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.

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NATO Naval Taskforces End Their Deployment To The Black Sea

The flagship of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two FGR Rhein, during her southbound transit through Istyanbul.

Turkish contribution to Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two, TCG Anamur making her southbound passage through Istanbul as the taskforce departs from the Black Sea. A new minehunter will replace her for the future deployment of SNMCMG-2.

On early July, flagships of Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) and Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two (SNMCMG2) HNLMS De Ruyter and FGS Rhein arrived in Bulgarian port Burgas for the Bulgarian led exercise Breeze 2018. Replenishment ship FS Marne of Marine Nationale and Greek fast attack craft HS Daniolos followed them. BREEZE 2018 from 13 to 20 July.

The exercise was designed to enhance the interoperability of the participating units and strengthen cooperation by practicing different warfare techniques in a multi-dimensional scenario. Multinational participating forces and their crews will be tested in a wide range of warfare tactics focusing on regional security.

Bulgaria as host took part with 16 combat and auxiliary ships and cutters, 2 helicopters and staff of 930 members. Two aircraft of the Bulgarian Air Force and units of the Land Forces were also involved in the exercise with most ships. Turkey was the second largest contributor to the exercise with TCG Fatih for SNMG-2 and minehunter TCG Anamur for SNMCMG-2, submarine TCG Gür, fast attack craft TCG İmbat and one patrol plane.

In total 25 combat and auxiliary ships and cutters, 1 submarine, 4 aircraft, 5 helicopters and 2,340 service members from the navies of Bulgaria, Belgium, Greece, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, the USA, Turkey, France, the Netherlands took part in the exercise, which was held from 13th to 20th July.

Following the conclusion of the exercise Sea Breeze Greek fast attack craft HS Daniolos and French replenishment tanker, FS Marne exited the region while the remaining ships of both NATO Standing Maritime Groups made a port visit in Odessa between 23rd and 25th July. During this port visit, the warships were warships were open to the public. According to the Turkish Navy, TCG Fatih and TCG Anamur have hosted 2413 visitors for 6 hours when they were open to the public.

After the port visit, all NATO warships conducted a passing exercise (PASSEX) with Ukrainian naval forces. The flagship of the Ukrainian Navy Hetman Sagaidachny and warships BerdyanskVyshgorod, Kremenchuk, Lubny, and Pochaiv also took part in this PASSEX.

Upon leaving Odessa, NATO naval task forces separated. While SNMCMG-2 sailed towards Constanta Romania to conduct mine warfare exercise with Romanian Navy, SNMG-2 sailed to Samsun Turkey.

On the first day of August 2018, both HNLMS De Ruyter and FGS Rhein departed from the Black Sea ending their deployment in the region.

The Nature Of The Beast

This is a photo of TCG Yıldıray, during a transit through Istanbul. TCG Batıray is identical.

Russian website inforeactor published a post about the Sea Breeze 2017 naval exercise, held in Ukraine, between 10. and 23. July 2017.

According to the post Turkish submarine TCG Batıray was able succesful ambushing Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaidachny and US Navy cruiser USS Hué City.

So, an incidental situation developed during the training search for a submarine in the coastal waters of Odessa. According to the plan of the exercises, the Turkish diesel-electric submarine S349 Batiray lay in ambush, waiting for the passage of a large warship. She was searched by US cruiser CG66 Hue City and the flagship of the Ukrainian fleet, the “Hetman Sagaidachny” frigate. However, already at sea it became clear that both ships were not capable of detecting submarines.

On an American vessel, the towed hydroacoustic station was absent, since it was sent for repair. And in general, Americans positioned themselves as observers and advisers. On the Ukrainian ship, the situation was no better – after the “overhaul”, the GAS simply disappeared, and there were no others in the warehouses. Almost 7 hours the flotilla was looking for a Turkish submarine, until it was decided to lift the aircraft into the air. But even here the Americans did not use their equipment, leaving the search for the conscience of the Mi-14PL. On board the Ukrainian helicopter still preserved several sonar buoys, but they were without power supplies. As a result, the search was carried out purely theoretically. “Intruder” was discovered only after ascending to periscope depth….

