This Saturday begins the largest Russian exercises in the Mediterranean Sea since the Soviet era with participation of 26 Navy ships and more than 30 aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Force.
During the course of the week, sailors and pilots will work on dozens of combat training tasks to repel air and sea attacks to strengthen combat skills against conventional enemy subversives, submarines and ships.
According to the latest official data, a powerful grouping of vessels from the North, Baltic, Black Sea and Caspian Sea Flotilla fleets was formed in the Mediterranean Sea in a short period of time based on the permanent grouping of the Russian Navy. Its backbone consists of the Marshal Ustinov missile cruiser, the large antisubmarine ship Severomorsk, the Admiral Grigorovich and Admiral Essen frigates, the small-missile ships Veliky Ustyug, Vyshny Volochek and Grad Sviyazhsk, as well as the 636.3 Kolpino diesel-electric submarines and Veliky Novgorod.
The frigates Essen and Grigorovich are completely new ships of the “admiral series”, which were delivered to the Navy in 2016. The displacement of the frigates is about four thousand tons, the speed is 30 knots and have autonomy for 30 days. The armament consists of Kalibr cruise missiles, the Shtil-1 air defense system, a 100 mm caliber artillery and antiaircraft artillery, among others.
The Marshal Ustinov missile cruiser, the group’s flagship in the exercises, underwent a thorough modernization two years ago. It is armed with 16 launchers of the Vulkan antinavio missile system, which targets targets at up to 1,000 kilometers. The cruiser carries almost a hundred deep-sea bombs propelled by rockets and 533mm torpedoes. To defend against airborne attacks, the cruiser is protected by a S-300F Fort anti-aircraft missile system and six AK-630 antiaircraft artillery systems.
In addition, the Tu-160 strategic bomber, Tu-142MK and Il-38 antisubmarine aircraft, Su-30SM multi-purpose fighter aircraft, Su-33 aircraft and military transport aircraft are also participating. The crews of the ships, together with the aircraft, will undergo anti-submarine warfare and air defense training, protection of maritime communication routes, combating piracy and providing assistance to a ship in distress. The exercises have planned real fires with missiles and artillery.
Next word is the Navy
Military expert Aleksei Leonkov believes that the main objective of the maneuvers is the training of coordinated actions of the Navy in a new maritime area.
“It has been a long time since great naval exercises have taken place here, the last of which were conducted in the USSR and were of a more local character … It is sometimes necessary to show the world that the Russian navy is capable of solving a variety of tasks with ships from different fleets coming together so the crews learn to interact, “Leonkov explains.
According to him, the involvement of ships from different fleets is due to the fact that an automated control system is being completed, in which the tactical group is represented by a naval attack task force.
Meanwhile, the areas of the military exercises of the Russian Navy and Aerospace Force in the Mediterranean Sea have been temporarily declared dangerous for navigation and overflight. According to a statement from the Russian Ministry of Defense, all the forces involved will return to permanent settlement sites after the closure of the maneuvers.
According to the former Baltic Fleet Commander, Admiral Vladimir Valuev, strengthening the naval cluster in the region is necessary to prevent aggression against Syria, especially for a possible neutralization of US attacks with Tomahawk cruise missiles at infrastructure facilities of Syria. A similar point of view is shared by another military expert, Konstantin Sivkov.
“The Americans are creating a powerful grouping, preparing to attack Syrian troops advancing on Idlib … Russia, in turn, is creating a counter-grouping in the region in the case of a military conflict. and six ships and three dozen planes are a powerful counterweight,” he said.
The Mediterranean border
It is a fact that the activity of the US Navy in the region has increased significantly in recent weeks. The Russian Ministry of Defense believes that the US, in coalition with France and Britain, intend to inflict a massive missile attack on the territory of the Arab Republic, whose pretext is the staging of a chemical attack allegedly by the troops of the Syrian government against civilians in Idlib province.
The US, French and British strike group consists of strategic and tactical aircraft based in Jordan, Kuwait and the Greek island of Crete and has about 70 carriers, approximately 380 air-to-ground cruise missiles, as well as Carney and Ross destroyers, each with 28 Tomahawks on board. In addition, the Sullivan destroyer entered the Persian Gulf and a US Air Force strategic B-1B bomber was transferred to El-Udeid base in Qatar with 24 JASSM air-to-ground cruise missiles.
Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov stressed that the exercises of the Russian Navy in the Mediterranean were planned in advance and are not connected to the worsening situation on Syria’s Idlib territory, however this seems to convenient to be by chance.
For its part, NATO drew attention to the fact that Russia sent significant forces to the Mediterranean and called for moderation of all parties present in the region.