Russian Navy may conduct maintenance on a Mediterranean Sea based Kilo, late 2022

The possible arrival of a Russian Navy Northern Fleet nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) and/or a cruise-missile submarine (SSGN) in the Mediterranean Sea in September 2022 gives the Russian Navy a chance to conduct maintenance on a Tartus deployed Kilo class submarine.  

There is a realistic possibility that Russian Navy Black Sea Fleet Pr.23470 class tug "Sergey Balk" which departed Tartus on 12 September 2022, is escorting either B-265 "Krasnodar or B-261 "Novorossiysk" to Admiralty Shipyard in St. Petersburg for routine maintenance. 

Background

In my previous blogpost in August 2022 I suggested that Russia may seek to conduct a maintenance cycle on one of its two Tartus deployed Black Sea Fleet Kilo Type 636.3 class conventional diesel-electric (SSK) submarines, either B-265 "Krasnodar or B-261 "Novorossiysk" with one returning to Admiralty shipyard in St. Petersburg for routine maintenance late in 2022.  

In order to maintain a credible regional counter-threat to NATO forces I suggested that NEWCON Kilo Type 636.3 B-602 "Magadan" would be a suitable short term replacement; conducting an operational deployment to Tartus while on the way to her new home in the Pacific Fleet (PACFLT).  However, Magadan is not certified to fire Kalibr and would have needed to conduct a successful firing before theatre entry.

Magadan was last located exiting the Baltic Sea on 8 August 2022 and with no sign of her in the Mediterranean Sea, it is almost certain she transited to the Northern Fleet (NORFLT).  With no Kalibr firing evident in the Barents Sea or White Sea, it is likely Magadan remains in the NORFLT for now. 

B-602 Magadan departing the Baltic Sea on 8 August 2022.

Russia likely continues to experience anxiety regarding maintenance of  Mediterranean Sea deployed Naval forces.  With the Bosporus closed to Naval traffic, Russia cannot easily conduct the maintenance cycles required to remain operationally effective and be a credible deterrent to NATO intervention in the Levant region, Black Sea & Ukraine.  

Russia could still seek to rotate its Mediterranean deployed submarine forces in order to conduct maintenance at dedicated facilities and it remains a realistic possibility that either B-265 "Krasnodar or B-261 "Novorossiysk" could return to Admiralty shipyard for maintenance late in 2022. However, Russia would need to maintain the regional submarine balance & remain a credible threat to NATO forces in the Mediterranean. 

Maintenance background

Historically, Russia provides basic engineering support to Tartus deployed units through a rotation of three Pr.304 Amur class repair ships.  Two of the three repair ships, PM-56 & PM-138 are Black Sea Fleet based and are unable to pass the Bosporus since Russia declared war on Ukraine.  Of note, in February 2022, Amur PM-138 & PM-56 established forward-deployed base repair positions at Lake Donuzlav & at Kerch/Novorossisyk but returned to homeport Sevastopol on 9 March & 14 March respectively; where they remain, unable to leave the Black Sea.  

The third Pr.304 Amur class repair ship, Baltic Fleet based PM-82, departed homeport Baltiysk on 15 February 2022 (when PM-138 & PM-56 forward deployed to support any war damaged vessels) and arrived in Tartus on 6 March 2022.  Apart from two support excursions to the east coast of Crete late March to April 2022, PM-82 remains in the Levant area providing limited engineering support.

Surface combatant maintenance is less critical than that of submarines (where additional safety concerns are uppermost) and it is likely the basic engineering support provided by the Amur class is unsatisfactory for submarines in the medium term.  Both B-265 "Krasnodar"& B-261 "Novorossiysk" are likely in need of preventative maintenance and the only viable location is Admiralty Shipyard in St. Petersburg.


Is a Russian SSN/SSGN in the Mediterranean?

