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Jun 21, 2022
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Moscow admitted: Russian naval “patrols” better stay away from Odessa and Snake

In the photo: patrol ship of the Black Sea Fleet "Dmitry Rogachev".

In the photo: patrol ship of the Black Sea Fleet “Dmitry Rogachev”. (Photo: Sergey Malgavko/TASS)

Russia, to put it mildly, not very rationally spent about 36 billion rubles and years of work of hundreds of enterprises, design bureaus for the construction of a series of six patrol ships (modular-type corvettes) of project 22160 for the Black Sea Fleet. Mil website. Press FLOT TASS reports citing an unnamed source in the military-industrial complex.

According to this information, the leadership of the Navy of the Russian Federation does not intend, as it was supposed just a year ago, to continue work on this project, developed by JSC “Northern Design Bureau”. “The series of project 22160 patrol ships will not be continued and will end with the delivery of the last corvette of the series to the Black Sea Fleet next year,” the source said.

What do we end up with? At the moment, four out of six patrol ships: Vasily Bykov, Dmitry Rogachev, Pavel Derzhavin and Sergey Kotov have already entered service. And – “Sergey Kotov” literally just now, in May of this year. The fifth one (“Viktor the Great”) is planned to be handed over to the fleet in December of this year. The sixth (“Nikolai Sipyagin”) in the 184th Novorossiysk brigade of the protection of the water area is expected at the end of 2023.

Back in July 2021, the Izvestia newspaper reported that the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation was considering “the issue of additional purchases of Project 22160 patrol ships of the Vasily Bykov type.” Since then, less than a year has passed, as everything in this direction simply collapsed. Consequently, the branch of modular-type patrol ships was recognized as a dead end and unviable.

What happened? The only thing is that a military special operation in Ukraine has begun and continues. During which it turned out that we have the first four patrol ships on the Black Sea, but sending them to the combat zone is extremely risky.

Why then do we need these ships, which their critics, who are innumerable, from the very beginning called “under-corvettes”?

Their destiny is, if they participate in our current special operation, then only in areas that are inaccessible to Ukrainian missiles. It is probably possible and necessary to drive Somali pirates to such people. But who today even remembers those pirates? And sending patrol ships into battle with a strong enough enemy is just to kill.

Let me be a little indiscreet. Back in October 2018, Free Press published my material under the prescient, as it turned out in the light of current events, headline “Black Sea Fleet: Such a naval patrol will be drowned first.” Briefly, the gist is this.

The start of work on project 22160 took place in the early 2000s. Then, if you remember, the Cold War, as it seemed to almost everyone in Russia, was forever a thing of the past. With NATO, we just did not kiss. Conducted joint exercises. The Russian military, together with their Western counterparts, were engaged in maintaining peace in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. In Brussels, at the headquarters of the alliance, our military mission seemed to be registered forever.

Almost the main enemies of mankind at that time were considered Somali pirates. Here we were going to fight, mainly, with them. In 2009, even the heavy nuclear-powered missile cruiser Peter the Great was involved in the fight against dark-skinned corsairs in the Gulf of Aden. On February 12, its crew, with the help of a Ka-27 helicopter lifted from the deck of the cruiser, detained three high-speed boats with 10 armed robbers who were trying to attack an Iranian ship.

However, this victory looked almost like a caricature due to the complete discrepancy between the combat potentials of the parties and the unimaginable difference in the costs of their maintenance. So in Russia, the idea arose to acquire small, but remote special patrol ships to perform similar tasks away from their shores.

It was believed that they did not need particularly powerful weapons. Why spend money on it, if the enemies are only pirates with ordinary “Kalash”? Therefore, as a platform for the future “patrolman”, they accepted the project of the border patrol ship of the ocean zone, shelved. Its displacement of a modest 1300 tons seemed to be quite enough for what was planned. A small crew of 80 people – for the eyes. But the autonomy of this combat unit is up to 60 days! And a cruising range of 6,000 miles! Enough to rush from Sevastopol to the Horn of Africa without refueling. Or from the Syrian Tartus all the way to Vietnam.

Armament also corresponded to just such a main task. That is, from the point of view of modern combat, it was almost a toy. At first, they were going to make only one 57-mm automatic gun mount covered with a radio-absorbing “stealth mask” as the main caliber. Then they admitted: it will not be enough. And they put a fluff with a larger caliber – 76 millimeters. Which, however, did not add much firepower to the ship.

It was probably thought that in case of need, a deck helicopter would come into play, for which a special hangar was provided. Moreover, this helicopter can be not only the anti-submarine Ka-27PS, but also the reconnaissance and strike Ka-52K Katran.