 

TCG Batıray is an old submarine in service since 1978. She represents the first generation of Type 209 boats in service. Never the less, TCG Batıray being a conventional submarine and a knowing the area well has a distinct advantage against Hetman Sahaidachny and USS Hué City. The former is a Krivak III class frigate originally constructed for Soviet Border Guard forces. She is old and desperately needs replacement, something Ukraine currently can’t afford. USS Hué City is a Ticonderoga class cruiser, primary an air / ballistic missile defence ship with better underwater sensors than Ukrainian frigate.

This year Sea Breeze exercise did not  had a predetermined scenario. This year the exercise was held in a “free play” mode. Thus Turkish submarine took the necessary actions to hide itself and hunt its targets.

The Russian is a blatant propaganda site. They published this post not to praise Turkish Navy but to ridicule the Ukrainian Navy and it’s largest supporter US Navy. But to be honest what else could be the outcome of the described encounter?  That is the nature of the submarine warfare.

Ukranian Naval Exercise Sea Breeze 17 Has Started

US Navy cruiser USS Hue City and Turkish frigate F-241 TCG Turgutreis, off the coast of Ukraine. Photo: US Navy

Sea Breeze 2017 naval exercise has started in Odessa, Ukraine. This is the 17th edition of exercise which takes place in the Black Sea between 10. and 23. July 2017.

This year over 3,000 military personnel, 31 ship and 29 aircraft from the following nations is taking part: Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Unlike previous events this year’s exercise will have no previously written scenario.

The specifics of the Ukrainian-U.S. exercise Sea Breeze 2017 are an altered structure of the headquarters, which this year will make up the exercise control headquarters and a separate naval command headquarters, which is developed in compliance with NATO standards. The method used in holding the exercise will be different from that of the previous exercises as well: the international maneuvers will be held in a “free play” mode,” the press center quoted the head of the working group on planning the exercise nominated by the Ukrainian Navy, Deputy Navy Commander on Training Captain Oleksiy Neizhpapa, as having said.

Neizhpapa added that during the Sea Breeze-2017, the multinational naval command headquarters will exercise planning and control of forces under given conditions, as well as decision-making and supervising with regard to ship tactical groups and coastal and air force components. This will allow for testing the advanced naval command headquarters’ capability of managing forces and operations to meet NATO standards, he said.

Every year, we complicate the exercise program. It’s like in sport. After so many years of cooperation and practice, we are ready for a “free game”. We will work out various scenarios , – said the head of the Sea Breeze-2017 from the American side, Navy Captain Tate Westbrook, the commander of U.S. 6th Fleet’s Task Force 65 and of the U.S. forces on scene.

Under the scenario, as explained by Captain Westbrook, the fleet of surfaces ships will conduct anti submarine warfare, try to find and neutralise the enemy submarine, the role played by the Turkish submarine TCG Batıray.

Well good luck to the ships in their effort against TCG Batıray.  This exercise shows  Turkey as the only NATO nation that can deploy submarines to the Black Sea. Romania has one Kilo class submarine on its naval register but no one has seen that boat deployed and Bulgaria disband its submarine force in 2013.

Here is the list of the participants as far as I could find:

Number Name Type Nationality
S-343 TCG Batıray Submarine Turkey
NL-124 TCG Karamürselbey Landing ship Turkey
F-241 TCG Turgutreis Frigate Turkey
CG-66 USS Hue City Cruiser USA
DDG-64 USS Carney Destroyer USA
265 ROS Contraamiral Horia Macellariu Corvette Romania
111 Maresesti Frigate Romania
U-130 Hetman Sahaidachny Frigate Ukraine

Commander Of The Ukrainian Navy Visited Turkey

Vice Admiral Ihor Voronchenko (left) and his entourage on board of a Ada class corvette. Photo: Turkish Naval Forces.