On 1 September 2022, two RAF P-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) ZP-806 & ZP-809, along with a Reykjavik-based USN P-8. deployed to Sigonella and were noted on Twitter (@ItaMilRadar) conducting ASW patrols in the Sicilian channel chokepoint between Malta & Sicily between 1-2 September.  On 2 September, the respected Naval News website published an article  regarding a Russian nuclear-powered submarine operating in the Mediterranean Sea with likely candidates being either Pr.885 class SSGN K-560 "Severodvinsk" or Pr.971 Akula class SSN K-157 "Vepr" (seen below departing the Baltic from Navy Day 2022 in St. Petersburg).  The arrival of a SSN/SSGN in the region appeared to be supported by the Italian Government sources.

Pr.885 SSGN K-560 "Severodvinsk" departing 
the Baltic Sea

Pr.971 Akula class SSN K157 "Vepr"
departing the Baltic Sea

With Slava class RKR-055 "Marshal Ustinov" and Udaloy class BPK-636 "Vice Admiral Kulakov" having returned to the NORFLT & a new USN Carrier Battle Group entering the Mediterranean Sea, the arrival of a worked up SSN/SSGN (or both!) would be a formidable counter to NATO maritime forces.  But perhaps more crucially, it maintains the submarine balance allowing a Kilo to depart the area. 

On 12 September 2022, Russian Black Sea Fleet Pr.23470 class tug "Sergey Balk" departed Tartus and headed west with no stated destination.  By 17 September, Sergey Balk was noted in the central Mediterranean Sea, east of Malta continuing to head west and there is a realistic possibility Sergey Balk is escorting either B-265 "Krasnodar or B-261 "Novorossiysk" to Admiralty shipyard in St. Petersburg for a maintenance period. 









Russian Navy may swap submarines in the Mediterranean Sea late 2022

Russia is likely experiencing increasing anxiety regarding maintenance of  Mediterranean Sea deployed Naval forces.  With the Bosporus closed to Naval traffic, Russia cannot easily conduct the maintenance cycles required to remain operationally effective and be a credible deterrent to NATO intervention in the Levant region, Black Sea & Ukraine.  

Russia could seek to rotate its Mediterranean deployed submarine forces in order to conduct maintenance at dedicated facilities.  There is a realistic possibility one of the two Tartus deployed Black Sea Fleet Kilo Type 636.3 class conventional diesel-electric (SSK) submarines, either B-265 "Krasnodar or B-261 "Novorossiysk" could return to Admiralty shipyard for maintenance late in 2022.

Should this happen the replacement submarine will highly likely be new construction (NEWCON) Kilo T636.3 class B-602 "Magadan" which may have transited to the Northern Fleet during August 2022 to conduct a Kalibr certification firing in the Barents Sea. 

B-602 Magadan departing the Baltic Sea on 8 August 2022.

Maintenance background

Historically, Russia provides basic engineering support to Tartus deployed units through a rotation of three Pr.304 Amur class repair ships.  Two of the three repair ships, PM-56 & PM-138 are Black Sea Fleet based and are unable to pass the Bosporus since Russia declared war on Ukraine.  Of note, in February 2022, Amur PM-138 & PM-56 established forward-deployed base repair positions at Lake Donuzlav & at Kerch/Novorossisyk but returned to homeport Sevastopol on 9 March & 14 March respectively; where they remain, unable to leave the Black Sea.  

The third Pr.304 Amur class repair ship, Baltic Fleet based PM-82, departed homeport Baltiysk on 15 February 2022 (when PM-138 & PM-56 forward deployed to support any war damaged vessels) and arrived in Tartus on 6 March 2022.  Apart from two support excursions to the east coast of Crete late March to April 2022, PM-82 remains in the Levant area providing limited engineering support.

Surface combatant maintenance is less critical than that of submarines (where additional safety concerns are uppermost) and it is likely the basic engineering support provided by the Amur class is unsatisfactory for submarines in the medium term.  Both B-265 "Krasnodar"& B-261 "Novorossiysk" are likely in need of preventative maintenance and the only viable location is Admiralty Shipyard in St. Petersburg.

Operational background 

B-602 Magadan, the third of six NEWCON Kilo Type 636.3 SSKs destined for the Pacific Fleet (PACFLT), was launched at Admiralty shipyard on 26 March 2021 & handed over to the Russian Navy on 12 October 2021. Her crew, which conducted off-platform training at Obninsk, commenced L2 tier (operational certification) training at this time and had likely achieved the higher L3 tier status by June 2022.  

