Tuesday, October 06, 2015

два, если они приходят с моря

I think it is safe to say that everyone has caught up with us keeping an eye on Russia. From Crimea through eastern Ukraine we have seen a more assertive Russia on the ground, using an impressive economy of force to gain both influence and attention.

With her deployments to Syria the last few weeks, we have seen her stretch her airforce as well ... and we will see even more of her special forces and "little green men" wearing perhaps a bit more tan.

The next step - what is her navy going to do? Via Sam over at USNINews, we have the latest,
A Black Sea-based Russian surface action group scrambled to the Eastern Mediterranean —under the guise of drilling in the region — are likely there to provide an air defense bubble to protect Russian fighters striking targets in Syria, according to a Russian press report. 
In the last three weeks, several surface combatants have departed the Russian Black Sea headquarters in Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula for the Mediterranean for an announced series of anti-ship and anti-air drills.

At the time the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) denied the drills had any connection to the Russian build-up of forces in Syria but reports from independent Russian news wire service Interfax-AVN quoted a military source on Friday saying the exercise was to, “test the efficiency of the system protecting the air base near Latakia from air strikes.” ... Guided missile cruiser and Black Sea flagship Moscow (or Moskva), Krivak-class guided missile frigates Ladny, Pytlivy and Kashin-class frigate (sic) Smetlivy “ ...
Yes, I know. Reads like a Reagan-era RECCE quiz.

Besides making sure the Russian navy gets it facetime - what is going on? What is the Russian game at sea? What are their capabilities?

Last week, CAPT Sean Liedman, USN - our latest Navy-type military fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, provided a little nudge, Vladimir Putin’s Naval Ambitions Have Only Begun;
The Maritime Doctrine of Russian Federation 2020 leads off with the provocative phrase: “Historically, Russia—the leading maritime power…” and goes on to divide Russian naval policy between six regions: the Atlantic, Arctic, Antarctic, Caspian, Indian Ocean, and Pacific. Upon release of the Maritime Doctrine in July, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly that “…the Atlantic has been emphasized because of NATO expansion, the need to integrate Crimea and the Sevastopol naval base into the Russian economy, and to re-establish a permanent Russian Navy presence in the Mediterranean.”

That last phrase (“…to re-establish a permanent Russian Navy presence in the Mediterranean”) serves as a clear signal of one of the principal policy objectives of Russian military forces to Syria last week—the preservation of Russian naval access to the Syrian ports of Tartus and Latakia.
One shouldn't think they will let the Russian Army claim credit for that ... much less the Russian Air Force? No. They want to make sure they are off shore and in port.

The Russians cannot do all that much but presence ops for now, but they are not thinking in FY, POM, or election cycles. They have a plan to catch up and get back where they need to be. They will do what they can with what they have left as they rebuild; a 35-yr old cruiser, two 36-yr old frigates, and a 46-yr old destroyer.


I would also offer to you that you should take some time to listen to our friend Dmitry Gorenburg. First from earlier this year at WarOnTheRocks;
The Russian Navy is investing in a time-phased recapitalization of its navy over the next 20 years. Submarines are the first phase, already well under way, followed by smaller surface combatants, then increased amphibious capabilities. The navy is letting recapitalization of cruisers and destroyers slip into the next decade. As such, the availability of large combat ships will decrease in the near term but begin to increase in the medium to long term.
As for the conventional naval force, the Russian Navy has decided (quite rationally) to focus on rebuilding its coastal defense mission first and foremost. It is building a fair number of highly capable smaller ships in the current rearmament program (i.e. through 2020) that will allow it to fully carry out this mission. The corollary of this choice is that building capabilities for the blue water/expeditionary mission has taken a back seat for now. This means that over the next five to ten years, the ability of the Russian Navy to deploy on long range missions will decline somewhat, as the remaining Soviet-era large ships age and become less reliable (with some perhaps being retired). But this is a short-term problem for them. In the medium to long term, the Russian Navy is going to rebuild that capability, with new destroyers currently being designed and expected to start entering the fleet around 2025. It is also planning to build new amphibious ships to increase that capability, also by the middle of the next decade. And there’s a current ongoing debate about building new aircraft carriers, though the first would not be ready until 2030 at the absolute earliest.

So rather than facing imminent collapse, the Russian Navy is going to continue to grow, but primarily with smaller ships coming in the short term, and larger ships entering the fleet no earlier than eight to ten years from now. What’s more, the new small ships will be well-armed, carrying the latest Oniks anti-ship missiles and Kalibr multi-purpose missiles, both of which can both be fired through universal vertical launch systems.
Secondly, if you have some work you need to pretend to do, put your headset on or have this going on in the background - from this July at the Wilson Center in a panel discussion on Russia's Naval Power in the 21st Century .

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