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Forbes: NATO will lose the ‘naval battle’ against Russia in the Black Sea

This post was published in Free Press. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.

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MOSCOW, (BM) – This year, the wake jets of NATO ships in the Black Sea crossed several times. The most ambitious naval exercises, Sea Breeze-2020, took place here in July, and more recently, another one, in which the American destroyer Donald Cook and the alliance’s aviation, took part. The maneuvers of NATO warships, mostly near the Russian Crimea’s shores, served as an occasion for analysts at RAND Corp (a non-profit organization that serves as a strategic research center) to simulate the situation and see what happens.

According to Forbes, American experts have created a board game in which countries claiming supremacy in the Black Sea became the main characters. The conclusion was disappointing, primarily for the United States itself and its partners – Russia will destroy any NATO coalition in the Black Sea region. As a result of this “sea battle” game, it turned out that it would not be possible to defeat Russia here under any scenario, even if the United States decided to cooperate with other countries in the region – Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine, and Georgia.

Analysts at the American center said that Russia could maintain control over the Black Sea waters without even entering into military or political conflicts with the rest of the participants or the alliance between them. It is enough to use psychological attacks, cyber operations, and information strikes against potential adversaries.

Experts believe that “a lot will depend on Russia itself since in such confrontations it will have to walk on the razor’s edge.” For example, Russia can win Turkey over to its side by offering deeper military cooperation on Syria and Bulgaria, which will be enough to make an attractive discount on gas. According to RAND Corp, the Ukrainian ambitions can be dispelled to smithereens by completely blocking the Kerch Strait.

However, all this is only on paper and in theoretical fabrications, but what is there in reality? What are each of the Black Sea basin countries’ strengths and capabilities that run on water and depth?

It is no coincidence that the Black Sea Fleet (BSF) of the Russian Navy causes NATO to gnash its teeth – today, it is the largest and most powerful region. Also, it is continually replenishing with new warships and submarines. The flagship of the Black Sea Fleet is the missile cruiser Moskva (Project 1184 Atlant). This ship, which launched in 1982, has undergone several upgrades and is still a formidable force. From the “oldies” can be called the patrol ships of the project 1135 “Burevestnik” – “Pytlivy” and “Ladny” (the latter is under repair).

The modern power of the Black Sea Fleet is the frigates of the “admiral’s line” (project 11356R “Burevestnik”), which entered service in 2016-2017. These are “Admiral Grigorovich,” “Admiral Essen,” and “Admiral Makarov,” armed with cruise missiles “Caliber.” Next year, this “strike fist” will replenish the corvette “Zealous” (project 20380 of the “Guarding” type), which launched in 2020. Its armament includes complexes of a strike, anti-aircraft and anti-submarine weapons, combat control systems, detection, target designation, communications, and protection. All these ships have a hangar and a platform for the Ka-27 helicopter.

The armament of ships of the project 20380 includes complexes of shock, anti-aircraft and anti-submarine weapons, combat control systems, detection, target designation, communications, and protection.

Small missile ships on the Black Sea Fleet are representing by projects 1239 “Sivuch” – MRK “Bora” and “Samum,” project 21631 “Buyan-M” – MRC “Vyshny Volochok,” “Orekhovo-Zuevo” and “Ingushetia,” and “Graivoron” is undergoing state tests. On the way is also the RTOs of project 22800 “Karakurt” – “Cyclone,” “Askold,” and “Amur.” These ships can be called small because of their small width, height, and draft, which allows them to be transferred from the Black Sea to the Caspian and Baltic Seas along the internal waterways. But in terms of armament, these “kids” are very biting, including due to the presence of “Calibers” on board.

The Black Sea Fleet also has Project 1241 Molniya-1-5 missile boats in the 295th Sulinsky Division. Small anti-submarine ships of project 1124 M “Albatros / -M” – 6 units in the 68th brigade to protect the water area (city, Sevastopol).

Minesweepers of the project 266-M “Aquamarine-M” (3 units) and the basic minesweepers of the “Alexandrite” project (3 units) are also there. The 184th brigade for the protection of the water area of ​​the Novorossiysk base of the Black Sea Fleet is also representing by the IPC – minesweepers, and other ships, among them the latest patrol ships of the project 22160 type “Vasily Bykov” – 3 in service and three more in varying degrees of readiness).

The submarine forces of the Black Sea Fleet are representing by modern submarines of project 636.3 “Varshavyanka” – “Novorossiysk,” “Rostov-on-Don,” “Stary Oskol,” “Krasnodar,” “Veliky Novgorod” and “Kolpino.” These diesel-electric submarines have a low noise level and can attack enemy ships at long range using anti-ship cruise missiles. There is also an older submarine of project 877 “Halibut” – “Alrosa” (in service since 1990), but it is now undergoing repairs and modernization.

