Thursday, March 24, 2022

Scratch One Russian Navy Alligator LST

No one really knows for sure what caused the explosion this AM on the Russian Navy's 54-yr old Alligator Class LST Orsk in the Port of Berdyansk. What we do know was the accident/attack was livestreamed.

This video captures it best.

Just as a professional side note: BZ to the crews of the two Ropucha Class LSD for getting underway and out of the way - both of which seems to have fires of their own to fight.

What we do know is that the Russians liked to store a lot of things on the deck of an Alligator, as you can see in this pic of the Orsk's sister ship Saratov going through the Dardanelles. 

In this still, it appears that the explosion took place on or under the after portion of the deck storage area.

I'm not sure how long it takes to unload those ships, but the Russians put out this video two days ago showing the unload going rather well with most of the gear already gone;
There was, and continues to be, a lot of speculation as to the cause of this incident being some kind of attack by the Ukrainians via one of their few remaining SRBM or other weapons.  I have no more information than anyone else, but that isn't my bet. 

Heck, some are even blaming the video above as some PAO mistake in giving targeting data, etc. No. 

Everyone knew the ship was there and the unloading areas of the pier are easy to enter in to any precision targeting software from a paper map even decades old as they DON'T MOVE and thousands of people can see what is there from their apartment balcony.

No, my bet is - like the burning of our large-deck amphib the Bonnie Dick in San Diego almost two years ago - this was not caused by an attack. Probably an accident or something else internal to the ship. Perhaps sabotage, but that is low probability as well.

That being said, I had a flash of SRBM theory of my own when I first saw this ... and it brought to mind one of the nightmares LTjg Salamander had to ponder one day a bit over 31-yrs ago.

31-yrs is a long time in weapons development. Even in 1991, the Iraqis were using old Soviet Scud kit ... and yet they knew where the ports were that we were using; which piers we would use, etc. Again, they don't move. Anyone can see them.

Even in 1991 with old kit and ... well ... the Iraqi army ... they got close;
c.  February 16th Attack on Al Jubayl (Event 7 in Table 3)

Iraq fired a single Scud at the port city of Al Jubayl early on February 16th.[75] The Patriot battery positioned to defend Al Jubayl was undergoing maintenance at the time and could not engage the Scud.[76] The incoming missile broke up in flight over the harbor and hit in the water just off a large pier where six ships and two smaller craft were tied up. The missile’s impact also was about 500 feet from ammunition storage on the pier.[77] Figure 4 displays a map of the harbor showing the impact location.

Well in to the 3rd decade of the 21st Century we need to realize - regardless to what happened to the Orsk - that fixed ports are as vulnerable as fixed airfields to conventional ballistic missiles tipped with modern multi-spectral seeker-heads and other precision guidance that may or may not require external sources. These warheads are - how can I put this on this net - not dumb.

Especially west of Wake, deep in to our operational rear during a war in the western Pacific, our fixed ports, airfields, repair depots, storage areas, magazines - command locations - you name it - are all well within range of the PRC's rocket force's thousands of S/M/I/RMBs.

How can we mitigate that? Are we taking steps to mitigate that? Do we have enough BMD defenses? Do we have enough alternative places to keep the fight going?

Of course, as regular readers of CDRSalamander, you know the answers to these questions. What you need to ask yourself is why are you letting your government and your Navy continue to act like they don't exist in the reality we have?

UPDATE: Looks like the possibility that we are looking at a successful SS-21 attack by the Ukrainians after all. They have a limited supply, so carefully chosen target. From five days ago, the Russians themselves reported on a SS-21 attack on what seems to be the same pier;
There is also this video from the other side of the port from the first video above that seems to show cluster munitions and a booster falling. If this video holds, the question is; do the Ukrainian SS-21's have the option to have the 9H123K warhead installed with its 50-cluster munitions released at 2,250m?

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