Ivan Antonov Transited Through Istanbul

The small boat covered with a tarpaulin at the aft is not the tender of the ship. It is an Inspector-MK2-type MCM unmanned surface vehicle.

The Russian Black Sea Fleet minesweeper, Ivan Antonov transited through Istanbul on 16th January 2020 for her first Mediterranean deployment. Her first northbound passage through Turkish Straits was in September 2019

The Alexandrit class mine countermeasures vessel was laid down in January 2017 and launched in April 2018 at the Sredne-Nevsky Shipyard in St. Petersburg. She is the second ship of her class. These ships have the largest hull of monolithic fiberglass formed by vacuum infusion according to the shipyard

These class of mine countermeasure vessels is designed to provide mine protection of naval bases, coastal sea areas, detect and destroy mines of all kinds, provide, mine protection for ships in transit, exclusive economic zone and mineral deposits at sea, carry out mine reconnaissance, lay minefields.

The vessel carries one LIVADIA-ME mine-detection sonar on her hull. The mine countermeasures operations are managed by the DIEZ-12700E automated system for the MCM operation control system. Ivan Antonov carries one Inspector-MK2-type MCM unmanned surface vehicle, 10 K-STER C lightweight expendable mine disposal vehicles, 2 K-STER I identification vehicles and two Alister 9 autonomous underwater vehicle. All these mentioned mine countermeasure vehicles are provided by French company ECA.

The Disappearing Red Star of Marshal Ustinov

When Marshal Ustinov arrived in Istanbul on 5th January, she had painted two red stars on her bridge indicating that this ship was awarded for excellence.

А for artillery and ПВО for anti-aircraft. As shown below:

This is a close up to the bridge area. Two stars are clearly visible.

 

This is a screen capture from an HD video uploaded by @benkendim to youtube. Again, two stars are visible.

However, a third star was painted overnight, as it was visible during her aborted berthing maneuver on 6th January 2019.

The third red star is clearly visible one day after the above photo was taken.

 

This is again a screen capture from an HD video uploaded by @benkendim to youtube. And yes there are not two but three stars visible.

Interesting to note that all these photos are from the starboard side of the ship. I was not able to see the port side of the ship until she passed through the Bosphorus to return home.

And when she was returning back to Russia on 8th January, oddly enough she had only two stars painted on her port side.

This is again a screen capture from an HD video uploaded by @benkendim to youtube. And yes there are not two but three stars visible.

If I had to guess why there is not a third star on the port side of the ship I would say the information for the award arrived from the naval headquarters when the ship was already sailing towards Istanbul and the bosun has only enough red paint to paint on the one side of the bridge.

Ivan Khurs Deployed to the Mediterranean

Yesterday, Ivan Khurs a Project 18280 class intelligence-gathering warship of Russian Black Sea Fleet transited through Istanbul.

This is the start of her first Mediterranean deployment. She was launched in 2017 and joined the Russian Black Sea Fleet in 2018. Her inaugural voyage to her base in Sevastopol was in December 2018. She has passed through Istanbul ob 27th December 2018 after sunset. So we are not able to see much of her.

Since her recent deployment happened in broad daylight we are able to observer Ivan Khurs.

Below are 3 photos of the various antennas onboard Ivan Khurs.

Russian Submarine Krasnodar Transited Southbound Trough Istanbul

Today improved Kilo class (Proj. 636.3) submarine of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Krasnodar made an unexpected southbound passage through Bosphorus.

The submarine one of the six units built specially for the Black Sea Fleet has been deployed in the region since 7.8.2017. She has 6 533mm torpedo tubes and carries a combination of up to 18 torpedoes, SS-N-27 anti-ship, and Kalibr land attack missiles.

While a southbound passage of a Russian submarine is very rare, it is has happened before. Russian Kilo class (Proj. 877) submarine Alrosa suffered an engine fire in 2009 and had to go to the Baltic for extensive repairs. She did even take part in the NATO exercise Bold Monarch 2011. Yes, it was different times then.

The Montreux Convention regulates the passage of submarines. While the submarines of non-Black Sea nations are forbidden to pass through the Straits, the submarines of the Black Sea riparian States may pass under certain conditions

Article 12.

Black Sea Powers shall have the right to send through the Straits, for the purpose of rejoining their base, submarines constructed or purchased outside the Black Sea, provided that adequate notice of the laying down or purchase of such submarines shall have been given to Turkey. Submarines belonging to the said Powers shall also be entitled to pass through the Straits to be repaired in dockyards outside the Black Sea on condition that detailed information on the matter is given to Turkey. In either case, the said submarines must travel by day and on the surface and must pass through the Straits singly.