The Commander of Ukrainian Navy, Vice Admiral Ihor Voronchenko visited Turkey this week.

As official guest of Turkish Naval Forces, he arrived in Ankara on 19th April. After talks focused on discussions of regional security in the Black Sea, as well as aspects of bilateral cooperation with his Turkish counterpart, Vice Admiral Vorochenko, visited Gölcük Naval Basel and Yıldızlar Training Center.

He has returned to Ukraine on 22th April.

Ukrainian Warships Paid a Short Visit To Istanbul

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Hetman Sahaidachny (left), TCG Salihreis (middle) Balta (right) in Istanbul.

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TCG Salihreis (left) and Hetman Sahaidachny (right) in Istanbul. Photo: Deniz Yaman.

Ukrainian warships Hetman Sahaidachny and Balta made a short port visit to Istanbul today.

Both ships passed through Istanbul Strait on 7th March 2016 and sailed to main Turkish Navy base in Gölcük, Kocaeli. There the ships have conducted joint exercises with Turkish warships.

The frigate Hetman Sahaidachny and the degaussing ship Balta arrived on the morning of 10th March 2016 accompanied by Turkish frigate TCG Salihreis to Istanbul. Balta left for Ukraine in a few hours later whereas the frigate stayed longer. The Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko who is in Turkey for an official visit, visited the frigate.

President Petro Poroshenko visited flagship of the Ukrainian Naval Forces Hetman Sahaidachny frigate that takes part in the common training with the Naval Forces of Turkey in the Sea of Marmara.
Commander of the sea campaign Dmytro Hlukhov and commander of the frigate Denys Ivanin demonstrated the equipment and mobile military hospital provided by the Turkish side.
Ukraine will receive 5 such hospitals. They will be relocated to the sectors of responsibility in the ATO area after the return of Hetman Sahaidachny frigate to Ukraine.
The President emphasized that such mobile hospitals were essentially important in the ATO area. He called them the evidence of partnership relations between the two states. “Earlier, we received them from the United States, Canada and Australia. It emphasizes strategic character of our relations,” the Head of State noted.

Later in the afternoon, Hetman Sahaidachny departed with two containers on her flight deck to Ukraine.

Sea Shield 2015 Naval Exercise

TCG Atılay passing through Istanbul, on her way to the Sea Shiel 2015 naval exercise in Romania. Photo: Alper Böler. Used with permission.

TCG Atılay passing through Istanbul, on her way to the Sea Shiel 2015 naval exercise in Romania. Photo: Alper Böler. Used with permission.

The Romanian led naval exercise Sea Shield 2015 has started on 20 July 2015.

The exercise will last till 24 July 2015 and is aimed at developing international cooperation in the defense area with similar structures of NATO member and partner states to strengthen and develop common procedures for battle.

Anti submarine warfare training is an important aspect of the exercise. The Turkish submarine S-347 TCG Atılay is acting as the hunter and the hunted. Turkey is the only NATO country that has operational submarines in the Black Sea. TCG Atılay is the first foreign submarine to visit Constanta in 7 years.

Of the other NATO countries Bulgaria has decommissioned its sole Romeo (Project 633) class BNS Slava in 2011 and terminated Bulgaria’s submarine force after 94 years. And Romania has one Kilo (Project 636) class submarine ROS Delfinul, which is in reserve status.

Standing NATO Maritime Group One is taking part in this exercise while SNMCMG-2 has left the Black Sea on 14 July 2015.

Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaidachny is also taking part in this exercise.

