 95 of the Ukrainian Constitution, only the Supreme Rada can approve a port visits to the Hero City of Sevastopol'. We all know very well that the Supreme Rada is dysfunctional, so there is no permission. So today an American ship has invaded Sevastopol' without an invitation, which means that we will meet the ship with either peaceful picketing or combat grenades. For now, it is peaceful picketing.

Comment: What a dick.

I suspect that the Coast Guard Cutter may actually be someone spoofing the Mount Whitney, but here is a clip (with photos) of what is allegedly the conversation between the port pilot and the Ukrainian Customs Cutter on VHF maritime band:


Pilot: Can you tell us exactly what is the basis upon which we must leave your territorial waters?
Ukrainian Customs Service: You are leaving our territorial waters because you do not have permission to enter Sevastopol'. Therefore we ask that you leave our territorial waters.
Pilot: We do not have permission.
UCS: Yes, yes, you don't have permission to enter our territorial waters.
Pilot: Understood…(2-3 missed) that we do not have permission to enter the territorial waters of Ukraine.
UCS: I don't understand, repeat please.
Pilot: There is some confusion, we think we DO have permission to enter territorial waters.
UCS: The information I have says that you do not have permission to enter our territorial waters.
Pilot: Can you give us your full name and position?
UCS: We are the Border Service, you do not have permission to enter the territorial waters.
Pilot: Can you confirm your full name and position?
UCS: One minute...We have just talked with Sevastopol' and you do not have permission to enter territorial waters. You need to leave territorial waters and wait for permission to come.
Pilot: We await permission and we are leaving territorial waters and we will wait at the 12 mile limit.
UCS: You have understood correctly, at the 12 mile limit.

It does fit with some of the behavior observed by the denizens of the message boards at though. Speaking of which, for those of you planning to show up, the demonstration starts at 1000.

Tomorrow the demonstration will be at Nakhimov at 1000 to mark the 07 Nov holiday. After that we go to the Pindoses in port.


Gist: The American command ship unexpectedly departed Sevastopol' today (07 Nov). The Mount Whitney suddenly got underway and so far local officials have not explained the hasty departure. Originally the NATO sailors were supposed to stay in Sevastopol' for three days, but some reports suggest that problems arose when the Americans improperly filled out customs and border paperwork.

Also, a Mount Whitney crew member was gracious enough to post a comment thanking the Ukrainians for a pleasant port visit. With the exception of Souda Bay, Crete, I have rarely been on a port call where the locals allegedly "didn't like us" and I wasn't treated nicely by the vast majority of people. I genuinely think that, even in places like Sevastopol', the locals like Americans and America and that the US Navy almost always makes a good impression. It only takes the work of a few loud, bad apples on both sides (like the distinguished city councilman above) to spoil things. I am kind of shocked that the offical Russian media arm of the Russian military chose to highlight a violence-threatening thug/clown like the distinguished city councilman and not the thousands of friendly residents, Russian, Ukrainian, Tatar and other nationalities alike who welcome, like and profit from their visit. And profit not just from sailors spending their money, but also from the spirit of friendship that most of the Americans bring with them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

SRF News

I know this isn't the "Strategic Rocket Forces Blog" but I like nuclear missiles too.

Gist: In connection with American plans to place elements of its anti-missile defense system in Europe, Russia has decided to keep a division of the Strategic Rocket Forces on duty in Kozel'sk, Kaluga Oblast'. Part of the division is equipped with the the RS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile (SS-19 Stiletto) with a range of 10,000km. Earlier it was planned to remove three regiments from service and then deactivate the division by 2010. Dismantlement of a regiment began in September under the direction of the Ministry of Defense.

