A Russian military blog, NAVY_KORABEL, released (LINK) an interesting analysis providing a fresh look at the US missile strike on the Syrian Ash-Shayrat airbase and measures that the Russian Navy could implement in order to prevent similar developments in the future.
SouthFront provides a translation of this analysis from Russian and recommends NAVY_KORABEL as a great blog about the Russian Navy.
Translated by AlexD exclusively for SouthFront; Pics are taken from the original text.
A Missed Shot
A few weeks ago, on April 7 2017, at about 4 a.m. (inevitably reminding us of June 22, 1941), American destroyers DDG 78 Porter and DDG 71 Ross of the Arleigh Burke class (forward deployment station in Rota, Spain), from an area near Crete, struck with a massive 59 Tomahawk launches (reference 1) of Block III TLAM-C or Block IV TLAM-E (distance of launch 1600 km) (reference 2) on the Syrian Air Base of government forces in the Homs province. The missiles (36 of them, that is 61%, crashed, went off course or were downed), presumably did not break in the 30-km window between Tartus and the Lebanese border, sector covered by our SAMs, but they flew, most likely, not over Lebanon, but over Israel and Jordan (governments supporting the attack) and crossed into Syrian territory further West (in order to avoid the Damascus air defences), after which they took a direction of north-north-west, covering in total about 1500 km. What the Russophobe Obama did not dare do, the cutie Trump did, for whose election victory in 2016 made the whole of Russia almost sick.
Let’s leave behind the background scenes of these outrageously ridiculous Trump antics, caused by either dilettantism or lack of will or unscrupulousness (he promised the electorate for the normalisation of relations with Russia, but, barely stepping into his duties, reduced the possibility of such a relationship to zero), in the framework of the blog’s theme it is important to understand how the stated operational communications of the Russian Navy in the Mediterranean Sea missed this strike, did not impede the strike, nor the 1000 km flight of the cruise missile over the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea, which is under its responsibility.
During the good old days of “developed socialism” (not all good, but in many cases yes) with the presence of one Soviet naval strike group in port, which the Americans were bombing, was enough to stop the bombing (Tripoli 1986). The pressure from the ships of the 5th Operational Squadron was the most brutal, not one carrier strike group of the American Navy was left without surveillance. Quote: “The calculations of the combat capabilities of our naval strike group showed that of the strike group, having in its composition a missile cruiser with P-35 cruise missiles, capable of destroying an aircraft carrier. The strike group with artillery cruisers were able to bring the carrier down, damaging its flight deck and causing fires on the ship. The commanders of our naval strike groups had a death grip on the designated enemy. Attempts by the American strike group to break away from the tracking ships came to naught. Our commanders with extensive experience in tracking have kept a constant focus on the main goal of a carrier group” (P. Dubyagin “The Mediterranean Squadron”, p. 174).
It has been a long time since any aircraft carriers (multipurpose) and generally any serious Naval Forces of the US were kept on a permanent basis in the Mediterranean Sea – it is too expensive, not enough combat-ready nuclear powered aircraft carriers and F/A-18, still not able to recover after the relaxation caused by the “victory” in the Cold War, thus generally they confining themselves to a division of destroyers in Rota, Spain (four “Burkes”) and the flagship of the 6th fleet “Mount Whitney” in Gaeta (Italy). To monitor and control such a small naval forces of the potential enemy in the region it seems should not be difficult, however, as mentioned earlier, and how the sad experience of April 7, 2017 shows, learned on June 1, 2013, the permanent operative connection of the Russian Navy in the Mediterranean Sea at times deflates to a negligible small size, which at the first opportunity, and with haste our American “partners” ignore.
I do not know, as anyone, but for me personally the timing of the attack by the destroyers on the airbase appears far from accidental (it was not caused by the emotional reaction of Papa Trump on the disappointment of his daughter seeing the footage from the “White Helmets”). The fact of the matter is that early in the morning of April 7 in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea there was not even one Russian warship, capable of at least generating some kind of impression on the “hawks” in Washington. If we offend slightly the commonly accepted classification, there were no war ships of the Russian Navy but only:
1) LLS Baltic Fleet project 775 / III of “Korolev” (passed the Bosphorus April 3rd);
2) LLS Black Sea Fleet project 1171/4, “Nikolay Filchenkov” (Bosphorus April 6th to 17th);
3) Sea trawler Black Sea Fleet project 266M “Valentin Pikul” (800 tons full, Bosphorus March 24th);
4) Anti-sabotage boat Black Sea Fleet, project 21980 (codename “Rook”) P-355 “Crimean Young Army Man” (140 tons standard, Bosphorus April 6th);
5) Intermediate intelligence ship Black Sea Fleet project 861M “Kil’din” (Bosphorus February 5th);
6) Floating workshop ship Black Sea Fleet project 304 PM-138 (Bosphorus January 18th);
7) Sea tug Black Sea Fleet project 733 MB-174 (Bosphorus April 6th);
8) Possibly, large sea tanker Black Sea Fleet project 1559V “Ivan Bubnov” (Bosphorus November 5th 2016).
