Russia is building a Lake Ladoga fleet to counter Finland and Sweden

Russian authorities are planning to establish a compact, state-run naval base in the inland regions. Citing a direct response to NATO’s expansion, Russian news outlet, Izvestia, reports that Lake Ladoga could potentially be turned into a launch pad for diminutive missile ships. 

Sources within the military department reveal to “Izvestia” that the Ministry of Defense has tirelessly undertaken intricate research work to determine the feasibility of docking ships and pursuing military operations in these waters. 

Based on the drawn conclusions after conducting months’ worth of extensive research, it was discerned that a cluster of diminutive missile ships could effectively operate on Lake Ladoga. Industry specialists argue that such a move would serve as an appropriate counter-measure to NATO’s northwestward expansion. It’s suggested that from this location, the small vessels could monitor activities in Finland, Sweden, and Estonia effectively.

Russia is building a Lake Ladoga fleet to counter Finland and Sweden
Photo by Alexander Polegenko

Finland and Sweden are the reason

Military historian Dmitry Boltenkov has considered Finland and Sweden joining NATO a valid cause for a military-technical response, remarking to Izvestia, “Lake Ladoga is rather expansive, playing host to the Ladoga flotilla during the Great Patriotic War and acting as a station for various forces post-war. It seems practical to utilize the Bujans and Karakurts to target NATO, especially considering the lesser familiarity of alliance intelligence with this region compared to Baltic bases.” 

The “Karakurt”, envisaged as the most prolific assault ship project for the Russian Navy, currently counts the “Mytishti”, “Sovetsk” and “Odintsovo” as part of the fleet. In total, there are plans to construct 18 of these vessels. 

Russian Navy received a Zyklon warship armed with the Pantsir-M
Photo credit:

The Buyan-M project’s small missile ships are compact vessels with a displacement of 850 tons, originally designed to protect Russia’s maritime economic zone. 

Nevertheless, their purpose has been redefined. At present, ten of these ships are in service, divided between the Baltic Fleet and the Caspian Fleet with three each, and four assigned to the Black Sea.

About Lake Ladoga

Lake Ladoga, a freshwater lake nestled in the Republic of Karelia and Leningrad Oblast in northwestern Russia near Saint Petersburg, stands as the largest entirely in Europe.

It follows Lake Baikal in size within Russia’s borders and is globally recognized as the 14th largest freshwater body by area. The lake can be favorably compared to Lake Ontario in size. Interestingly, a methane lake on Saturn’s moon, Titan, known as Ladoga Lacus, is named after this lake.

Brimming with an average surface area of 17,700 sq km, excluding its islands, Lake Ladoga exceeds the size of Kuwait. It stretches 219 km from north to south and its average width extends up to 83 km; while the average depth measures 47 m, some spots in the northwestern section reach 230 m deep.

The basin area measures 276,000 sq km and the volume is 837 cubic km, previously estimated to be around 908 cubic km. Approximately 660 islands dot the lake, with a combined area of 435 sq km. On average, Ladoga sits 5 m above sea level. Among these islands, the famed Valaam archipelago, Kilpola, and Konevets are predominantly located in the lake’s northwest sector.

Volga–Baltic Waterway

The Karelian Isthmus separates it from the Baltic Sea, and it empties into the Gulf of Finland via the Neva River. Lake Ladoga is a part of the navigable Volga–Baltic Waterway that connects the Baltic Sea with the Volga River. The southern section of the lake is bypassed by the Ladoga Canal, creating a direct link between the Neva and the Svir.

Russia puts Resurs anti-aircraft weapon on Project 22160 warships
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The encompassing Lake Ladoga basin incorporates approximately 50,000 other lakes and 3,500 rivers that are more than 10 km long. Interestingly, 85% of the water making its way into Ladoga is attributed to these tributaries, with 13% from precipitation and a minor 2% credited to subterranean waters.

In the range of Russian missiles

If Russia were to deploy small missile ships in Lake Ladoga, it is important to note that Lake Ladoga is located in northwestern Russia, close to the borders of Estonia, Finland, and Sweden.

In terms of Russian cruise missiles that could potentially reach Tallinn, Helsinki, and Stockholm, the most likely candidates would be the Kalibr and the Oniks missiles.

Russia upgrades the 3M-54 Kalibr missile for better combat use
Photo: Russian MoD

The Kalibr missile, also known as the SS-N-30 by NATO, has a range of approximately 1,500 kilometers. This means that if deployed in Lake Ladoga, it could potentially reach all three cities.

The Oniks missile, also known as the Yakhont by NATO, has a range of around 300 kilometers. While it may not be able to directly reach Stockholm, it could certainly reach Tallinn and Helsinki.

Kh-101 and Kh-35

In addition to the Kalibr and Oniks missiles, it is worth mentioning that Russia also possesses other cruise missiles that could potentially be deployed in Lake Ladoga.

Russian Kh-101 stealth attack cruise missile use 35 US-made chips
Photo: Missile Threat

One such missile is the Kh-101, which has a range of around 4,500 kilometers. Although this missile is primarily designed for long-range strikes, it could potentially reach Tallinn, Helsinki, and Stockholm if launched from Lake Ladoga.

Another missile to consider is the Kh-35, which has a range of approximately 130 kilometers. While it may not have the range to directly reach Stockholm, it could certainly reach Tallinn and Helsinki.

Geopolitical implications

It is important to emphasize that the deployment of small missile ships in Lake Ladoga would have significant geopolitical implications. Such a move would increase Russia’s military presence in the region and potentially raise tensions with neighboring countries.

The ability of Russian cruise missiles to reach Tallinn, Helsinki, and Stockholm from Lake Ladoga underscores the strategic importance of these cities and the potential impact of any military actions in the area.


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