Russia hides its Admiral Essen warship through deceptive camouflage

In an audacious game of maritime hide-and-seek, the Russian Navy is innovating to safeguard its prized warship from potential Ukrainian attacks. The frigate Admiral Essen, a jewel in Russia’s naval crown, now sports a cunning camouflage pattern. The aim? To bamboozle Ukrainian drone operators and make them second-guess their intended target. The effectiveness of this intriguing strategy remains to be seen. 

Russia hides its Admiral Essen warship through deceptive camouflage
Photo credit: Russian MoD

Imagine peering through the lens of a satellite and spotting the Black Sea’s most formidable beast, the Russian Navy’s Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate, but with a twist. Its bow and stern are now veiled in an enigmatic dark paint, a stark contrast to its conventional uniform gray scheme. This cunning makeover isn’t just for aesthetics, but a calculated move designed to bewilder the unsuspecting eye. 

So, what’s the motive behind this dramatic change? The answer lies in the looming threat of the Ukrainian Navy’s maritime drones. These flying spies employ high-tech cameras to pinpoint their targets. The Russian Navy’s new disguise, then, is a strategic attempt to bluff these drone operators, leading them to mistake this formidable warship for a less significant target.

Russia hides its Admiral Essen warship through deceptive camouflage
Screenshot Naval News/H I Sutton

Stunning satellite images

Russia hides its Admiral Essen warship through deceptive camouflage
Screenshot Naval News/H I Sutton

Stunning satellite images from Planet have made their way to the web, courtesy of Ukraine war enthusiast MT Anderson. On June 19, crisp snapshots of a certain ship in Sevastopol surfaced, only for the same vessel to make a cameo in Novorossiysk just a couple days later, on June 21. Naval News, along with other credible sources, has verified that the vessel’s intriguing dark markings are indeed a novel paint job, not some clever play of shadows. They’re certain that the ship’s bow and stern have been deliberately disguised with paint. 

Naval history buffs are bound to get a kick out of this! It’s a scheme reminiscent of one not seen in decades, harking back to the strategies of World War Two’s Kriegsmarine. They famously applied a similar guise to the battleship K.M.S. Bismarck, melding elements of both deceptive and disruptive camouflage. Relevant to our tale is the deceptive part: a fraudulent bow and stern, painted in a dark hue to throw off observers. They even went as far as to paint a faux bow wave and wake, all to create an illusion of a shorter hull. It was a ploy designed to baffle the observer about the ship’s size and, consequently, its identity.

Threats

Acting as the linchpin in Russia’s onslaught on Ukraine, the Project 11356P Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates are a force to be reckoned with. Each ship can flex its muscles by deploying 8 Kalibr land attack cruise missiles, a formidable equivalent to America’s Tomahawk. These missiles often find their mark deep within Ukraine’s borders. With these frigates being the Black Sea Fleet’s crown jewels and their flagship since the cruiser Moskva was sent to a watery grave last April, they are the coveted trophy for anyone planning a sequel to the Moskva sinking. 

Russia hit the plant producing the missiles that sunk cruiser Moscow
Photo credit: The Moscow Times

Despite bolstering their defenses, Ukraine’s maritime drones, known as USVs, have managed to infiltrate Sevastopol Harbor time and again. These diminutive vessels, armed to the teeth with a hefty warhead, are a genuine menace. However, their potential for inflicting substantial damage has not yet been fully realized. 

The human operator uses the camera to identify targets during the attacks. Therefore, any deception that hinders their ability to find the most important target is valued by the Russians.

Modern Warfare

The 2022 Russian invasion saw the surprising use of an old tactic. Early into the conflict, the Russian Navy started hiding hull numbers on their Black Sea ships. This may seem obsolete but it is a practical strategy to obstruct ship identification. 

Russia hides its Admiral Essen warship through deceptive camouflage
Photo credit: Russian MoD

Despite these attempts at subterfuge, keen-eyed satellite imagery hints that the freshly camouflaged Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate is none other than Admiral Essen. This ship is set apart by the lighter hue of its Pozitiv-M radar dome. Its sibling vessel, the Admiral Makarov, stationed in Sevastopol, boasts a radome that seamlessly blends with the rest of the ship’s gray facade. 

The efficacy of this new camouflage is up for discussion. From the Russian Navy’s viewpoint, any disguise is better than none. It’s not implausible that other vintage camouflage patterns, such as dazzle, may resurface as long as drones continue to rely on visual targeting. One thing is clear: the Russian Navy is taking the threat of maritime drones seriously, despite their apparent invulnerability thus far.

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