All this “armada” was armed with a total of 1×1 76mm AK-176, 1×2 57mm ZIF AU-31B (1956), AU 2×6 30 mm AK – 630M, 2×6 30 mm AK AU-306, 2×2 25 mm 2M AU-3M (1953), 1х14, 5 mm machine gun, MTPW, 2×5 253 mm RBU-1200 (1953), 3х40 122-mm MLRS “Grad-M”, 1×10 55-mm grenade launcher DP-65A… Tears, invisible to the world.
The most combat-ready ship of the Mediterranean Operational Union (the abbreviation is mine, A.Sh.) the patrol ship of the Black Sea Fleet project 11356 “Admiral Grigorovich”, eight-cell universal shipboard firing system which could maintain a minimum of 4 anti-ship 3M55 missiles against uninvited guests, and 24 Vertical Launching Systems anti-aircraft missile system Hurricane-1 (as I prefer naming it), the appropriate number of 9M317M missiles, capable of shooting down Tomahawks with ease, passed the Bosphorus, either, because the term of the military service came to an end (although 47 years old “Smetlivyi” from time to time spends a few month in the Mediterranean Sea), or to take in Novorossiysk dear Turkish guests (how can we not remember the words of Captain Chislov “I have honour!” about the ceremonial assholes of the OSCE, because of whom soldiers of his platoon died).
Other ships of the Black Sea Fleet could not take the Turks, just as they could not replace “Gregorovich” in the Mediterranean Sea, “Moscow” already more than a year (15 months and 14 days, after military service in the Mediterranean Sea, September 24th 2015 to January 9th 2016) does not come out to sea, and no one considers it necessary to give some explanation on this subject; “Smetlivyi” returned to port on March 6, 2017 from a 4-month (4.25) military service (even her, tireless, needs a rest); “Ladnyi” in February-March spent time in dry docks 13 for repairs (February 5th and March 3rd was in PD-30), but judging by the lack of reports on the delivery of resolutions for problems and others, the recovery of the technical readiness is still not ready; “Pytlivyi” came into the docks after “Ladnogo” (she was there in March 31st), came out at April 6th, to let in “Rostov-on-the-Don” and again returned to dock PD-30 (photo 10), where, we can assume, she is still there.
Meanwhile for “Admiral Essen”, “Admiral Makarov”, as well as for “Krasnodar”, “Velikogo Novgorod” and “Kollino” the Baltic Sea turned into mud, from which they cannot free themselves from (they intend to keep the “Makarov” until July 30th for the sake of participating in the Navy Day show, despite the fact that raising the flag is expected in the month of May: guys, are you people nuts? There is a war in Syria, in which we participate and in which our people die, and the Americans boss around in “under our control” eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea, as if at home, striking and killing our allies. Maybe in special circumstances you will nevertheless send in the theater at the very least combat-ready ships, and the “Hurricane-1” to bring some sense later or along the way. The 9M317MA thing, without a doubt, is good, but for subsonic cruise missiles will be fitted with passive radar homing head.
As for the ships of other fleets (first of all, first grade), then the “Severomorsk” and “Variag” are firmly occupied with demonstrating the flag in Africa and the Asia-Pacific region (it is certainly necessary), and will show up in the Mediterranean Sea, the question is controversial (“Severomorks” is on military duty for more than six months already, from October 15, 2016 and it is clearly time to come home, and the plans for the “Variag” expedition nothing except the Asia-Pacific region, and we can hope for better with “Ustinov”). Three other large anti-submarine warships of the Northern Fleet are mired in repairs, and here their classmates with the Pacific Fleet except the “Shaposhnikov” all are on the go. Sometime, during an active phase of fighting against piracy near the African Horn, the Pacific Fleet large anti-submarine ships sailed there regularly, literally replacing one another. Piracy truly presented threats to the established world order (more precisely, its most important element which is global maritime trade), however, the current threat (from ISIS and its supporters) is more frightening and even more dangerous for Russia. The question is why don’t we resume regular long expeditions of the large anti-submarine ships of the Pacific Fleet, not only to the Gulf of Aden but also to the shores of Syria?
It would be nice if after the prolonged repairs (in 33 shipyards) the “Nastoichivy” was ferried and transferred to Tartus, making her a permanent flagship of the Mediterranean Operational Union. The turnaround of two 130mm two-gun turrets cruise missiles “Burkes” at the ready would have produced for their commanders a lasting impression. In addition, a glimmer of hope that this time the corvettes of the Baltic Fleet (“So’obrazitel’ny” and “Boiki”), having passed The English Channel (with a tanker and tugboat, as it should be in a long voyage), still delight us with its first combat service in the Mediterranean Sea.