Gist: As Dmitriy Medvedyev announced, Navy will provide radio-electronic jamming of the new American anti-missile sites from Kaliningrad in support of Russian national security. Also the Iskander (SS-26) missile will be stationed in Kaliningrad. It is a new generation system superior to all previously contructed missiles of its type. It is a deterrance weapon designed for precision strikes against high value land targets. Beside the system itself, there will be a communications center and a command center as well. The Iskander incorporates stealth technology, making it virtually invisible to radars. It is also guided and manueverable along all points of its trajectory. It can destroy even mobile targets in all weather conditions with a CEP of 2 meters (sic). There isn't any other mobile tactical missile system like it in the world.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Pat Lang: Hammer Meets Nail


The following groups will be disappointed in the first Obama administration and in this order:

1- The far Left. (Maddow, etc.)

2- Many Black Americans

3- Arabs and Muslims

4- Characters like Chris Matthews.

Starting in five, four, three...

I wouldn't count on the likes of Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart and Glenn Greenwald (three of the Bush administration's sharpest critics) to seem as "liberal" as they were for the past couple of years either.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Results a Day Early

Obama: 338 - all the Kerry states plus OH, FL, VA, IA, CO, NM, NV
McCain: 200

Senate: 58 Senators will caucus with the Democrats.

House: Democrats gain 40 seats.

Gonna suck to be a Republican for a long, long time. But maybe a generation in the wilderness will convince the Republicans that calling people Democommieislamofascist traitors who will teach five year olds how to have sex is not a substitute for a message or policies popular with the electorate.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Last Word on The Battle of the Black Sea, I Promise

Note: Not to be construed as a REAL promise.

More Questions Than Answers

Mysteries of the August Battle

The Black Sea Fleet "alert force" set sail for Abkhaz shore the night of 7 August. Included in the task force were the Project 775 large landing ship (BDK) Tsezar' Kunikov with a reinforced marine company embarked, the small antisubmarine ship (MPK) Muromets and the small missile ship (MRK) Mirazh. The BDK Saratov joined them, having set sail from Novorossiysk.

The first sea battle in history between the Russian and Georgian Navies quickly ensued. It was described by one of the hosts of the program "Special Correspondent", Arkadiy Mamontov. It was up to him to describe the unknown details of the battle.

Below is an excerpt from the broadcast (See Russian Navy Blog post, Russian Navy Blog: Vesti Gives More Details on The Battle of the Black Sea):

More and more details have come out over the past week concerning the Georgian intrusion into South Ossetia. The author of the program "Special Correspondent" Arkady Mamontov has discovered more detail about the battle that took place on the Black Sea between Russian and Georgian forces.

It happened the night of August 10th. The first sea battle between Russian and Georgian forces has already taken place. It was on the third day after the beginning of the bombardment of a sleeping Tskhinvali ordered by Saakashvili. Not everyone knows the details of this clash.

Early in the morning on that day, a group of Black Sea Fleet ships departed from Novorossiysk port and set course for Sukhumi, Abkhazia. On board two large landing ships (BDKs) were 500 peacekeepers with their equipment. They were being transported to Abkhazia to ensure the security of the local population and deter an attack by the Georgian Army. They were escorted by two ships, including the small missile boat (MRK) "Mirazh".

At the same time five high-speed Georgian boats departed Poti on an intercepting course. Their task - attack and sink our ships. The tactics for this attack were worked out by American specialists: fast-moving small boats, armed with powerful anti-ship missiles suddenly strike the BDKs and depart. Upon a successful attack the result would be shock and awe. Hundreds of dead marines, burning ships and a victorious communique for Saakashvili: "We cut off the intervention" and "The Russian Navy isn't good for anything." But it turned out the other way. "Vesti" has succeeded in getting more information from participants in the clash.

18:39 - Russian radar detected a couple of high-speed surface targets heading on an attack course toward our line of ships.

18:40 - An enemy boat approached at a critical distance. Then the flagship issued a command to the BDK "Tsezar' Kunikov" to open fire with a warning shot. One of the ships launched an anti-aircraft missile which landed between the Georgian ships. But they didn't stop, instead gaining speed and tried to reach the so-called "dead zone", where missiles are useless. And then the MRK "Mirazh" recieved the command to destroy the enemy. The distance to the target was 35km. Preparation to fire, calculations, all of that was done in literally a few minutes. Sea battles always go quickly.

