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.