In this story there is another interesting moment. At the end of the year (November 15, 2016) at a meeting with VVP in response to the question of the President about the implementation of complex measures for reliable coverage of the bases in Tartus and Khmemim from air to sea S. Shoigu said (in author’s blog edition): “For some time we have the complex S-400 working, in addition to this we have added the S-300 system to close the sea approaches practically to Cyprus. It also includes the coastal complex “Bastion”, which shut down virtually the entire coast. Today, we are able to hit with these complexes both maritime as well as ground targets at a distance of up to 350 km at sea and almost 450 km on land. For the reliable protection of bases from low-altitude targets the complexes “Pansir” are installed”. *
(*) Note: with all due respect to our wonderful anti-aircraft missile systems and SAMs, the shore-based Tomahawks are easiest to shoot down over the sea, where they do not “hide” in the folds of the terrain, but fly by inertial navigation systems on an absolutely smooth water surface, radio-silent and slow-moving, like a flock of sheep.
The fact that the 350 km range of the “Bastion” categorically is not enough for the fight with the Tomahawk sea-based carriers is visible to the naked eye. As for the S-300, if Shoigu had in view the S-300V4 division, these are 4 batteries and 80 SAMs, 16 long-distance (4x2x2 9M82MD, up to 400 km) and 64 short-distance (4x4x4 9M83M, not less than 200 km) (from Tartus to the south-eastern end of Cyprus, Cape Greco, about 160 km). However, the range of the S-300V4 for low-flying aerodynamic purposes (cruise missiles) similar to the S-300PMU2 consist of a mere 38 km, which is not too scary, the slow-moving Tomahawk (0.75 M) flies 38 km in 2.5 min., which gives plenty of time to shoot down the majority of missiles as if they were partridges, and those that broke through the “Pansir” would be finished off. They did not shoot them just because the Americans sent their cruise missiles on a roundabout route: on the one hand, reasonable, on the other, somehow childish (they decided to demonstrate to the world who is boss but with an eye on the other boss, so that, God forbid, not to get into a fight with him). What is left unclear is who nevertheless shot down the Tomahawks, not reaching Ash-Shayrat? The Syrian air defences? However, in the context of the present topic there is a much more interesting question.
Are there any ships of the Russian Navy, if they are at the right time at the right place, capable of preventing another similar attack in the future, if the world hegemon or anyone else has the desire (urge, impulse, whim) to disregard international law and carry out an act of aggression against a friendly state? I think, yes, assuming that our naval strike groups will be grazing cattle for the American (NATO) naval strike group as in the Cold War years. All means (except the fire) are good – ships of the US Navy escorted by our surface ships and the ascent of submarines in close (dangerous) proximity, dangerous manoeuvring, obstruction of maintaining a set course and speed (cutting in), silencing with interference the ship’s radio-electronic weapons equipment and means of communications, turning and pointing weapons, warning shots and other “hooliganism” with the purpose of psychologically wearing down the enemy.
This has already happened, and it is suspected that most of the initiative came not from our side. Quote: “Soon the situation escalated to the limit: the American cruiser with guided missile weapons at full speed headed towards our cruiser, approached to a distance of 50 cables [Tr. Note: one Russian cable is 100 fathoms], sounded the alarm, directed the weapons and rocket launchers on our ship…[Commander of the naval strike group] ordered the large anti-submarine ship to open fire to attack the American ship with torpedoes, and he readied to strike the aircraft carrier. The squadron was declared under combat alert. Nerves were stretched to the limit… Instructions to the military service ships included the following: in case of hostile actions on the part of anyone, the commanders are to take adequate measures including the use of weapons… After fifteen minutes, it was further reported: “on the cruiser the combat alarm was turned off, the weapons are to stand down, the troops came out on deck”. All exhaled, so far, so good. The squadron, combat readiness No. 2… When the weapons are aimed and the trigger is pulled, the worst can be expected…” (P. Dubyagin, pp. 175-176).
If the admonitions of the American establishment (for them realising of the fact that the USA is no longer the sole master of the planet and will never be again) need a second Cuban missile crisis, then let there be a second Cuban missile crisis. The matter will not go beyond the crisis; Americans are not suicidal. However, it seems that it will not happen before the crisis – it is only necessary to bend the line and make the Mediterranean Operational Union truly functional. In my understanding, it is at a minimum two surface first-class and 1-2 lower rank on-board navigation complexes (frigates, patrol ships), and strictly on a permanent basis, some left, others returned, plus the PL curtains somewhere on the meridian of Bridisi, on the limits of the launch of the Tomahawks on Syria. And of course, to build new ships at an accelerated pace. Only then will we be able to control for starters separately the taken sea (more precisely, the eastern part of it), and then the rest of the world ocean.