March 11, 2013

Russian Military Presence In The Mediterranean Sea - Real Opportunities

In the situation, when Russia has lately been losing its positions in the world (in particular, the Russian Federation being pressed out from the regions of North Africa, Middle East and Central Asia, as well as from the European energy market) its measures to demonstrate force before its geopolitical opponents, especially the United States and NATO, are becoming more and more active.

The intensity of these measures is growing against the background of the armed confrontation in Syria - namely, appearance of certain signs of a possible fall of B. Assad’s regime in the nearest future. In particular, in January 2013 the rebels actually established their control over the northern parts of the country and Aleppo (economic center of Syria), captured a number of bases of government troops (including airfields, Air Defense facilities and warehouses with arms) and activated fighting in the suburbs of Damascus, with  some armed groups of opposition going out to central areas of the city.


If there is a change of power in Syria soon, it will radically change the situation in the Middle East (including the creation of preconditions for force actions of the USA, Israel and their allies against Iran), and will finally undermine Russia's positions in the Middle East and the international prestige of the Russian Federation as the main supporter of Syrian regime of B.Assad. Moreover, the victory of Syrian rebels may raise a number of uncomfortable for Russia  questions, including the ones about deliveries of Russian weapons (chemical not excluded) to the  current Syrian government, money laundering on the international scale, reconnaissance from Syrian territory against third countries, etc.

Russia directed war ships to Syria

All these circumstances are not in favor of the interests of the Russian Federation, which tries to prevent such a development of the situation, using all available capabilities, including the involvement of the Russian Armed Forces. As an example can serve the inter-Fleet  training of the Russian Navy in the Mediterranean and Black Seas in January of 2013. According to Russian media, it was a largest training over the past 20 years. In the training participated, to mention just a few: from the Black Sea Fleet - missile cruiser “Moskva”, patrol frigate “Smetlivyi”, large landing ships “Novocherkassk”, “Azov”, “Nikolai Filchenkov”, a large sea tanker "Ivan Bubnov"; from the Baltic Fleet -  a patrol ship “Yaroslav the Wise”, large landing ships “Alexandr Shabalyn”, “Kaliningrad” and tanker “Lena”;from the Northern Fleet -a large antisubmarine warfare ship “Severomorsk”, a tanker “Dubna”, a rescue tug ship  “Altai” and, according to some reports, a nuclear submarine.

Large-scale military exercises of Russia naval forces held in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean

Russian media reported openly about the real goal – demonstration of force to the United States and NATO as well as supplying B.Assad’s regime with arms. Taking into consideration Russia's interests in Syria, as well as Russian relationships with the Syrian leadership, Russian Navy ships could solve other problems, including the ones associated with the evacuation of gold reserves and archives of the Syrian regime, B.Assad’s family members and his surroundings, as well as Russian military advisors, equipment and vehicles (in particular, intelligence equipment), etc.

The training also had pure propaganda purposes, such as to show the restoration of Russia's military presence in areas of its geopolitical interests, the ability of Russia to confront the USA and NATO in the Black Sea and Mediterranean regions. That's how the training was widely covered in the Russian media along with the corresponding comments. In particular, in the peculiar manner of Russians – with distortion of facts – it was reported about the “power” and “significance” of the combined detachment of warships of the RF Navy, which allegedly made aircraft carrying strike group led by the nuclear aircraft carrier “Dwight D. Eizenhower” and a striking  expeditionary group ”Iwo Jima” of the USA Navy (up to 20 warships), not only move away from the coast of Syria, but leave the Mediterranean.


Two nuclear-powered aircraft carrier "Enterprise" and "Dwight D. Eisenhower" of the Nimitz-class supercarriers accompanied by missile cruisers of the "Ticonderoga" are exercising

All this is presented  as a ”rising power” of Russia, which restores its capability to defend its own interests in important for Russia regions of the world, including the Middle East, and on the periphery of the former Soviet Union. And a conclusion is drawn about the leading role of the Russian Federation at the post-Soviet territories, as of a “natural center of integration of the CIS countries”, in security sphere included.