18:41 - The commander of the "Mirazh" gave the command to fire. The Georgian sailors had the advantage of speed while ours had the advantage of reaction time. The first missile was launched at the target. A few seconds later and the second was on its way. The flight time to the Georgian ship "Tbilisi" - a minute and 20 seconds. Range to the enemy - 25km.

The first missile hit the machinery spaces on the "Tbilisi". A second later and the bridge was hit. There was a bright blotch on the radar screen of our ship for 30 seconds which meant complete destruction of the target, accompanied by a large burst of heat energy.

18:50 - The commander of the "Mirazh" gave the command to change position. The ship changed course and made for shore at high speed, completing a turn and again turning on an attack course. The radar showed only four targets. One of them was a Georgian boat, gaining speed and closing our ships. The "Mirazh" opened fire with a salvo from the "Osa" (SA-N-4).

At that time the range was down to 15km. The first missile hit the Georgian boat, which immediately began to smoke, slowed and attempted to exit the line of fire. The rest of the Georgian ships disengaged, sharply turning about. As our sailors noted, this maneuver was executed competently. The "Mirazh" did not pursue the beaten enemy as there was no order to finish them off.

At 19:28 after sweeping the area, the "Mirazh" got back into line and continued to Sukhumi. From the commodore's report: "One target was destroyed out of five, one was damaged and three fled. Missile expendature: two anti-surface missiles, one anti-air missile, no loss of personnel. No damage to friendly ships."

There was no official commentary about Arkadiy Mamontov's report. Many questions came up in internet forums about the report.

Why didn't Georgian missile boats open fire upon detection of the enemy? The enemy could have launched up to 16 cruise missiles and sank all the ships in the task force. Why didn't the Georgians open fire on the MRK Mirazh at a range of 13km (the range of the Osa-MA SAM (SA-N-4)) when the Mirazh's intentions were clearly hostile? Why didn't the Mirazh use her AK-176 gun, which has a range similar to the Osa and fires 90 rounds a minute?

The author of this article has attempted to reconstruct the August Battle of the Black Sea using information gleaned from the internet and from a few independent sources in the fleet.

Our ships proceeded to the Abkhaz littoral, to the 12 mile territorial waters or its limits when they detected four or six Georgian boats. The mission of the Georgians wasn't clear at this point. It's possible that they wanted to launch a cruise missile attack on the Russian ships, but it is more likely that the enemy was planning to land troops or fire at Abkhaz coastal targets and didn't suspect that a Black Sea Fleet task force was approaching.

The Tsezar' Kunikov fired a warning shot at a range of 38km with the A-215 122mm extended range MRLS maritime variant. Naturally, it missed. (The system is designed to fire against coastal targets). The Georgian boats were not deterred and continued to sail on an intercepting course. It was completely possible that they still didn't detect the Russian ships and decided that the salvo was fired by the Abkhaz from shore or from some fishing boat (both the Georgians and Abkhaz equipped merchant shipping with Grad launchers in 1992).

After about 10 or 15 minutes, the MRK Mirazh launched two P-120 Malakhit (SS-N-9) missiles at the Georgians. By that time range had closed to between 20 and 24km, while the minimum-maximum range of a Malakhit is 20-120km.

Why the Malakhits weren't fired immediately instead of the Grad, which was designed for completely different targets, isn't clear to me.

One of the Malakhits supposedly hit a Georgian boat, but probably not. The second missed entirely. The P-120 has two guidence systems - a radar homer and an IR homer. Targeting data is loaded into the system, that is the systems are turned on immediately or with a delay, depending on the firing range. I suggest that the Mirazh entered the wrong delay and the warheads simply failed to lock on to the Georgian boat (maybe one missile failed to lock, maybe both).

One or both of the missiles turned on the "free hunt" mode. And toward the end of their run they obtained a target. This turned out to be the Moldovan ship Lotos 1 loaded with 1475 tons of wheat, bound for Poti from Yeysk. At that moment, the ship was located 30 miles northwest of the Georgian port of Poti about 25 miles from shore.

