Sunday, September 08, 2013

Troubled Waters -- Eastern Med/Syria Crisis Deepens

There is a lot of military hardware either sailing to or in the Eastern Med right now. MilcomMP has been going over all the reports and here is what we have been able to gleam from them.

Russian Destroyer Nastoychivy 610 (Photo by  CDR JAMIE MORRISON, USN 2005)

Russia is sending two destroyers, including the Nastoychivy, the flagship of the Baltic Fleet, and the Moskva missile cruiser (the Black Fleet flagship) to the region, according to an Interfax report, citing an unidentified Navy official.

The Moskva, set to arrive in a little over a week’s time, will take over operations from a naval unit in the region.

"The plans of the naval unit under the command of Rear Admiral Valery Kulikov had to be changed a little. Instead of visiting a Cape Verde port, the cruiser Moskva is heading to the Strait of Gibraltar. In about ten days, it will enter the eastern Mediterranean, where it will replace the destroyer Admiral Panteleyev as the flagship of the operative junction of the Russian Navy," a source told Interfax on Wednesday.

Panteleyev incidentally, only arrived in the east Mediterranean Sea on Wednesday after leaving the Far-Eastern port city of Vladivostok on March 19 to join the Russian standing naval force as its flagship.

Russian Missile Cruiser Moskva, flagship of the Black Sea fleet

That follows last week’s dispatch of a reconnaissance ship to the eastern Mediterranean, four days after the deployment of an anti-submarine ship and a missile cruiser to the area, which were reported by Interfax. Syria hosts Russia’s only military facility outside the former Soviet Union, at the port of Tartus.

Kashin Class Destroyer Smetlivy in the Red Sea

Two days ago the RIA-Novosti agency said two ships from Russia's Black Sea Fleet, the frigate Smetlivy would leave for the Mediterranean on September 12-14, and the corvette Shtil and missile boat Ivanovets would approach Syria at the end of the month. RIA is also reporting that the landing ship Nikolai Filchenkov is heading for the Eastern Med. There is an interesting article at on the mission of the Nikolai Filchenkov going to Syria.

Russian Landing Ship Nikolai Filchenkov

According to AFP, three ships from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet sailed through Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait on Thursday Sep 6: the SSV-201 intelligence-gathering ship Priazovye, and the landing ships Minsk and Novocherkassk.

Russian Intel Gathering Ship Priazovye SSV-201

So let's see what we have here, if all of these reports are all accurate: RFS Nastoychivy 610, the flagship of the Baltic Fleet, the Moskva missile cruiser, the frigate Smetlivy, the SSV-201 intelligence-gathering ship Priazovye, the landing ship Minsk, the landing ship Novocherkassk, the landing ship Nikolai Filchenkov, the corvette Shtil, the missile boat Ivanovets, and probably some unknown number of Russian submarines that hang around their high value units like Moskva.

Russian Land Ship Minsk

Russian Landing Ship Novocherkassk

Russia is temporarily bolstering its naval presence in the region to improve its surveillance capability over U.S. ships and submarines deployed in the area and to ensure security for Russian citizens residing in Syria, according to a Russian official who asked not to be named, citing government policy.

According to the Russian news outlet, the People’s Liberation Army dispatched the Jinggangshan amphibious dock landing ship and the vessel was seen passing through the Red Sea towards the Suez Canal, the waterway in Egypt that leads to the Mediterranean Sea and waters off the coast of Israel, Lebanon and Syria.
Chinese Jinggangshan Amphibious Dock Landing Ship
According to the report, the ship has not been sent to engage in any aggressive actions but is merely there to “observe” the actions of Russian and US warships. However, the Jinggangshan is equipped for combat, has conventional armaments and secondary cannons, and was utilized as part of a “show of force” in maneuvers aimed at defending the South China Sea earlier this year.
The report states that additional PLA warships have also been sent to the region but that their identity is unknown.

Five U.S. Arleigh Burke destroyers (USS Ramage, USS Mahan, USS Gravely, USS Barry and the USS Stout, which may be relieving the Mahan) and an amphibious ship USS San Antonio are currently positioned in the eastern Mediterranean awaiting strike orders from DoD.

The USS San Antonio, with several helicopters and hundreds of Marines on board, is “on station in the Eastern Mediterranean” but “has received no specific tasking,” a defense official told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.

The USS Nimitz and three other warships from its Carrier Strike Group are also stationed in the nearby Red Sea. The other ships in the strike group are the cruiser USS Princeton and the destroyers USS William P. Lawrence, USS Stockdale and USS Shoup.

A US military official said the carrier strike group has not been assigned a mission, but was shifted in the event its resources are needed to “maximize available options.”
The USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier and strike group is also in the northern Arabian Sea.

Another media report on naval assets in the area can be found at

That is probably the most fire power concentrated in that area of the world since the end of the Cold War.