So state and draw conclusions Russian media, for what they should bear moral responsibility. As in most cases related to the “revival of the power of Russia”, the real situation is a very different story. The same Russian media are trying to impress the audience with the tactic-technical characteristics of Russian ships. In particular, Russian electronic edition on the 15th of January of 2013 provides the following TTC of the main warships from the above mentioned inter-Fleet group of the RF Navy :

missile cruiser “Moskva” - 11.5 thousand tons displacement, length 186 m, width 20.8 m, main armament: 8 launchers with 2 anti-ship cruise missiles “Vulkan”(Volcano)each, 8 launchers with 8 missiles S-300F each, artillery installation AK-130, 2 five-piped 533-mm torpedo apparatuses,  Aviation Group, one helicopter Ka-27;

 large antisubmarine ship “Severomorsk” - displacement of 7.5 tons, length 165 m, width 19 m, main armament: two 100-mm gun mountings AK-100, 4 anti-aircraft artillery systems AK-630, 2 anti-aircraft missile complexes “Kinzhal”(Dagger) "2 launchers with 4 anti-submarine missiles” Rastrub-B “, 2 rocket bomb mountings RBU-6000, 2 four-piped 533-mm torpedo apparatuses; Aviation Group: 2 helicopters Ka-27PL;

guard ships - displacement of 4.3 thousand tons, length 130 m, width 15 m, main armament: one 10-mm gun mounting AK-100, two launchers with 4 anti-ship missiles “X 35”, 2 SAM “Kinzhal”, 2 air defense artillery systems “Kortik”, 2 three-piped 533-mm torpedo tubes, one rocket bomb mounting RBU-6000; Aviation Group: one helicopter Ka-27;

large amphibious ships - 4 thousand tons displacement, length 112 m, width 15 m, main armament: two 57-mm gun mountings AK-752, two launch rocket systems of volley fire A-215 “Grad-M”, 4 “Igla”(Needle) complexes , transport-landing capabilities: enforced company of marines and up to 10 tanks.

At first glance, TTCs are really powerful, especially if we abstract from similar characteristics of the ships of the mentioned above fighting groups of the USA Navy, which included a nuclear aircraft carrier “Dwight D. Eizenhower”, a cruiser with guided missiles (HRH) “Hue City”, guided missile destroyers “Winston S. Churchill”, “Farragut” and “Jason Dunham”, a universal landing ship “Iwo Jima”, amphibious transport ship dock “New York”, a helicopter carrier landing ship dock “Hanston Hall” and other ships. Public directories (including the site of “Wikipedia”on the Internet  provide the following characteristics of these ships:

aircraft carrier "Dwight D. Eizenhower " - displacement of 91 tons, length 333 m, width 317 m; Aviation Group: 70-90 aircrafts F-14F, F/A-18, EA-6B, E-2C and helicopters SH-60F, HH-60H; basic types of weapons: 3 SAM “Sea Sparrow” with 8 launchers each, 20-mm artillery mountings Mk-15;

guided missile cruiser - displacement of 9.9 tons, length 172 m, width 17 m, main armament: multifunctional combat system of identification and control of arms “Aegis” which includes a mixed battle scale of ammunition, 122 rockets in general, including winged missiles “Tomahawk” and anti-ship missiles ”Harpoon”, and anti-missile defense complexes SM-2 and SM-3, two 127-mm artillery systems Mk-45, two 25-mm artillery systems Mk-38 and two 20-mm artillery systems Mk-15;

guided missile destroyer - 8.4 thousand tons displacement, length 153 m, width 20 m, main armament: multipurpose combat system “Aegis”, up to 90 missiles of the mentioned above classes, artillery arms similar to guided missile cruiser;

multipurpose transport-landing ship - displacement of 40 tons, length 257 m, width 42 m, main armament: 20 and 25-mm artillery systems, 2 SAM “Sea Sparrow” with 8 launchers each, transport-landing capabilities: reinforced battalion of Marines, 200 units of armored and motor vehicles, including 5 tanks, 25 armored personnel carriers and 8 guns; Aviation Group: 42 aircraft and helicopters, including AV-8B, CH-46E, AH-1W, CH-53E, CH-53D, UN-1N, AH-1T, SH-60B.

As we can see, by its missile, aviation and transport-landing potentials, a grouping of warships that can be formed by the USA Navy in the Mediterranean Sea from one of its fleets, just surpasses all that Russia can form from all its fleets in the European part of the country. And what was called “the growing power of Russia”. With this balance of power (even if we forget the critical maintenance state of naval ships of Russia), the Russian side may only hope that American Navy servicemen, unlike Russian ones, according to analysts of the, “would hardly agree to die for unknown to them interests”.

This fully applies to the Russian Black Sea Fleet, which is positioned by Russia as a guarantor of its interests, and “a guarantor of security of Ukraine in the Black Sea region”.