One of the missiles overshot the freighter. Then fragments from the second missile, exploding 50-100m off the port side at an altitude of about 20-30m, inflicted minor damage to the superstructure. All memebers of the crew survived. The ship didn't lose speed and, after spending some time in the danger zone, tankfully made it to Kerch'. Missile fragments were photographed on the deck of the ship. It must be noted that Moldova has neither a Navy nor a merchant fleet since Moldova doesn't have access to the sea. The republic serves as a "flag of convenience" and 215 ships of various nationalities fly the Moldovan flag.

Why didn't the Malakhit, with its powerful warhead, sink the Lotos? If you believe the internet, the radar homer acquired the freighter at a range of 30km, but the solid rocket engine was spent and the missile couldn't maneuver. In the end, it exploded or self-destructed.

After the Malakhit launch, the ships opened fire on the Georgian boats with the Osa-MA SAM systems. Up to ten missiles were fired. It should be noted that the Osa-MA has been constantly updated over the last quarter century for use as a sea-skimming anti-ship missile. It is curious to note that even back in 1973 during the Mediterranean Sea standoff that Soviet ships would have had to destroy American ships with the Volna (SA-N-1) and Osa missiles. While the warheads are smaller than on an anti-ship cruise missile, the target ship reaction time is 5-10 times less.

Between one and three Georgian boats were sank by Osa missiles. The rest of the boats retreated to the south-east, back to Poti it seems.

By the way, according to the internet, the Mirazh came under fire from a Georgian coastal artillery battery and suffered at least one hit. I think the fire could have come from the Georgians or from Abkhazians mistaking the Mirazh for a Georgian vessel. That, and other, artillery batteries are equipped with the 100mm coastal artillery system KS-19 with the SON-4 radar guidence system. The range of this system is about 19km.

After the battle, the Mirazh went to Novorossiysk and then Sevastopol'. There it was observed that the superstructure on one side had been freshly painted.

In any case, the commander of the MRK Mirazh K3R Ivan Dubik was awarded the Order of Valour.

"There were five Georgian ships: two missile boats and three patrol boats", Ivan Dubik told a reporter for a Moscow newspaper by telephone. "They tried to attack us at high speed. We warned the Georgians, but they pressed the attack. All 60 crew members on board Mirazh worked as one unit and we answered them with a salvo. One of the Georgian boats went to the bottom in a moment. I am not allowed to say at what range we opened fire. The other four boats immediately turned away after the salvo."

But this testimony from participants in the first sea battle by the Russian Navy in the 21st Century does nothing to answer the many questions posed by the professionals and amateur-experts.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Burning the OPTAR, Pt 2

The Navy's presence in the world ocean will grow before the end of the year according to the Navy PAO, Igor' Dygalo.

According to Dygalo, the presence of the Navy will be in the interests of stability and security around the world.

In November, a Pacific Fleet task group will set off from Vladivostok for the Arabian Sea and make a series of port calls in the Indian Ocean as well as perform joint exercises with a detachment from the Northern Fleet.

The Baltic Fleet escort ship Neustrashimyy will continue to maintain the security of Russian flagged shipping around the Horn of Africa, Dygalo added.

Meanwhile, at the end of this Zvezda TV report on the upcoming deployment, the reporter announces that the Baltic Fleet tanker Yel'na has arrived in the Gulf of Aden. You may remember that she is carrying a detachment of marines with orders to not allow pirates to get within rifle shot.

Now we are up to four task forces at sea plus a forward deployed combatant on Horn of Africa station simultaneously.

- Peter the Great and Admiral Chabanenko
- Moskva plus accompanying ships (I'll guess the Ladnyy)
- Admiral Kuznetsov plus accompanying ships (I'll guess the BPK Severomorsk and maybe the EM Bespokoynyy from the Baltic Fleet or maybe the RKR Marshal Ustinov)
- I'll guess the Pacific Fleet flagship RKR Varyag and...who?