The provision in the convention is very clear. If Krasnodar exited the Black Sea for repairs then this passage does not break the rules of the convention. If the submarine, however, joins her 2 sisters all ready stationed in the Med since 2017 and conducts military operations, then this will be a clear breach of the Montreux Convention. We will know better in a few days.

The Kerch Incident

Russia seized three Ukrainian naval vessels on 25th November 2018 Sunday and escalated the feud between two countries to the next level.

The Ukrainian trio – Gurza-M class gunboats P-175 Berdyansk, P-176 Nikopol and the tug A-947 Yana Kapu – set sail from Odessa and was destined to Berdyansk by the Azov Sea.

The Azov Sea is a large and shallow part of the Black Sea shared by Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Access from the Black Sea is through the Kerch Strait.

In 2003 the –then friendly – Russian Federation and Ukraine signed a treaty cooperation in the use of the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait. According to this treaty merchant ships and warships, as well as other state ships flying the flag of the Russian Federation or Ukraine, operated for non-commercial purposes, enjoy the freedom of navigation in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.

Before the occupation of Crimea, the Kerch Strait was separating Ukraine from Russia. Now both side of the strait is controlled by the Russian Federation. And this control enables Russia to decide who can pass through the Strait and who cannot. In the last couple of months, the Russian Federation has started to delay merchant ships in the Azov Sea, by detaining and inspecting them if their destination is a Ukrainian port. These legal but abusive inspections delay the ships at least 2 or 3 days.  European Parliament stated that Russia detained at least 120 vessels that flown the EU flag since April and not allowed them to proceed to Ukrainian ports. These arbitrary and unnecessary long inspections hurt the Ukrainian economy very much.

In the recent months, Russia has moved naval units from its Caspian and the Black Sea Fleets to the Azov Sea. As a counter move, Ukraine decided to reinforce its naval assets in the region. In early September Ukraine deployed two Gurza-M class gunboats. But instead sailing through the Kerch Strait they were moved on a truck by road. Thus Russia was not in a position to prevent this movement. Furthermore, Ukraine sends on 24th September the Amur class warships, A-500 Donbas and the tug A-830 Korets again through the Kerch Strait. During that deployment, the tug was towing the other ship.

However this time Ukraine decided to send the gunboats by sea instead of by land. This was not a decision out of nautical necessities.

The Russians tried to stop the Ukrainian ships. A video made from the bridge of Russian Sorum class Coast Guard vessel Don shows how the ship shouldered the Ukrainian tug Yana Kapu. The video does not show however how Don collided with the other Russian Coast Guard vessel Izumrud and created a hole on her superstructure.

Izumrud later opened fire with her AK-630 multi-barreled 30mm gun to the gunboat Berdyansk. The photos circulation on social media clearly shows the bullet hole on this boat. Later Russian special forces boarded the vessels and seized them.

In the aftermath of the incident, Russians flew the Ukrainians to Moscow. But before that, some of the Ukrainian sailors had to appear in front of the TV cameras to be forced to read some kind of made up confessions.

Ukraine pleaded help from the West and asked NATO to send warships to the Sea of Azov. People with enough geographical knowledge quickly realized that Azov Sea was too shallow to accommodate any NATO warship big enough to make a statement and armed enough to protect herself properly. Such a warship would not be able to pass under the Kerch Bridge that has only 33 meters clearance.

Ukraine also demanded Turkey to close Turkish Straits to Russian warships. Ihor Voronchenko, Commander of the Naval Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, at the II International Conference on Maritime Security in Kiev, said that Ukraine intends to appeal to the international community to strengthen sanctions against Russia in connection with its aggressive actions in the Sea of Azov and to close the Bosporus Strait for vessels of the Russian Federation according to the 19th paragraph of the Convention of Montreux.

According to Article 19 of Montreux Convention, in time of war, Turkey not being belligerent, warships shall enjoy complete freedom of transit and navigation through the Straits under the same conditions as those laid down in Article 10 to 18. Vessels of war belonging to belligerent Powers shall not, however, pass through the Straits except in cases arising out of the application of Article 25 of the present Convention, and in cases of assistance rendered to a State victim of aggression in virtue of a treaty of mutual assistance binding-Turkey, concluded within the framework of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and registered and published in accordance with the provisions of Article 18 of the Covenant…

The obvious problem here is, that there is no openly declared war between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.  And neither of these two nations is going to change the status quo, by declaring one. Turkey will not close the Straits and will keep them open for any nation. Turkey also will try to lessen the tensions in the Black Sea through indirect mediation.

