Tag Archives: Baltic Fleet

Return of Neustrashimyy

Russian press reported recently that project 11540 frigate Neustrashimyy (SKR 712) will  rejoin the Baltic Fleet before the end of 2019.

The 26-year-old ship’s extended capital repairs began when it arrived at Yantar in Kaliningrad in early 2014.

Neustrashimyy looking worse for wear some years ago

Neustrashimyy looking worse for wear some years ago

Neustrashimyy is supposed to begin moored trials in May, underway tests in August, and return to service in November.

Delivery of the refurbished ship has been postponed for various reasons, including difficulties in repairing its Ukrainian gas turbine engines after Russia’s invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014.

That problem has been surmounted reportedly, and Yantar will receive the renovated engines from a Russian manufacturer (probably NPO Saturn) by spring. We’ll see.

The ship suffered a minor fire due to careless welding almost exactly one year ago. That also likely contributed to the delay.

Under a “medium repair” scheduled for completion by December 2016, Yantar is repairing Neustrashimyy’s hull, screws, and shafts. The ship’s water pumps, firefighting, fuel, electrical, and control systems are also being updated. The yard is reassembling equipment and preparing to relaunch the ship at present.

According to Flotprom.ru, the original deadline was pushed to November 2017, and then to November 2019.

Neustrashimyy in drydock

Neustrashimyy in drydock

The 3,800-ton frigate was laid down in 1987 and commissioned in 1993. It has participated in exercises with NATO countries and anti-piracy patrols off Somalia, operated in Russia’s Mediterranean ship group, and conducted many foreign port visits.

Project 11540 stopped at unit 2 Yaroslav Mudryy, which is also part of the Baltic Fleet. Instead of project 11540, the Russian Navy opted to build project 11356 Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates.

Advertisements

Where’s the Logic? (Addendum)

S-400 Launcher (photo: ITAR-TASS)

One shouldn’t ignore what doesn’t make sense . . . last week the Russian press reported again that the Baltic Fleet’s PVO units (Kaliningrad’s 3rd Aerospace Defense Brigade?) will receive their first S-400 launchers before year’s end.  The first report came in August.  ITAR-TASS cited a source this time – Baltic Fleet Commander, Vice-Admiral Viktor Chirkov.

Chirkov didn’t say how many the fleet will get, but he said the S-400 will replace old S-200 (SA-5 / Gammon) surface-to-air missiles.  He says his crews are currently conducting “acceptance-handover” launches, presumably at Ashuluk.

It doesn’t seem logical.  SAM brigades around Moscow can’t get S-400s on time and Chirkov is talking about putting them in Kaliningrad.  And his assertion he’ll get them this month seems odd given the loose schedules and passed deadlines associated with the program.

President Medvedev just finished saying one measure against European missile defense would be deploying the S-400 to protect SYaS.  But SYaS aren’t based in the Russian exclave.  It seems Medvedev would’ve announced it if the military intended to put the new SAMs in Kaliningrad.  Are S-400s going to intercept    SM-3s launched from Poland?  Are they going to protect Iskanders in Kaliningrad?

We’re left waiting to see the logic (and truth) in these reports.  Of course, there doesn’t necessarily have to be a logic compelling or sensible to outsiders.

Where’s the Logic?

A “highly-placed” Navy source has told RIA Novosti that S-400 / Triumf surface-to-air missile systems are arriving in the Baltic Fleet.  The source claims fleet air defense personnel are going to Ashuluk for training.

The news agency said a “highly-placed Baltic Fleet staff representative” confirmed announcements from several media outlets about the fleet receiving two S-400 battalions before the end of 2011.

Perhaps some healthy skepticism is in order.

The S-400 isn’t exactly bursting out the factory gates.  A second S-400 regiment hasn’t appeared at Dmitrov, and a third has already been promised for Moscow’s outskirts. 

There’s also a little matter of earlier spurious reports about where the S-400 would appear.  Recall General Staff Chief Makarov’s remark that it was deployed in the Far East in 2009.  Since then, there was talk of using it to defend the Kurils or Kamchatka, but Air Forces generals have spoken of the system strictly in terms of protecting Russia’s “central administrative and industrial zones,” i.e. Moscow and adjacent oblasts. 

