Friday, September 13, 2013

Russia is continuing to increase the sized of its naval task force of the Syrian coast

That is interesting.  The US appears to have accepted Putin's "Russian Gambit", Kerry and Lavrov are reported to be immersed in complex technical discussions, the risks of war seem to be averted, and yet the Russian Navy is continuing to strengthen its task force off the Syrian coast.  According to Russian sources the following ships are being sent to reinforce the task force:

Large amphibious assault ship Nikolai Filchenkov

Guard ship (destroyer) Smetlivyi

Admiral Chirkov
When asked about these reinforcements, the Commander in Chief of the Russian Navy, Admiral Chirkov, declared that "Russian naval presence in this region will grow until it reaches a level which will make it possible to prevent even a suggestion of a threat against the borders or security of the state.  He did not specify *which* state he had in mind.

I am trying to make sense of the often contradictory information given by different Russian sources and the picture that I get is that the following Russian Navy ships have either already joined the Russian naval task force of the Syrian coast or will join it very soon:
  1. The heavy amphibious assault ship Peresvet
  2. The heavy amphibious assault ship Admiral Nevelskoi
  3. The heavy amphibious assault ship Minsk
  4. The heavy amphibious assault ship Novocherkassk
  5. The heavy amphibious assault ship Aleksandr Shabalin
  6. The heavy amphibious assault ship Nikolai Filchenkov
  7. The large anti-submarine ship Admiral Panteleev
  8. The large anti-submarine ship Kerch
  9. The large anti-submarine ship Smetlivyi
  10. The guard ship (destroyer) Neustrashimyi
  11. The heavy missile cruiser Moskva
  12. The heavy missile cruiser Variag (unconfirmed)
  13. The medium intelligence ship Priazovie
Contrary to what it had initially announced, the Russian Navy seems to have canceled plans to send the guard ship (destroyer) Nastoichivyi.

Now I am sure that you also have noticed the large number of heavy amphibious assault ships.  This is officially due to the rotation which supposedly is taking place in which the ships indicated in blue are supposed to be replaced by those shown in purple.  Okay, but what does ballet mean, really?  And why so many heavy amphibious assault ships?  Are the Russians seriously planning a mini D-Day in Syria?  Hardly.  And yet the Russians have admitted that they have created a special "operational command for long-distance naval operations" for this naval task force.

This is what this looks like to me: heavy amphibious assault ships like the Nikolai Filchenkov have two main purposes: deliver an naval assault force or deliver equipment.  Since I do not see a situation in which Russia would have to put "boots on the ground" in Syria, I have to conclude that there is a lot of heavy gear in these ships and that the "rotations" occur once the gear has been delivered.  As for the rest of the naval task force, it is hear to protect these heavy amphibious assault ships for overzealous US and NATO curiosity and maybe even hostile actions, while at the same time taking the airspace of the eastern Mediterranean and Syria under full control.

Aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov
For the time being his naval task force is supposed to say on station.  There are even rumors that the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov will join them later this year.

I am sure that if pressed, the Russians will say that they are delivering humanitarian aid.  Right :-)

The Saker