Part 1 – News

Update on North Korea – naval activity

Naturally any significant deployment of the US Navy in the region gets the attention of the Chinese & Russian navies, especially in the intelligence gathering field.  No exception here and it is likely to be the Russian Navy SSV-208 Kurily.
Although you might only have heard about it this week, frankly it isn’t a new event, but the chances are now that North Korea’s latest missile test failed, the MSM need to chomp on another related story to keep the suspense going.  Both navies deployed their AGI ships back in February when the US carrier group first arrived in the region.

The USS Carl Vinson group is said to be expected to arrive off of SouthKorea on 25 April. But judging by the recent flightpath of Russian reconnaissance IL-38s, intercepted by the JASDF, it seems that they are already in the Sea of Japan.

The destroyer ‘USS Stethem’ (DDG 63) has been in the region for quite a few months, since it is forward deployed from Yokosuka, Japan. So not really breaking news.
What is needed is to look at the whole picture, current and future of what US units are being added into the region. One to watch would be the Sterett SAG group on its way from Pearl Harbor. USS Sterett (DDG 104)  & Dewey (DDG 105), Surface Action Group. Read paragraph 3 in particular.
Additionally, the “USS Makin Island” (LHD 8) is in the region too, homeward bound to Japan, as a part of the 7th Fleet.

Other West Pacific candidates for deployment is probably the “USS Ronald Reagan”(CVN-76), at its home port Yokosuka, Japan. However, it is on a “selected restricted availability” (SRA) maintenance period. As the name suggests it is tied up alongside the quay for several months.
Another is  the “USS Nimitz” (CVN 68), which had been in the east Pacific conducting “Composite Training Unit Exercise” recently. Again not quite ready to go into immediate action.

Russian navy corvettes deployment – Boikiy and Soobrazitelny
The 2 Russian corvettes, (that left Baltiysk on 7 April),
allegedly going to Syria in 5 days according the US USNI news source,  were escorted by HNLMS Holland and HMS Sutherland over the weekend of the 15 April. Something tells me that they are not in a hurry, as the MSM also reported last week.

Well, in fact, the oiler Kola was in the neutral waters of the Bay of the Seine on 16 April, possibly on a replenishing task .  Not unusual for the Russian Navy to stop by in this location, (as can be seen back in 2014. )
The predictable UK MSM tabloids went silly, branding the Russian Navy as some sort of menace, but again missing out one tiny detail regarding the lawful Channel transit of the ships. Even the commanding officer of HMS Sutherland said: “this task is considered as routine business.”
End of melodrama, until they come back through the Channel next time, I suppose.
I do wonder at the “bottom of the barrel” reporting though, especially the Daily Mail, at the ridiculous amount of rubbish churned out just by 2 journalists! (Someone can’t read numbers on sides of ships).The comments are hilarious!
The Daily Mail said that “the Royal Navy will be keeping watch on their every movement by using state-of-the-art radars to track their course and speed.” Sure but they could also wave to each other or look through a pair of binoculars, the ships are that close in all the photos. Oh boy! They even managed to quote US Navy Admiral Michelle Howard interview that I covered last week, as well as add in pictures of President Assad and Putin. All aspects of Russian bashing got thrown in into the article. Over the top.

Russian deployment- Asia Pacific
Guided missile cruiser ” Varyag” & oiler “Pechenga” from Pacific Fleet of the Russian Navy will be on a goodwill visit to Manila from the 20-24 April.
ECM- Russia
Further to the previous Brief about the possible ECM use against the US missiles in Syria, here is a link to an article (in Russian)
giving an overview of the publicly known aspects of Electronic Counter-Measures that Russia has. Moreover, another article from a Russian ECM expert comprehensively details the operation of a Tomahawk, why it is a very hard target to deal with and outlines how the Russian ECM and AD systems may defend against it.

Russian navy – Syria
A small detail but one to watch in the circumstances. The Russian Navy has issued a warning to aircraft, NOTAM on rocket firing exercises off the Syrian coast, next week. Could this be the “Admiral Grigorovich”?

Meanwhile, the USS Ross left Larnaca, Cyprus at the weekend, still in the Easter Med.

Pirate attacks have continued in the Horn of Africa. This should not be underestimated as a topic, particularly in light with the end of NATO involvement, as well as set against the backdrop of an important naval involvement in the conflict in Yemen. Despite this, the Chinese warship “Hengyang” was yet again called into action to stop a pirate attack on the Panamanian cargo ship “Alheera”.

Part 2 – topic
Continuing with the theme outlined by US Navy Admiral Howard, ( as discussed in previous Brief), we’ll take a look at the Russian Navy of today. Taking this extract for starters:
“According to the Central Navy Portal, the level of combat capabilities of the Russian Navy in 2016 amounted to 45% of the combat capabilities of the U.S. Navy. A year earlier the figure was 44%, in 2014 – 52%, in 2013 45% in 2012 – 42%.” source:
Bit of a difference to the tone set by the US admiral, who hyperventilated at length over the resurgence of the Russian navy. If the Soviet Navy had been hamstrung in the 80’s, Yeltsin’s era effectively kneecapped the navy and was left in a state of absolute neglect. Most parts of the Russian navy right up to 2008 was effectively inactive.
It is great for Russia to have modern warships with flexibility and the latest technology & weapons, it is a useful leverage within the context of in depth defence of Russian territory, but having a few of each class is counterproductive in my opinion, given that there are 4 Russian Fleets. To even consider these limited numbers of modern warships already built as being a threat, is laughable & pathetic. It clearly shows the US Admiral Howard as being dishonest to say the least! Meanwhile, the US Navy has recently launched its 66th “Arleigh Burke” class, (yes you read that correctly- 66 out of a planned 75,  & that’s just for 1 class).
Given that the Russian navy has just sent out 2 of their Steregushchiyclass corvettes, originally ordered by the navy for coastal water operations, (green-water), on a long-range North Atlantic mission, also highlights a particular problem in their planned shipbuilding program of the last decade or so. Or is it a miscalculation in the anticipated mission role? This is due to the low endurance & inadequate fuel reserves of these types of ships.
There seems to be an inherent flaw in the way that Russian defence shipbuilding is planned, in building a low number of a certain type of vessel for predominantly what is envisaged as certain types of green water operations, but subsequently modifying the types of missions. Hence, it makes a mockery of the Admiral Howard’s comments re NATO response to Russian navy deployments.