As seen with the programme of the first & second PACFLT NEWCON Kilos,  B-603 "Volkhov" & B-274 "Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy" (with Pr.20385 SKR-337 "Gremyashchiy"), it was likely Magadan would wait for sister vessel B-588 "Ufa" to complete L2/L3 training before transiting, as a group, to Vladivostok with Pr.20380 corvette "Retivy" late 2022 or mid-2023.  

In peacetime, the policy of waiting and transiting as a group was acceptable but in wartime, this leaves a capable submarine & trained crew in the Baltic for nearly twelve months with limited tasking.  This is sub-optimal at at time when a maintaining a credible deterrent to NATO is paramount.  Russia could seek to use Magadan to support deployed forces and ease maintenance worries however, in order to do so, Magadan would need to test fire Kalibr. 

Magadan

To be an effective operational deterrent any incoming Mediterranean Sea deployed submarine replacement should be certified to fire its Kalibr weapon system. 

Magadan departed the Baltic Sea on 8 August 2022 in company with Lomonsov based Pr.745MBS Sorum class tug "Viktor Konetskiy" and remains unlocated. She may be heading for the Northern Fleet to conduct a certification firing of her Kalibr missile system - the only certification she cannot achieve whilst in the Baltic Sea.  

A successful firing would make her a viable operational deterrent & suitable "maintenance replacement" allowing either B-265 "Krasnodar or B-261 "Novorossiysk" to conduct maintenance at Admiralty shipyard in St. Petersburg.  

Alternatively, if Magadan is on on her way to the Northern Fleet she could be staging for her delivery voyage to the PACFLT via the Northern Sea Route.  










Nuclear-powered icebreaker "Sevmorput" set to boost Arctic trade, Summer 2022 (updated 27 June)

The Russian Federal State Unitary Enterprise (FSUE) ATOMFLOT owned nuclear-powered ice capable large container ship "Sevmorput" entered the Baltic Sea on 21 June 2022 bound for St. Petersburg.  

Sevmorput, which departed Murmansk during the morning on 16 June, is scheduled to conduct two Arctic trade voyages from St. Petersburg to the Arctic and Far East regions via the Northern Sea Route (NSR) during the summer-autumn 2022.  

The heavily subsidized missions, on which the cargo is transported for free, are aimed at increasing trade between European Russian and Far East Russian ports and are part of the Russian Federal "Comprehensive plan for the modernization and expansion of the main infrastructure" of the NSR. The first mission is expected between June and August 2022.  

Sevmorput is scheduled to depart St. Petersburg on 24 June 2022 and arrive in the Far East port of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy on 15 July.  She will conduct a reciprocal trade transit from the Far East to Murmansk on 18 July 2022.  A second trade voyage will be conducted in September 2022. 


UPDATE (23/06/22)

Sevmorput completed her transit from Murmansk and was noted to have arrived in St. Petersburg on 23 June 2022.  She will likely load cargo destined for ports on the NSR and out as far as Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy. 


UPDATE (27/06/22)

Sevmorput departed St. Petersburg on 25 June 2022 reportedly loaded with 111 shipping containers and forty tons of pre-fabricated metal structures (NFI) bound for Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy.  Also on board was a representative of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Murmansk Marine Biological Institute) who will monitor the impact to biological life and the environment of increased shipping on the NSR.  The voyage, which is expected to take twenty two days, will bring cargo from the Far East back to St. Petersburg and a second mission is scheduled for September. 

Library picture of Sevmorput operating in the Arctic

Sevmorput exited the Baltic Sea during the evening 27 June 2022.







Russian Navy Northern Fleet missile firing expected, 15 - 20 June 2022 (updated 20 June)

The Russian Navy announced a maritime closure area (PRIP) for missile firing between 15 - 20 June  2022.  The 235NM long closure, issued as Arkhangelsk PRIP 31/22 and Murmansk PRIP 172/22, is located in the Barents Sea extending across the northern Murman peninsula from the Kola inlet across to Mys Kanin Nos.  

