Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Russian naval squadrons meet in Atlantic

Another long voyage of the Russian Navy’s large unit of warships and auxiliary vessels has made the world press burst with lines like «Russians are heading for Syria». Meanwhile, it is at the same time easier and more complicated to explain this new fit of activity. (Russian Navy. Photo: RIA Novosti)

Editors Note: According to the Voice of Russia website naval squadrons of Russia’s Northern and Baltic Fleets have met in the North Atlantic. The Russian Defence Ministry points out that the two will merge into one group under a single command by Tuesday night. The article below from the Voice of Russia is pretty much a denial that any Russian Navy ops are aimed at Syria and their base at Tartus.

Article Link: http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_07_13/Russian-Navy-long-voyage-high-time-to-get-used/

Long voyages once used to be a standard routine of the USSR Navy. Dozens of warships and auxiliary vessels and submarines carrying military service in the specified areas were constantly present in the Atlantic, Mediterranean Sea, Indian and Pacific Oceans; they were either directing to these areas, or returning to their bases. As for its activity in the world ocean, the Soviet Navy yielded just a little to its main rival - the U.S. Navy; beginning with the mid 60-ies it was considered a permanent factor of strength in the world ocean.

The main forces of the USSR Navy in the open ocean were concentrated in four operational squadrons: the 5th squadron was located in the Mediterranean Sea, the 7th - in the Atlantics, the 8th - in the Indian Ocean, including the Persian Gulf, and the 10th - in the Pacific Ocean. At the same time, except for the 10th squadron at 100% consisting of the Pacific Fleet, the rest squadrons consisted of the forces and means of several fleets simultaneously. The 7th squadron mainly consisted of the ships of the Northern Fleet with the support of the Baltic and Black Sea Fleets; the 5th squadron included ships of all three of the USSR European Fleets in approximately equal proportions; the base of the 8th squadron located in the Indian Ocean consisted of the Pacific Fleet ships, but from time to time it was supplemented with units from the Black Sea and Northern Fleets.

This practice of constant combat service of the Navy’s inter-fleet units, made it possible to maintain combat readiness of the fleet enabling cooperation between command structures, crews and auxiliary forces.

Today the reality has radically changed. After many years of forced inactivity and a significant reduction of forces, the appearance of more or less large units of ships under the Russian flag in the ocean causes surprise, and sometimes even an obvious irritation. However, if only Russia really intends to become a maritime power once again, it will have to change this reality. The Russian Navy should bring constant voyages and, subsequently, its permanent presence in the areas of vital interests back into its practice.

A Russian squadron is going to carry out exercises in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Sea. At different times the squadron will consist of 10 - 19 warships and auxiliary vessels, not counting submarines, the exact number of which is not named yet. As far as Syria is concerned, the presence of landing ships (from three to five depending on the situation) is worth noting, which theoretically can be used both for delivering reinforcement units to the Russian Tartus base, and for evacuating Russian personnel and equipment from there. Nothing is said about the intentions of the Navy, but it is clear that evacuation of the Tartus base is out of question. It is also unlikely that its possible reinforcement is at question, at least an open one.

Most likely the main task of the Navy is another “demonstration of the flag” in the troubled region, with a view of preventing interference in the Syrian events from the outside.

For the most part, the ships involved in the war games are of a rather respectable age, and in the next 10-15 years, most of them will be scrapped. Their successors are already being built - frigates and corvettes of the new generation, landing ships of the Mistral type, new domestic large landing ships of the project 11711, and so on. Meanwhile, the main condition of a combat-ready fleet is the availability of well-trained crews and staffs. Such training can be achieved only during permanent long voyages of single ships and units, under conditions of constant war games and actual military operations. From among the domestic fleet’s actual military operations of the last years, a permanent presence of a small detachment of ships in the Horn of Africa is worth noting. As a rule, the detachment consists of a guard-ship or a large anti-submarine ship, accompanied by one or two auxiliary vessels.

Frequent ocean voyages of Russian ships allow us to hope that by the time it is possible to form a unit of the newly constructed ships Russia will have enough skilled sailors in order to perform active service and fulfill all possible tasks.

Foreign politicians and press will have to get used to the Russian Navy as the constantly active factor of world politics once again, but it is their personal business.