By sending the gunboats and the tug, Ukraine challenged the Russian position, that the Kerch Strait was a Russian inner waterway, and showed that it hasn’t recognized, the unilateral Russian change to the 2003 agreement. Ukraine has also managed to bring the problems it faces in the Azov Sea to the worldwide public attention. But has lost a third of her Gurza-M class gunboats which are much needed to strengthen the Ukrainian Navy

On the other hand, Russia revealed that it prefers to confront Ukrainian armed forces without proxies rather than putting its assumed ownership on the Kerch Strait and demonstrated that it was ready physically block the Strait at all costs.

M/V Orca 2 Collided With Russian Navy Landing Ship Yamal

The damaged Yamal in Sevastopol. All damage seems to be on the superstructure. There is no visible damage to the hull. That is good. Photo: Artem Balabin.

I might be mistaken but the damaged area supposed to be the living quarters of the crew and the transported troops. Thus I sincerely hope no one was injured. The blow seems to be strong. Photo: Artem Balabin.

Another photo showing the extent of the damage to Yamal. Photo: Artem Balabin.

It is a pity that we -the ship spotters in Istanbul- have missed the northbound passage of Yamal on 1st January 2017. Otherwise, the Russian Navy would not be able to cover it up for 10 days.

Container ship ORCA 2 collided with Russian Navy Landing ship YAMAL at around 1300 UTC Dec 30 in Aegean sea some 8 nm northwest of Rhodes port, Rhodes island. Container ship was en route from Alexandria to Gemlik Turkey Marmara sea, and according to Russian Navy official statement, was overtaking YAMAL, when suddenly veered starboard and collided with YAMAL. ORCA 2 is to be blamed for collision, said Russian Navy. Both ships sustained undisclosed damages. YAMAL was en route from Syria to Sevastopol, Crimea, understood she resumed sailing, while ORCA 2 was taken to Rhodos anchored and remained at anchor until Jan 4. On Jan 4 she resumed voyage, and on Jan 6 arrived at Gemlik. On Jan 10 she was still at Gemlik.
There were no news on this accident until Jan 10, when suddenly, Russian Navy made an official statement, published by Russian News Agency TASS.

The omission of Yamal from Syrian Express supply runs will make life of logistics planners very difficult. She was one of the most prolific ships, making 10 deployments in 2017 before the accident. She may be out of service for a couple years.

Russian Intelligence Gathering Ship Liman, Sunk Off The Coast Of Istanbul

The stricken Liman look very much just like this ship, her sister Kildin. Here Kildin moving northbound in November 2016.

On 27th April 2017 the Russian intelligence gathering ship Liman sunk off the coast of Istanbul.

The Project 861 / Moma class ship of Russian Black Sea Fleet was approximately 17 nautical miles northwest of the northern entrance of Istanbul Strait when Togo flagged livestock carrier Youzarsif H hit Liman. The accident happened at 08.41 UTC (11:41 local time). There was fog and the visibility was limited. This part of the Black Sea is usually used as a staging area for the ships as the wait for their turn to sail the Bosphorus. Thus there are usually many ships either adrift or sailing with very slow speed.

It was apparently Youzarsif H that hit Liman since Russian ships hull was  breached below the waterline. Both ship are similar in displacement around 1.500 tons and size. The damage to the Russian ship has overwhelmed the damage control party and the ship sunk at 11:48 UTC (14:48 local time).

The proximate location of the incident.

Turkish Directorate General of Coastal Safety dispatched life boats Kıyı Emniyeti 3, Kıyı Emniyeti 6, Kıyı Emniyeyi 8 and tug Kurtarma 3 to the accident site.

Of the 78 sailors on board of Liman, 26 were rescued by life boat Kıyı Emniyeti 3, 37 by Kıyı Eminyeti 8 and 15 by Youzarsif H. There are no casualties.

Liman was one of the 3 Project 861M / Moma class intelligence gathering ships. All are based in the Black Sea. The ship was deployed to the Mediterranean in Winter 2016 and was last seen passing northbound through Istanbul on 26 January 2017.

Liman was not expected to pass southbound through Istanbul Strait. This means she was sailing just outside of the Turkish territorial waters for collecting intelligence.