  1. Usually the ship construction time for the first type is the longest, the other builds gradually get shorter in time as niggles are identified & ironed out. (Except for the Amur shipyard, which are evidently going for the opposite!).
  2. Operability & maintenance issues arise for different types, so by having a reasonable number of a certain type of ship, helps in lowering costs of spares, maintenance & crew familiarisation & training, (inter-operability). As is the case with the Buyan-Class.

There is a serious concern over the manner in which the shipbuilders are unable to meet the Navy’s expected timeframes and scope of the warship building programs, as well as the rate of delivery. Western experts call this ‘bragging’, maybe just a case of being over optimistic.

To give you an indication:

TypePlannedBuilt/ buildingNotes
Ivan Gren22Started in 2004
admiral Grigorovich632 will go to India
Admiral Gorshkov63
Project 23550 Ice class patrol ships.2Not started
Buyan-class corvettes129

The shipyard announced that the Admiral Gorshov would be soon ready: in Russian
The Buyan Class are probably the most successful in my opinion. They are small but pack a punch with their missile carrying capacity. (Enough to scare NATO apparently). 12 scheduled with 9 launched.  Then there are the Steregushchiy-class corvettes, 4 active with 12 planned.
Third Project 11356 Frigate Admiral Makarov in Final Tests before Delivery to Russian Navy in June.  The  Project 11356 class are multipurpose frigates designated for “far sea zone” operations, (blue-water), yet only 6 are planned. Is NATO trembling in their boots yet?
Likewise, the 5th built  Steregushschiy-class, Sovershenny started sea trials in January of this year. It will be first 20380 corvette for Pacific Fleet.

Enhanced Combat capabilities
Russia is at the cutting edge of missile technology, for example as can be seen in form of the hypersonic missile, Zirkon.  Russian media recently announced a successful test of this, but without further information as to where, duration and launching platform. It is significant that as part of the Russian Navy modernisation programme of both “Admiral Nakhimov” and the “Pyotr Veliky” nuclear-powered missile cruisers are earmarked to receive the new weapons including the Zirkon missile.

The Russian navy’s woes with their new warship builds
The order books of the major shipyards are full, yet there are problems in delivery. The head of  USC stated that Russian military shipyards have orders until 2023. In Russian   (Russian-State owned United Shipbuilding Corporation.)
Generally speaking, there are challenges that exist in dealing with strong bureaucratic interests, economic constraints and corruption, which is causing ‘structural’ problems in the industry. Although expectation is high, the reality of the military ship construction sector is somewhat fragile. However, there are other issues encountered:

  • Suppliers of auxiliary equipment and defence equipment don’t provide/deliver on time;
  • From Ukrainian gas turbine engines, German diesel power units, to epoxy deck coatings, the new building programmes are regularly postponed as a result of a lack of domestic products/ substitutes, mostly thanks to the West’s sanctions. This results in uncertainty of obtaining technology solutions within a realistic timeframe. (in Russian)

Case studies: –
Delayed- Ivan Gren (project 11711) due to botched degaussing tests.
Delayed delivery – Project 22350 Admiral Gorshov
& Project 11356M Admiral Marakov. Due to Redut anti-aircraft defence system and Shtil
If the ” Soobrazitelnyy”, commissioned in 2011, has the Redut fitted, then what is the change in situation with regards to it being fitted to the “Admiral Gorshkov”? The deputy defence minister Yuri Borisov stated his concern. Both delays are due to “a backlog in the development of missile complexes.” In Russian
Apparently, it isn’t the first time that Almaz Antey haven’t been on time with their products.
As a side note, the Admiral Grigorovich was used back in October 2016 as a testbed for a launch of the Tor-M2KM system, with 9K331MKM module lashed down on the helicopter deck.  Although a navalized variant was earlier developed, 3K95 “Kinzhal”, the JSC IEMZ Kupol company is currently working on a modern naval version.
Then there is the missile cruiser Admiral Nakhimov, seriously delayed again by several years. The modernisation program started 2013 was supposed to have been finished next year. It was earlier announced that it would be completed in 2020, and now it is 2021. But then maybe there is a connection with the testing and future installation of the Zirkon missile system.
It is expected that the defence shipyard sector will be able to overcome the difficulties, as well carry out extensive modernisation themselves, slowly but surely. Replacing Soviet-era machinery is one example of overcoming low production. See the interesting set of interviews with shipyard workers, in Russian

Caption competition?
Now we’ll see who had their spinach today!!!
Image of sailors pushing the Soobrazitelnyy