Russia to Open New Naval Base in Black Sea to Counter NATO
June 29, 2016
Nikolai Litovkin / Russia Beyond the Headlines
The Russian Navy is to open a new base on the Black Sea coast hosting Varshavyanka class Project 636.6 diesel-electric submarines with Kalibr cruise missiles. According to a RBTH source in the military-industrial complex, the Black Sea Fleet's new base will host six Varshavyanka class Project 636.6 submarines. Initially, the new base on the Black Sea coast was being built because of disagreements in Russian-Ukrainian relations after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Russia to Open New Naval Base in Black Sea to Counter NATO
Nikolai Litovkin / Russia Beyond the Headlines (RBTH)
MOSCOW (June 29, 2016) -- The Russian Defense Ministry is completing the construction of the final three submarine berths in the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk (930 miles south of Moscow). According to a RBTH source in the military-industrial complex, the Black Sea Fleet's new base will host six Varshavyanka class Project 636.6 submarines.
"Currently, three of them are already in the city's harbor – the Rostov-on-Don, Novorossiysk and Stary Oskol," said the RBTH source.
"Each submarine is equipped with underwater torpedoes to combat surface ships and Kalibr missiles, which have demonstrated their combat power in Syria, including the ability to hit targets at a distance of up to 2,500 km."
According to the source, the decision to deploy an additional base on the Black Sea was made in connection with the increased activity of NATO warships in the past few years.
"The deployment of Varshavyanka class Project 636.6) submarines in Novorossiysk allows Russia to control potential threats in Europe and the Middle East," said the source.
Initially, the new base on the Black Sea coast was being built because of disagreements in Russian-Ukrainian relations after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In the period since 1991, the naval base in Crimea was handed over to Moscow on a lease, but any fleet update (to the very last bullet – RBTH) had to be coordinated with the parliament in Kiev.
According to the TASS news agency's military expert Viktor Litovkin, Ukraine's policy after the collapse of the Soviet Union boiled down to squeezing Russia out of Crimea, but since the takeover of the peninsula by Moscow in 2014, the situation has changed and a full-scale reform of the fleet has begun.
"Sevastopol Bay offers unique opportunities to Moscow," said Litovkin. "Together with the new base in Novorossiysk, Russia can fully control the Bosphorus, the military infrastructure in Bulgaria, as well as neutralizing the threat of a US missile defense base in Romania."
According to Alexander Khramchikhin, director of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis, a Moscow think-tank, the key threat of the US missile defense system in Eastern Europe to Russia is the ability to instantly convert a missile defense base into an offensive one.
Pros and Cons
The strength of the new base's location for the Black Sea Fleet is the possibility to distribute ships and submarines between several naval bases in the same region, say analysts. However, the base in Novorossiysk has a crucial issue that still needs to be resolved.
"First of all, it's about climatic conditions," Litovkin told RBTH. "The maritime area of Novorossiysk is regularly subjected to the impact of northern winds from the Caucasus Mountains, which hit ships and houses in their path with great force.
"The wind can throw ships ashore and destroy the entire military infrastructure. The base is being constructed in such a way that the gusts of wind will not be so catastrophic."
According to him, Russia is building an additional tunnel in the Caucasus Mountains to nullify the threat of destructive winds.
What Exactly Is the US Navy's Brand-new Stealth Destroyer For?
Nikolai Shevchenko / RBTH
(May 19, 2016) -- The US Navy will commission the first of the three planned brand new destroyers in October 2016, according to an ABC report. The new vessel passed at-sea acceptance trials in April 2016, according to the US Navy's Twitter account.
The DDG 1000 class destroyer, known as the USS Zumwalt, is assembled to assist ashore forces with fire support in near-shore operations. The ship has attracted media attention for its unusual design. Its ironclad shape hides the destroyer's weapons systems beneath the vessel's armored surface, reportedly making it invisible for radars.
Preparing for the Future
Military analysts have praised the capabilities of the USS Zumwalt but warned against overestimating the potential impact of the destroyer on the maritime balance of power.
"This ship is undoubtedly unique," said Dmitry Litovkin, a military observer at the Izvestiya newspaper and a navy captain of the third rank in reserve, adding that it was "radically different from what we have seen in shipbuilding so far."
Stealth technology and a propulsion system of low noise conceals the destroyer from radars as well as from submarines that use acoustic systems to detect surface vessels, according to Litovkin.
Despite the state-of-the-art technology used in its construction, experts caution against speculation on the ship's likely adversaries. The USS Zumwalt represents "a vision of the capabilities the US Navy will need in the future," said Michael Kofman, a fellow at the Kennan Institute of the Wilson Center.
The US Navy did not procure the USS Zumwalt to respond to any specific threat or adversary, according to Kofman. Instead, the destroyer represents years of capability investments with an outlook into the navy's future needs.
In the future, however, China may become a potential challenger to US sea primacy. Maneuvers by the People's Liberation Army Navy are a source of recurring concerns for the US and its Asian allies.
"Chinese leaders are focused on developing the capabilities they deem necessary to deter or defeat adversary power projection and counter third-party – including US – intervention during a crisis or conflict," concluded the latest Pentagon report to the US Congress.
The DDG 1000 program may be a part of the US strategy to forestall Chinese potential military supremacy at sea. Notably, the new destroyer appears in Ghost Fleet, a novel widely read by Pentagon officials. The book's plot features a future conflict between the US and China.
Conversely, Russia has fewer reasons to worry about the new destroyer: The USS Zumwalt will not undermine the position of the Russian fleet, according to military analysts.
Russia's maritime presence is largely confined to the Baltic and Black seas, which are safely sealed with SSC-5 Stooge, a Russian mobile coastal defense missile system, according to Dmitry Litovkin. "The use of large destroyers in small [war] theaters is not merely ineffective, it is fraught with great danger," he said.
Nevertheless, Russia is developing a prototype of its own nuclear-powered destroyers equipped with stealth technology known as "Leader." If commissioned successfully, "the Leader destroyers will be the closest competitors of the USS Zumwalt," said Litovkin.
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