Intelligence gathering ships are equipped with highly sensitive sensors, special eavesdropping hardware and software to record and decipher the collected data. Some of the sailors on board must be “scientist” specialized gathering and interpreting data. A good question is whether the Russians had time to destroy the sensitive equipment before abandoning the ship. Another question is whether there will be any efforts to raise the ship or salvage any sensitive equipment that was not destroyer by the crew.

Though we don’t have details, how the accident ever happened and who was right according to COLREG, it is kind a ironic, that a ship with a mission to gather all the intelligence around it, fails to see an ungainly merchant ship sailing directly on it.

Russian Submarine Stary Oskol Passed Through Bosphorus

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Russian submarine Stary Oskol passing through Istanbul.

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Russian submarine was escorted by Turkish Coast Guard vessel TCSG-88 and trailed by Turkish ASW boat P-1207 TCG Tekirdağ during the submarines passage through Istanbul. Frigate TCG Yıldırım was waiting for the submarine at the northern entrance of the Strait.

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Stary Oskol is the third improved Kilo class submarine assigned to the Black Sea Fleet.

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On 29 June 2016, the improved Kilo submarine of the Black Sea Fleet, Stary Oskol made her inaugural passage through Istanbul Strait.
She is the third of a four Varshavyanka submarines being build for the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The first pair of these submarines, Novorossiysk and Rostov-na-Donu are already been commissioned.

With the arrival of this boat, the number of submarines in Russian Black Sea Fleet has increased to four: the Kilo class Alrosa and the impreoved Kilo (Varshavyanka) class Novorossiysk, Rostav-na-Donu and Stary Oskol.

During her passage through Istanbul Strait, the submarine was escorted by Turkish Coast Guard vessel TCSG-88 and trailed by anti submarine warfare patrol boat TCG Tekirdağ. Turkish frigate TCG Yıldırım was waiting for her at the northern enterance of the Istanbul Strait.

Syrian Express Deployments Taking Toll On Russian Ships?

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Russian landing ship Azov, last seen on 19th February 2016 making a northbound passage. Photo: Yörük Işık.

Turkish maritime news portal Deniz Haber Ajansı ran a story about the Russian naval exercise scheduled in the Black Sea. According to the news Russian Navy has to cancel at least the amphibious landing part of the exercise due to the fact that Ropucha class landing ships Azov and Yamal were unavailable due to malfunctions. The Turkish portal quotes Ukrainian as their source and I was not able to verify content of the story through other means. But there is no smoke without fire.

Yamal made 3 Syrian deployments in this year and she was last seen on 22th February 2016 sailing north. Whereas Azov made only 2 Syrian deployments in 2016 and she was last seen sailing north on 19th February 2016. So both of them were absent for the last 68 days. This is a long pause suggesting that there actually might be some problems with these ships.

The arduous Syrian Express deployments seems to be taking toll on the auxiliary cargo ships of the Russian Navy as well. According to 7 Feet Beneath the Keel blog half of them are in non-operational status:

“Dvinitsa-50” — operational
“Kazan-60” — non-operational; to undergo repairs – possibly until this fall – following a machinery room fire in late March
“Kyzyl-60” — non-operational
“Vologda-50” — operational
“Aleksandr Tkachenko” — non-operational; after conducting roundtrip missions in February and March, vessel pulled into Feodosiya in mid-March where it probably remains today
“Yauza” — returning to Murmansk

 

Russian Submarine Rostav-na-Donu Passed Through Bosphorus

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Rostav-na-Donu passing by Topkapı Palace.

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Rostav-na-Donu passing through Istanbul.

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The submarine was escorted by Turkish Coast Guard boat TCSG-90.

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A close up view of Rostav-na-Donu.

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Rostav-na-Donu, was trailed by Turkish Tuzla class ASW patrol boat TCG Tuzla during her passage through Bosphorus.

Last Sunday, on 13 December 2015, the improved Kilo submarine of the Black Sea Fleet, Rostav-na-Donu made her inaugural passage through Istanbul Strait.

She is the second of a four boat of the six Varshavyanka submarines being build for the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The first of these submarines, Novorossiysk has already been commissioned.

Rostav-na-Donu made headlines before her arrival. 4 days prior her passage she has fired undisclosed amount 3M-14 submarine launched cruise missiles to targets in Syria.  With the arrival of this boat, Russian Black Sea Fleet operates three submarines: the Kilo class Alrosa and the impreoved Kilo (Varshavyanka) class Novorossiysk and  Rostav-na-Donu.

During her passage thourg IStanbul Strait, the submarine was escorted by Turkish Coast Guard vessel TCSG-90 and trailed by anti submarine warfare patrol boat TCG Tuzla.

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