Maybe it would make some sense to protect the country’s northwestern approaches from ever-dangerous Germans, Swedes, Finns, etc.  But it’s not really logical to do so until Moscow’s air defenses are modernized.

And it’s certainly not logical (from a bureaucratic viewpoint) for the VVS or VKO Troops (VVKO?) to let these precious new systems slip from their hands into the Navy’s control.  A second service operator at this point would complicate training and maintenance.

Maybe it’s another tactic for negotiating with the U.S. over missile defense in Eastern Europe (like deploying Iskander SSMs in Kaliningrad).

For its part, Interfaks (according to TsAMTO) reported the Navy S-400s would be placed in Russia’s Baltic exclave.

At any rate, there would seem to be few persuasive arguments and little sense behind a deployment of the S-400 in the Baltic Fleet any time soon.

Suicidal Lieutenants

President Toasts the Kuropatkins (photo: Aleksandr Astafyev)

The Pacific Fleet command and investigators say the shooting of a 22-year-old lieutenant assigned to a 35-year-old LST in Fokino was a suicide attempt, and not the result of ‘nonregulation relations’ or dedovshchina.  The incident occurred 1 December.  Lieutenant Maksim Kuropatkin was found with a gunshot wound to the head, and he remains in a coma.  Investigators say he shot himself with his service sidearm in the presence of two witnesses.  No criminal case has been initiated.  Their preliminary conclusion is that Kuropatkin suffered a nervous breakdown caused by difficulty adapting to life in the service.

Moskovskiy komsomolets point out the Kuropatkin case is a little special because President Dmitriy Medvedev was the surprise guest of honor at the lieutenant’s wedding in early July.  Medvedev was touring the Far East, and arrived at Birobidzhan’s wedding palace in time to witness three marriages including Kuropatkin’s.  Medvedev wished the lieutenant and his bride a “long happy family life.”  He ordered the governor of the Jewish AO to find apartments for all three couples.  About a month ago, the Kuropatkins got their apartment.

Kuropatkin’s family doesn’t believe his shooting was a suicide attempt.  They say he was always goal-oriented, and aimed for a military career from age 14 (presumably he attended a Nakhimov Naval School).  He graduated from the Pacific Naval Institute late this spring, married, and had been in his first assignment only a couple months.

They also say Kuropatkin recently mentioned the name of a senior officer who often picked on him, and was constantly nagging him to draw up some kind of documents, and when Kuropatkin refused, he said, “Well, that’s it, it’s the end for you.” 

A 24-year-old lieutenant named Ivan Yegorov died in what was also called a suicide aboard Slava-class CG Varyag in mid-November.  MK sums up saying:

“According to the opinion of knowledgeable people, dedovshchina in the officer environment ranges up to physical violence and shootings.”

RIA Novosti also reported a Baltic Fleet suicide this week.  A 23-year-old lieutenant from the Pionerskiy garrison reportedly shot himself in the chest with a Makarov pistol.  He apparently left a note.  The chair of the Kaliningrad Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers said she was completely surprised by this incident, adding that there have never been “any signals” of problems from the unit where this lieutenant served.

Vice-Admiral Chirkov and the Pacific Fleet

Vice-Admiral Chirkov

Baltic Fleet Commander, Vice-Admiral Viktor Chirkov is apparently being tapped to replace Vice-Admiral Konstantin Sidenko in the Pacific Fleet, according to Russian press agencies and a Kommersant source in the Navy Main Staff.  

Sidenko will command the new Eastern Military District and Combined Strategic Command (OSK) East.  Chirkov will be replaced in the Baltic Fleet by his chief of staff, Rear-Admiral Sergey Farkov.  Kommersant’s source calls these changes a ‘normal rotation.’ 

Gzt.ru’s source says the Pacific Fleet is expecting the Chirkov announcement ‘any minute,’ but drawing up the papers, including the President’s decree on the appointment, is ongoing. 

Viktor Viktorovich Chirkov is a surface warfare officer with Pacific Fleet roots.  He was born on 8 September 1959 in Alma-Ata, capital of the former Kazakh SSR.  In 1982, he graduated from the Vladivostok Higher Naval School and became head of the mine-torpedo department on old Riga-class corvette Lun in the Pacific Fleet.  He served as assistant commander of a corvette, then executive officer of Kotlin-class destroyer Vozbuzhdennyy.  