Despite being solely a sea area closure it is likely this PRIP will be supplemented by a Notice-to-Airmen (NOTAM) airspace closure for the duration however, this information was not available at time of publication. 

ARKH PRIP 31/22 valid 15-20 June 2022
(also issued as MURM PRIP 172/22)

Analysis

Historically, PRIPs of this nature have been used for a variety of medium range missile firings from warships & submarines; for example, on 13 October 2020, a similar (but not exact) layout was used by Pr.949A OSCAR II class nuclear powered cruise missile submarine (SSGN) K-266 "Orel" in support of a P-700 GRANIT (NATO: SS-N-19 SHIPWRECK) anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) firing.  

There is a realistic possibility this closure could be used by newer construction cruise missile submarines such as the Project 885/885M Yasen/Yasen-M class SSGNs which are armed with P-800 ONIKS (NATO: SS-N-26 STROBILE) & Kalibr (NATO: SS-N-27A SIZZLER) ASCMs.  Good candidates in this instance would be 

  • Northern Fleet Pr.885 K-560 "Severodvinsk"
  • Northern Fleet Pr.885M K-561 "Kazan"
  • Pacific Fleet destined K-573 "Novosibirsk" which is temporarily based in Gadzhievo & due a firing ahead of her anticipated inter-fleet transfer to the Pacific Fleet in 2022. 

A less likely candidate is thought to be Severodvinsk-based NEWCON K-571 "Krasnoyarsk" which is the newest Pr.885M to roll off the production line at SEVMASH shipyard. 

A good background article on Pr.885M Yasen-M class SSGN can be found HERE


The PRIP could equally be used by a variety of Northern Fleet surface vessels however, strong candidates are likely to be 

  • Pr.22350 Admiral Gorshkov class SKR-454 "Admiral Gorshkov"
  • Pr.1155 Udaloy class BPK-605 "Admiral Levchenko" which is returning from a major refit

UPDATE (17/06/22)
Russian Navy Northern Fleet forces were preparing to conduct exercise activity during the evening 16 June 2022.  Several units, including a probable major surface combatant had entered the southern Barents Sea by the early evening and were joined by at least one, possibly two, Polyarny-based MRK/MPK during the early morning 17 June 2022. It is likely exercise activity will conclude with a missile firing within ARKH PRIP 31/22 (MURM PRIP 172/22). 

UPDATE (20/06/22)
Russian media reported that Russian Navy Northern Fleet Pr.885 K-560 "Severodvinsk" and Pr.949A K-410 "Smolensk" conducted joint firing of Kalibr & Granit ASCMs at targets described as "landing ships of a conventional enemy at a distance of 200KM".  It is highly likely these firings took place during the afternoon 18 June 2022. 

With heavy NATO exercise activity in the Arctic this year, the use of the phrase "landing ships of a conventional enemy" is worthy of note.  It was almost certainly aimed at a senior NATO audience & a clear reminder that Russian SSGNs and SSN/SSK regularly deploy to monitor NATO's Arctic based exercise activity. 

New Russian Navy submarine "Ufa" likely conducts first sea trials, June 2022

The Russian Navy's latest new construction Kilo Type 636.3 class conventional diesel-electric submarine (SSK) likely conducted its first round of sea trials in the central Gulf of Finland between 4-8 June 2022.

A Kilo Type 636.3 class submarine
(Library picture)

The submarine, B-588 "Ufa", likely conducted electric & magnetic signature testing designed to ensure the submarine's electric & magnetic signature falls within the manufacturer's stated tolerances.  Having completed this milestone evolution, Ufa returned to Admiralty on 8 June 2022.  Further trials can be expected during the remainder of 2022 as the submarine reaches maturity. 

"Ufa" along with sister vessel B-602 "Magadan" was laid down on 1 November 2019 and was rolled out of Admiralty shipyard on 31 March 2022.  Ufa is the fourth (of six) Kilo T636.3 and is destined for the Pacific Fleet,  


A banner from the laying down ceremony of Ufa,
1 November 2019

An article on Ufa from the Navy Recognition blog can be seen HERE

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