This is far from the complete composition of the forces and means of the Black Sea Fleet, among which one can recall, for example, the BDK – large landing ships, of which there are seven units in service. Many of them take part in the “Syrian Express” – they deliver goods and weapons for the Russian Aerospace Forces group in Syria. However, the above is enough to assess the Black Sea Fleet’s power, which has a large “gentleman” set to lay siege to any enemy. This is without mentioning aviation, air defense and electronic warfare systems, coastal missiles, and artillery systems, representing a formidable force.

As a digression, it can be mentioned that this was not always the Black Sea Fleet state. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fleet began to fall apart.

“We were left without one of the most combat fleets of the Soviet Union – the Black Sea Fleet,” says ex-commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Vladimir Komoedov. – Most of the ships were on fire, cruisers and submarines became problematic, naval aviation lost its strength. Everything seemed that there was no more fleet, and we lost the battle for the Black Sea.

Against this background, of course, the Turkish combat fleet took the leading position. And every call of the American destroyer was perceived as a mockery – they moored with the master’s role even in Sevastopol, went where they wanted, examined what they wanted. Fortunately, the situation has changed – the Black Sea Fleet has received the most powerful weapons. We do not consider the legendary missile cruiser Moscow; this is already the outgoing era of warships. The fleet has replenished with modern frigates and submarines – a feared, respected force, which, of course, needs to be demonstrated.

The second most important in the Black Sea, indeed, can be called the Turkish Navy – the Ankara fleet at one time even outstripped the Russian Navy.

The Turkish naval forces represent obsolete submarines of the Atylai type – 6 units, the Previse type – 4 units, and the Gyur type – 4 units. Note that this is the total number of submarines used in the Black and the Mediterranean. We can assume that most Turkish submarines “graze” now just off Greece and Cyprus, not the Russian Crimea.

The surface forces of the Turkish Navy are representing by frigates of the Yavuz type – 4 units, of the Barbarossa type – also 4, the former US frigates of the G type – 8 ships. URO corvettes are former French ships of type B. Own corvettes of type “Ada” (“Milgram”) are represented by four ships; the last of them, TCG Kinaliada, entered service in September 2019. Let us repeat that these are all the Turkish fleet forces, and there are not so many of them in the Black Sea.

Other “players” in the Black Sea may not even be taken into serious consideration. The navies of Romania and Bulgaria are significantly inferior to both the Turkish fleet and, to a large extent, the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation, both in the number of warships (there are no operational submarines at all) and in the degree of their combat readiness. As a naval power, Georgia can not be considered; now, Ukraine’s naval forces are in the same deplorable state.

Ukraine does not have a fleet as such; this is obvious. Neither military nor civilian. For example, the Black Sea Shipping Company, which had 227 ships until 1991, has now shrunk to a single boat. The Navy’s situation is no better – the flagship Hetman Sagaidachny is a former Soviet border patrol. Since 2005, the Nikolaev shipyards have been building (or instead, not building) the first Ukrainian corvette, “Vladimir the Great”; the ship’s readiness does not even reach 50 percent.

The cruiser “Ukraine,” almost ready, could not be completed due to a lack of funding. The former commander of the Ukrainian Navy, Vice-Admiral Igor Voronchenko, said a year ago that a “point of no return threatens military shipbuilding.”

In general, the United States can’t rely mostly on allies in the Black Sea. And playing “sea battle” with Russia here is dangerous for the United States itself. Nevertheless, Washington regularly dispatches its warships here to keep Moscow in good shape.

“The United States has long shown an increased interest in the Black Sea, considering it for some reason a zone of interests of its national security,” says Leonid Ivashov, president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems. – It is clear that this is primarily due to Russia, the leading player in the region. With the return of Crimea, it got the opportunity to place weapons there, with which it can control both the sea area and the coastal countries where the United States plans to deploy its weapons.

Back in 2015, the Americans defined a strategy for controlling the Black Sea, but they do not know how to handle the situation here. They have lost many positions, including due to the impossibility of establishing military bases in Crimea, as planned. An ally in Turkey’s person has already been lost, which can banally ban the passage of American ships through the straits in the event of an armed conflict. Ankara has such a right under the Montreux Convention.

In general, everything is quite visible who is the mistress in the Black Sea and who is a stray guest performer, a rogue without the right of registration.

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