Any bets on if all active Russian Navy cruisers will be forward deployed at the same time?

Friday, October 31, 2008

New Frigate in the Water by 2011

Is this a model of the new Gorshkov frigate? Source: The Sea is Everything

The Fleet Admiral Sergey Gorshkov, the lead ship in a new class of frigates should be in the water in 2011 according to RIA Novosti. This was announced by Vice Premier Sergey Ivanov at the Severnaya Verf' shipyard during a military-industrial conference in St. Petersburg on 30 October, where the frigate is being constructed.

Construction began in 2006. The Gorshkov is the first large surgace combatant laid down in a Russian yard in 15 years, therefore she is tied to a revival of Russian naval ship construction. The initial construction of the frigate should be done in 2009, however the target for the completion of construction has been pushed back for an unknown reason.

The exact combat characteristics of the Gorshkov have not been revealed. For now it is known that the displacement in 4,500 tons. The frigate will carry armament consisting of eight anti-ship missiles, a 130mm gun, an ASW missile system and a medium range SAM. There will also be a helo.

The approximate cost will be around 400 million dollars. It is planned that 20 of these frigates will be built in the next 15-20 years.

It's ALIVE, Pt 2

The heavy nuclear missile cruiser Admiral Nakhimov, which is undergoing overhaul in Severodvinsk at Sevmash will return to sea and the Russian Navy order of battle in 2012. K1R Igor' Golovchenko, the commander of surface forces at the Belomorskiy Navy Base, said that the overhaul has dragged on for 10 years because of a lack of funding. "Just this year the financial issue has stabilized and we have been able to start on operation number one - the de-fueling of the nuclear reactors", Golovchenko added. He said that the spent nuclear fuel has already been unloaded from one of the two reactors.


The USSR built four Project 1144.2 ships - the Admiral Ushakov, the Admiral Lazarev, the Admiral Nakhimov and the Peter the Great. Only the last two remain. The Admiral Ushakov entered Severodvinsk in 1999 for modernization, which began in 2003. Meanwhile, in 2008 it was decided to scrap her. The Admiral Lazarev was put in conservation status in Strelok Bay in 2005. However, at the same time, the Peter the Great remains not only the most powerful cruiser in the Russian Navy, but in the whole world.

Comment: I guess they actually accomplished what they set out to do back in May. Good for them.


Or, more properly, back from the dead:

BPK Kerch

From the official

The large anti-submarine ship Kerch left port on the eve of Surface Sailor's Day for sea trials. The main task before the crew was testing the engines and maneuverability of the ship.

For now the ship has undergone a significant crew turnover: long-serving seamen have been transfered to the reserves and young sailors have replaced them. The conscripts from the spring 2008 intake have already been assigned and are standing duties and watches on board. Their first trial at sea will show how well prepared they are and how well they have mastered their specialties. Therefore the most important task will be adapting the young crew to life at sea which is the first time at sea for many of them.

Blogger U-96 wonders if the increased op-tempo has led to the "reanimation" of the Kerch, while some of his commenters wonder why the Kerch was restored while the Azov, with the better area defense system (SA-N-6), was cut into razor blades.

That's a good question.

Do the Russians Have OPTAR to Burn or What?

Northern and Black Sea Fleet ships will carry out joint exercises in the Med.

A Northern Fleet strike group led by the Admiral Kuznetsov will leave Severomorsk and head for the Mediterranean Sea for exercises with ships of the Black Sea fleet led by the missile cruiser Moskva.

The ships will conduct a month long exercise simulating battle between two strike groups.

"The main goal of the deployment - resolution of operational-strategic tasks and showing the St. Andrew's flag in foreign ports", RIA Novosti quoted sources in the Navy Headquarters.

The Northern Fleet strike group will be on deployment for three months.

Comment: This is pretty big if it happens - when was the last time the Russians had THREE battle groups at sea at once? Plus they're establishing what looks like an East Africa station. Plus they are talking with the Libyans about building a base in Tripoli.

