29 Nov 2015 1 Comment
On 24 November 2015, one Turkish F-16 fighter, shoot down a Russian Su-24M fighter-bomber violating Turkish airspace.
The events happening after this incident are beyond the scope of this blog. I am going to try to explain this recent Turco-Russian crisis from a maritime point of view.
So what is going to happen on maritime front after the shooting down of the Russian fighter? The short answer is: Nothing.
The first reaction on Russian side in maritime domain was the deployment of the Slava class criuser Mosvka off the coast of Syrian town Latakia.
“Cruiser” Moskva “, armed with air defense system” Fort “, on Wednesday morning took the position area in the region of Latakia. His means of radar and missile system will be able to provide cover videoconferencing Russian air group in Syria, “- a spokesman said.
On the eve of the chief of the Main Operations Directorate of the General Staff, Lieutenant-General Sergey Rudskoy told reporters that the cruiser “Moskva”, equipped with air defense system “Fort”, takes the area near Latakia to strengthen defense. The exact date when not given.
Mosvka has passed through Turkish Straits on 25 September 2015 and she remained in the Eastern Mediterranean since that day. Moskva has 8 vertical launcher for SA-N-6 ‘Grumble’ surface to air missiles with 8 rounds for each launcher. The SA-N-6 ‘Grumble’ is also known as S-300F (Fort) is a navalised version of the S-300 surface to air missile system. The ship based missile is the 5V55RM which has a minimum range of 5 kilometers and a maximum range on 75 kilometers.
The deployment of the cruiser, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, off the coast of Latakia will increase the protection for air base used by Russia and is more or less for the Russian public consumption. I am quite sure that the captain of Moskva is not happy to act as a picket fence. As a picket fence the cruiser will be the first line of defence and there are not enough Russian warships to escort this capital ship should the crisis escalate.
In the unlikely event of escalation of the crisis between Turkey and Russia the cruiser Mosvka is alone and very vulnerable to the most potent Turkish weapon to be used: submarines.
According to the website of Turkish General Staff two submarines are conducting patrols in Eastern Mediterranean. TCG Dolunay is in the region 11th November 2015 and TCG Burakreis since 7th November 2015.
Besides Mosvka, the following Russian ships are in the region,
- Kashin class destroyer Smetliviy
- Nanuchka III class corvette Mirazh
- Tarantul III class missile boat R-109
- Vishnya class intelligence-gathering ship Vasiliy Tatischev
- Tanker Ivan Bubnov
- Tug MB-31
- Amur class repair ship PM-56
And the following Russian ships are on the way to the region:
- Ropucha class large landing ships Korolev and Tsezar Kunikov
- Auxiliary cargo ship Vologda-50
It is very unlikely for Mosvka to fire any missiles in anger against Turkish planes as this could potentially led to a large confrontation and in such event Turkey may evoke its right to close the Turkish Straits according to the article 20 of Montreux Convention.
Article 20. In time of war, Turkey being belligerent, the provisions of Articles 10 to 18 shall not be applicable; the passage of warships shall be left entirely to the discretion of the Turkish Government.
The Montreux Convention dictates a 8 day notification period for the Black Sea Powers. This means if any Black Sea nation wants to move their ships through Turkish Straits, they have to notify Turkey 8 days prior this crossing. Therefore if Russian Navy has decided on 24th November after the shooting down of Su-24M, to send more warships to Syria 2nd December 2015 is the earliest day these ships can pass through Turkish Straits.
Russia must have an unlimited access to Turkish Straits. The so called Syrian Express deployments of Russian Ropucha and Alligator class lanrding ships and auxiliaries are vitaly important to keep Russian troops inside Syria supplied. If Russia cannot send its ships through Turkish Straits for any reason, the Russian soldiers may find themselves in a very similar position of General Paulus’ Army. This is an important reason why Russian counter agression to the shooting of its plane was asymetrical. This is why Russians are trying to hurt Turkey with diplomatical and economical responces rather than military actions.