In 1986-1987, Chirkov completed Higher Special Officers’ Classes in Leningrad, and became commander of the infamous Krivak-class frigate Storozhevoy.  Under a mutinous crew, this Soviet Baltic Fleet unit tried, unsuccessfully, to defect in 1975.  Later it transferred to the Pacific Fleet. 

From 1990 to 1993, Chirkov commanded Udaloy-class destroyer Admiral Spirodonov.  He was deputy chief of staff for an ASW ship division, deputy division commander, and commander of an ASW ship division during 1993-1998.  In 1997, he completed the Kuznetsov Naval Academy as a correspondence student.  

After graduating from the Military Academy of the General Staff in 2000, Chirkov served for five years as chief of staff, first deputy commander of Troops and Forces in the North-East on Kamchatka.  In the first years of this assignment, he served under Vice-Admiral Sidenko.  

In 2005-2007, he commanded the Primorskiy Mixed Forces Flotilla.  For the next two years, he was chief of staff, first deputy commander of the Baltic Fleet, and became its commander in September 2009. 

Chirkov is married with two sons. 

A Pacific Fleet staff source told Gzt.ru Chirkov is happily anticipated since he’s an old friend and ‘not an outsider.’  Another calls him a wise and honorable officer who knows his business. 

Vitaliy Shlykov talked to Gzt.ru about the Pacific Fleet’s growing importance: 

“In the Baltic there’s nothing to do, everyone’s friends, allies.  But the Pacific Ocean is the future, it’s necessary to turn all attention there.  And we don’t have enemies there, so there’s time to strengthen this fleet before there’s a confrontation between the U.S. and China.” 

“Of course, given this state of affairs, the significance of the fleet is growing sharply in comparison with Russia’s other fleets.” 

NVO’s Viktor Litovkin notes that Chirkin will be first to command the Pacific Fleet in its new condition of subordination to OSK East.  He thinks the new commander has multiple problems to solve, including obtaining new ships, dismantling old nuclear submarines, and building housing for servicemen.  Chirkin will also have to grapple with getting contract sailors, rather than conscripts, to man his afloat forces for long deployments.

Winter War 2010

The Russian press has noted the 6 March article in leading Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat describing how a Russo-Finnish war might play out in 2010.  With the conveniently provided English, one can read for oneself.  But here’s a capsule version.

The imaginary war scenario begins with a Russian cruise missile strike on the Finnish Broadcasting Company compound.  Under the State of Defense Law, mobilization begins and the Chief of Defense becomes Commander-in-Chief of the Finnish Defense Forces.  Russian fighter aircraft engage Finnish F/A-18 Hornets around Helsinki.  Finnish government entities evacuate to safer locations.  Russia’s motorized offensive presses across the Karelian isthmus, trying to reach the Finnish capital in two days.  The Finns respond with antitank weapons and German-made Leopard tanks.  Russian airborne are dropped in Helsinki to disrupt rear areas; fierce urban warfare ensues. Civilian casualties mount and noncombatants flee for Sweden.  The Russians and Finns are engage each other on the electronic front [but few details are fleshed out].

The war is decided in the air.  Russian air power overwhelms Finland’s 100 combat-capable aircraft.  But it’s no quick victory for Moscow, and the Finns receive lots of international support [it makes them feel much better to be sure].

There’s obviously a lot to question in the conjecture above.

Rossiyskaya gazeta from 19 March indicated that there’s buzz about the article in Russia and Finland, and people mostly want to know why such a ‘provocation’ has been published.  So RG asked the Finnish paper’s editor to comment, and he replied:

“In the last two months we’ve written a lot about the Winter War and its results.  And this article was part of that series of publications.  I want to note that in this material a fictional war scenario is presented.  Its purpose was to show how such a situation would develop if such a conflict broke out like at the start of the Winter War.”

“I’m not prepared to talk about what kind of war scenarios exist in the Finnish military.  This is exclusively their business.  We just published our view of an imaginary war.”