Have the Russians forgotten that oil is closer to $60/bbl and not $120/bbl?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Because if 10kt is good...

50+mt must be GREAT!

It is the 47th anniversary of Sergey Khrushchev announcing to the world that he has a really tiny penis. Happy Birthday, Tsar Bomba, the bomb that went to 11.

And in related news:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Deep Thought

In the spirit of Reagan's assertion that there isn't a Russian word for "freedom", линия повествования and публичность aren't Russian words or concepts either.

Scuttlebutt: Mount Whitney to Make Sevastopol' Port Call

Who the hell makes these schedules? If they are trying to poke the Russkies in the eye, mission accomplished.


Expect a warm welcome on the anniversary of the October Revolution:

Иэх... Вот бы заиметь большое полотнище для таких встреч с двумя словами: "FUCK OFF".

No translation needed, I hope.

Sixth Fleet Flagship Will Make a Sevastopol' Port Call on the October Revolution Anniversary

Kiev, 29 Oct (Novyy Region, Victor Orlov) - The American command ship Mount Whitney will re-enter the Black Sea on the 30th of October. Her activity is aimed at executing the plan of the American leadership to restore the Georgian armed forces, showing that all the financial support and the inordinate amount of offensive and other weaponry provided to the Georgians that it just isn't enough.

So first the Mount Whitney will head to Georgian shores to unload so called "humanitarian" aid for the "needy" Georgians. Observers have already noted interesting details of similar visits. Immediately after American port visits there are incidents on the Abkhaz and South Ossetian borders. Similar information confirms that when Americans make their port call in Poti on the 4th, the Americans will carry out a series of events to train the Georgian power stucture to create a new incident after the failure of Saakashvili's Napoleaonic plans....

Meanwhile, this time the activity of the American command ship will not be limited to cooperation with the Georgian regime. The USA will also not leave Ukraine alone. Mount Whitney plans to visit Sevastopol' on the 6th and 7th. The Ukrainian authorities have approved NATO port visits to Sevastopol' despite the fact that the 7th of November continues to be a holiday for many.

Its expected that two dozen Ukrainian officers will accompany the Mount Whitney to sea to rub up with the notorious NATO ensigns.

Besides that, the command ship Mount Whitney hopes to accomplish a lot during the Black Sea voyage. The US plans on visiting Romania, supporting the NATO member in is battle with Ukraine over Zmeinyy Island, as well as Bulgaria, which has gone off the reservation and is trying to establish its own policy vis a vis Russia. Turkey is in the cards, putting pressure on her to change the Montreaux Convention and since she is sick of the existing documents, it's time to change it because of US "vital interests". Similarly, the United States wants to demonstrate to the world that they can't ever be chased out of the Black Sea.

Comment: Raving, paranoid, right-wing Russian language press? A translation challenge, but I love it.

Peter the Great Update: Smash Sandwiches and The Gut

Smash sandwiches are what my shipmates called paninis from the local street vendors and The Gut is the red light district in Toulon, France.

Gist: The task force led by the heavy nuclear guided missile cruiser Peter the Great is setting course for Toulon, France. The time spent on the way to Toulon is not idle. On the way the crew prepares the aviation assets for day and night flying. Our correspondent watched the training:

The Russian K-27 helicopter over the Med. It has two tasks - to patrol the waters around the task forces and to maintain the skills of the pilots and navigators. They have to fly dozens of hours.

The training proceeds from easy to hard, from flying in daylight conditions to flying in full darkness, landing at night on a moving ship, that is the best form of training.

The helos on the TRKR Peter the Great and the BPK Admiral Chabanenko are modernized with the newest Russian control systems and the newest Russian satellite navigation systems (GLONASS) on board.

Most of all its important to train with the instruments on board so as not to use outside sources, so mainly we fly around on instruments.

The flights are pre-planned and the routes are planned a day ahead of time. The pilots and navigators use the charts to find the nearest airports and the places they can land on dry land. The aviators admit that the conditions in the Med are great for flying and the the high temperatures in the Med do not bother the Severomorsk dwellers.