With what happened, the then leadership of the Russian Navy was completely satisfied. In any case, in July 2015, the head of the shipbuilding department of the Main Staff of the Russian Navy, Rear Admiral Vladimir Tryapichnikov said: “Patrol ships are really an innovation today for the Navy. We have analyzed the situation and we understand that such a ship should not be armed with missiles, but should display the St. Andrew’s flag in different parts of the oceans. Naturally, this ship was designed to combat piracy in the Horn of Africa.”

And somehow a simple question turned out to be completely in the shade: what, if necessary, would a patrol ship somewhere near the same Horn of Africa fight off air attacks? In the sense of air defense, he is as naked as a falcon!

All that this brainchild of project 22160 has, apart from a pair of turret heavy 14.5-mm machine guns “Sting”, is a self-defense air defense system of the 3M-47 “Gibka” type with eight missiles of the 9M39 “Igla” type with a range of destruction of aircraft and helicopters of only 5-6 kilometers. If we are talking about modern anti-ship cruise missiles attacking at extremely low altitudes (such that Ukraine already has for sure near Odessa), this is definitely about nothing at all. Just a guaranteed shot. But only.

In general, it is also impossible to hide patrol ships in the most remote corner of the Sevastopol Bay and not send them to the combat areas at all. The Black Sea Fleet is not so rich today with at least some warships. This ruthless reality forced them to try to urgently adapt to them (so far, for starters, only on Vasily Bykov and Pavel Derzhavin, and then the hands will reach the rest) developed for the fleet at least since 2015, a version of the air defense system that has proven itself on land “Tor” – deck anti-aircraft module “Tor-M2KM”.

But it is unlikely that this is a well thought out and planned step. The haste of such an enterprise is indicated at least by the fact that the modules installed on the decks of the Vasily Bykov and Pavel Derzhavin in a hurry did not even have time to be repainted in the gray color adopted on the ships. The new weapon was put on the ships in a dark green spotted land version.

Even our frank ill-wishers scoff at what happened. In particular, experts from the Polish paramilitary Internet publication Defense24. They rightly point out that the installation on the flight deck “Tor-M2KM” dealt the very idea of ​​patrol ships at least two sharply weakening blows.

The first is that now the crews have lost the opportunity to use helicopters and UAVs, the presence of which on board was previously considered one of their few strengths.

Secondly, as Defense24 writes, “the placement of this module at the very stern of the ship leads to the fact that it will be subjected to the largest rolls in all planes. In addition, the air defense radars are located low and “see” only the rear hemisphere of the ship. The front hemisphere in this case is shaded by the ship’s superstructure.

We read further in the same source: “Probably, for the price of six patrol ships of this project, the Russian Navy was able to buy two full-fledged combat corvettes of project 20380 (of the Guardian type) or even of project 20385 (of the Thundering type). And this is the absolute truth.

The arithmetic is like this. According to open sources, each patrol ship of the Vasily Bykov type cost the treasury 6 billion rubles. Any corvette of the “Guarding” type is more than three times more expensive – about 20 billion. But how such a magical replacement, if a certain Old Man Hottabych served in the Black Sea Fleet today, would help us today in hostilities near Snake Island and near Odessa!

For reference: the basis of the air defense of the Steregushchiy type corvettes is a completely modern Redut air defense system with 12 vertical launchers for anti-aircraft missiles of the 9M96 and 9M96M types, similar to those successfully fired by the new S-350 Vityaz ground-based complex. According to field tests and computer simulations, such missiles with a probability of 70% provide a direct hit on the warhead of a tactical missile. The probability of hitting an airplane is 80%, and a helicopter is 90%.

With these, you can not be too afraid of the Harpoon anti-ship missiles transferred by the Americans to Ukraine or the Norwegian Naval Strike Missile, which are already threatening us near Odessa.

But patrol ships (even with Tor-M2KM, even without them) are simply scary to send into this hell. Which, in fact, is forced to indirectly admit the military leadership of Russia, which announced that henceforth it refuses to continue the ridiculous “anti-piracy” project today.

The trouble is that we realized the new realities too late. True, the construction of the first project 20385 corvette for the Black Sea Fleet has just been completed in St. Petersburg. At the laying down, it was called “Zealous”, it was already renamed “Mercury” (in honor of the 18-gun sailing brig, under the command of Lieutenant Commander Alexander Kazarsky, who fought heroically in 1829 with the Turkish fleet).

By the end of the year, “Mercury” was supposed to complete the test program in the Baltic and go to Sevastopol. But who will let him in now? Turkey, as you know, before the end of the special operation closed the Bosphorus and Dardanelles for any warships. Therefore, apparently, we will have to be content with frail “patrolmen” in the Black Sea for a long time to come.

As the President of Russia used to say: “I like it, I don’t like it – be patient, my beauty!”. Hey, Rear Admiral Tryapichnikov! Are you sure even today that less than seven years ago you made deeply thought-out decisions when adopting the next shipbuilding program?

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