“It’s not possible here to say that we, in any case, wanted somehow to harm the relations of Finns toward Russia with our publication.  I don’t think it’s possible to do this with one article.  Or just the same draw Finland closer to NATO membership.  Therefore I ask you not to find any kind of secret designs in our publication.”

“I want to note that our material cannot be put in the same row with reporting on a Russian attack on Georgia from Georgian television station ‘Imedi.’  The aim of the story of our Caucasian colleagues was to shake up the country’s population.  In our material, we immediately indicated that the published war scenario was completely fictional.”

On 17 March, Argumenty nedeli criticized the author of the war scenario for not explaining why Russia and Finland would end up in a war.  Even in the Cold War, Finland was a better friend to Moscow than some of its socialist allies.

According to Argumenty nedeli’s defense correspondent Yaroslav Vyatkin, Helsinki lived pretty well off trade with the USSR from the 1950s to the 1980s.  But in the 1990s, an anti-Russian mood came over Finnish society.  Finland forgot about its role as bridge between East and West, and reoriented its economy toward the EU.  Some social movements actively agitated for Finland to join NATO.  Vyatkin believes the U.S. has stoked these sentiments in hopes of broadening NATO’s northern flank.

But, according to Vyatkin, Finns who want NATO membership don’t understand that the alliance can’t defend them, whatever it promises.  But he has confidence in the rational and calm Finns to make the right choice when it comes to Russia and NATO.

Then Vyatkin takes a closer look at the article’s military propositions and Finnish forces–about 90 Leopard and 65 T-72 tanks, about 200 BMPs and 800 BTRs.  BUK-M1 air defense systems around Helsinki (which it stopped procuring due to reported unhappiness with their poor resistance to jamming).  Vyatkin says the Finns’ F/A-18s and Hawk trainers would just meet a glorious death in close combat with A-50 controlled Su-27, MiG-29, and MiG-31B fighters. He thinks, though not strong, the Baltic Fleet is more than a match for the Finnish Navy.  However, he acknowledges that only the 138th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade and 76th Airborne-Assault Division are adjacent and immediately available for action against Finland.

Vyatkin tails off by noting that, although brave, and not badly trained and equipped, the Finns lose, but Russians and Finns won’t be fighting anyway.

Vyatkin’s assessment seems a bit overconfident.  Russia’s Genshtab surely wouldn’t be this sure of easily subduing the Finns, especially or hopefully not after what was nearly, in many ways, a debacle against the Georgians in South Ossetia two years ago.

Svobodnaya pressa talked to Leonid Ivashov’s assistant at the ‘Academy of Geopolitical Problems,’ Konstantin Sivkov, about the new Winter War scenario.  Sivkov calls it nonsense, saying it sounds like someone confused Russia with the U.S., since backward Russia’s not capable of such operations. He adds that he really doesn’t want to comment on such stupidity.  Sivkov’s hard-pressed to come up with any conceivable reason why Moscow would want to go to war with Helsinki.  So, he chalks this all, like the ‘Imedi’ incident, up to an effort to cast Russia in the role of an enemy, and to prepare for Western aggression against Moscow.

In early March, Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer published an article on northern Europe and NATO written by a candidate of military sciences, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Rocket and Artillery Sciences and the chief of the scientific-research department of the Defense Ministry’s Military History Institute.  The authors examined the possible negative consequences of Sweden and Finland joining NATO.  They concluded that Finland has been a true military neutral, but domestic political debate and swings in public opinion on joining NATO have become more pronounced since the late 1990s.  Some Finnish leaders have favored NATO, while others have argued for orienting more toward the U.N. or EU instead of joining NATO, which would, in their view, only add to international tension.  The authors note that, despite its formal military neutrality, Helsinki has taken practical steps toward more integration with NATO, including going over to NATO arms standards, conducting joint maneuvers with NATO, and using Partnership for Peace to promote military compatibility.

Regarding the ‘Atlanticization’ of northern Europe, they conclude that the region’s military-political configuration and balance of forces would change radically if Sweden and Finland joined NATO.  For Moscow, they recommend not only following the situation closely, but adopting a more clearly ‘multivariate and weighted’ line in relation to these countries.  It is noted that, even if they joined NATO, they might not agree to host foreign troops.

Finally, the authors say that Finnish military policy could have particular significance for northern European security in coming years.