The temperature isn't a problem, there's air conditioning on the helo. If it's a little warm, you can add some cool air and if it's a little cool, you can add some warm air. In general it doesn't interfere.

The Black Sea Fleet tug Shakhter delivered spare parts, equipment and stores. This will allow the cruiser to spend an extra month at sea since the local stores aren't big enough to carry that much. While the Peter the Great just stands there because of her great size the Shakhter pitches up and down two or three meters. In these conditions the stores load it done with jeweller's precision.

These meetings are planned for the whole route the task force takes. One or two times a week they will meet a tanker or tug, which will deliver stores like fuel, drinking water and food. In the future is the transit through Gibraltar and then exercises in Venezuela. For now we are at anchor in the Med, preparing for the joint exercises between the two countries.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"Analysis": Why Do I Sense a "Climax" Coming?

Like I said, its just "a sense". There is the kind of breathless quality to the introduction in the video clip, "Alarming news from Somalia...", the repetition in the press about how the Russians have gotten permission from the Somali authorities (for what that's worth) for entering Somali waters, how whatever actions the Russians will take are in accordance with UN resolutions (whatever they are), the repeated assertions in the Russian press dating back to earlier this spring about how the Russians are going to do "something" about piracy and finally the arrival of the Neustrashimyy with the orders to use deadly force if necessary. To me, it seems like they have blustered so much that to arrive off the Horn of Africa and do nothing would be very anti-climactic.

This is a critical period for the Russian Navy - their surface fleet is aging with no replacements in sight. The Commander of the Pacific Fleet promised that the next carrier will go to the Pacific, yet there is no keel laid, the only shipyard in the former Soviet Union with experience building a large deck carrier is in Ukraine and Sevmash seems to be making a botch of the Gorshkov refurbishment (or, depending on your point of view, milking it for all its worth). The newest SSN looks like its going to India and the new Boreys are coming out without a proper weapon, properly tested (the Bulava). It seems to me that the Navy needs a "win" to compete for rubles right about now so that they can build the carriers, the surface fleet and submarines they want.

Like I said - its a good narrative and good publicity for the Navy to take care of business.

Doesn't mean I'm right about it. We'll find out before it snows here in Northern Virginia.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Somali Folly: I Feel a Climax Building

Alarming news from Somalia. The pirates that have captured the Faina have delivered an ultimatum to the ship owners. According to local radio, the pirates have promised to kill the crew within 24 hours if they don't receive a ransom. The sum mentioned is $1,700,000. The captain of the Faina described the conditions aboard the ship that the crew had to endure in the latest telephone call: "The crew has had to crowd into one small room because the pirates can't organize a watch over several rooms at once."


The Indians Should Have Checked Carrierfax Before Buying

The Sevmash Public Affairs Officer Mikhail Starozhilov announced that the Indian Navy aircraft carrier, which is being overhauled in the Severodvinsk shipyard, will be launched in December.
The former Russian heavy aircraft carrying cruiser Admiral Gorshkov has been in the floodable basin used as a dry dock since the end of 2005. The 45,000 ton, 283m long, 51m wide hull was repaired in that dock. "The launch of a ship of that displacement is the first in the history of the new Russia", Starozhilov said. The process of filling the basin and the removal of the cruiser will take around 10 days. After that the ship will be moved to the Sevmash construction wharf.

According to the intergovernmental memorandum of understanding signed in New Dehli in 2004, the hull of the Admiral Gorshkov was transfered to India for free with the condition that it would be modernized at Sevmash and equipped with a Russian air group. Russia would also train the Indian crew of around 1,500 sailors and would create the infrastructure for basing the ship and the airgroup in the Indian Ocean. The original contract was valued at about 1.5 billion dollars. About half of that was intended to convert the ship into a full aircraft carrier and that work was planned to be completed in 2008. However the contract was extended and the Russian side insisted on increasing the cost of the work on modernizing the ship significantly. According to experts, an additional billion dollars is needed. The Indian and Russian governments are holding negotiations on this issue.