Below is the list of the participants to this exercise:

Number Name Type Nationality
11 BGS Smeli Corvette Bulgaria
P-68 Daniolos Attack craft Greece
F-803 HNLMS Tromp Frigate Netherlands
F-334 NRP Francisco De Almeida Frigate Portugal
30 ROS Sub Lieutenant Alexandru Axente Mine hunter Romania
188 ROS Zborul Corvette Romania
190 ROS Lăstunul Corvette Romania
264 ROS Cam. Eustaţiu Sebastian Corvette Romania
265 ROS Cam. Horia Macellariu Corvette Romania
F-221 ROS Regele Ferdinand Frigate Romania
F-222 ROS Regina Maria Frigate Romania
ROS Grozavul Tug Romania
F-240 TCG Yavuz Frigate Turkey
S-347 TCG Atılay Submarine Turkey
U-130 Hetman Sahaidachny Frigate Ukraine

Sea Breeze 2014 Participants

U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs shared the list of the ships that take part in the naval Exercise Sea Breeze 2014.

As reported earlier, the Turkish frigate TCG Oruçreis and the French frigate Commandant Birot are not taking part in the exercise though both ships are currently deployed in the Black Sea. The list of US Navy fails to clarify if the Georgian patrol boat Sukhomi is taking part in the exercise as reported by Russian.

It is also noteworthy that there are no Bulgarian participants.

Number
Name
Country
Type
F-512
TCG Büyükada
Turkey
Corvette
F-102 ESPS Almirante Juan De Borbon  Spain Frigate
F-333 HMCS Toronto Canada Frigate
DDG-71 USS Ross USA Destroyer
P-24 Sukhumi Georgia Patrol Boat
F-221 ROS Regele Ferdinand Romania Frigate
F-264 Contraamiral Eustatiu Sebastian Romania Corvette
U-130 Hetman Sahaidachniy Ukraine Frigate
U-153 Priluki Ukraine Patrol Boat
U-120 Skadovsk Ukraine Patrol Boat
U-512 Pereyaslav Ukraine Intelligence Gathering Ship
U-542 Nova Kahovka Ukraine Training Ship
U-782 Sokal Ukraine Ambulance launch
BG-50 Kuropyannikov Ukraine Coast Guard Vessel
B-57 Mikolaiv Ukraine Coast Guard Vessel

Russians Doubled Their Submarine Force In The Black Sea

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The existing Russian Varshaviyanka (project 877) class submarine Alrosa on left and the newly gained Russian Foxtrot (Project 641) class submarine Zaporizya on right. Photo: Anton Blinov.

Last weekend on 22 March 2014, a second submarine joined the Russian Black Sea Fleet. This Foxtrot (Project 641) class submarine, launched in 1970 is not among the new constructions to strengthen the Black Sea Fleet. It is more or less adopted.

According to RIA Novosti the half of the crew of the Ukrainian submarine Zaporizya decided to join the Russian Navy.

Captain 1st Rank Anatoly Varochkin, the commander of the Black Sea Fleet’s submarine flotilla, told RIA Novosti that half of the Zaporizhzhia’s crew, including the captain, refused to serve in the Russian Navy and left the vessel. “Half of the submarine’s crew is ready to serve [Russia] and fulfill their tasks. They know their vessel and will continue service,” Varochkin said adding that the submarine was in a poor technical condition.

Well the submarine is old and she can probably cannot dive deeper than her periscope depth which might be between 12 to 15 meters. But it is not important what the Russians got it is important how they have got it.

The Russian blogger Anton Blinov has an excellent set of photos taken at the re flagging ceremony of the old Soviet, old Ukrainian new Russian submarine.

 

For further reading:
The Ukrainian Submarine Zaporizya Made Her First Dive
The Ukrainian Submarine Is Back In Regular Service
The Sole Ukraine Submarine Conducted Sea Trials In Black Sea
Russians Teach Ukrainians How To Escape From A Sunken Submarine
Turkey To Train Ukrainian Submariners?
Renewal of Naval Relations Between Russia and Ukraine
Russia Is Helping Ukraine To Maintain A Submarine

Ukrainian Frigate Hetman Sahaidachny Passed Through Turkish Straits

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Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaidachny passing through the Bosphorus.

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Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaidachny passing through the Bosphorus.

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Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaidachny passing through the Bosphorus.

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Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaidachny passing through the Bosphorus.

The flagship of the Ukrainian Navy, the Krivak III (Project 1135.1) class frigate Hetman Sahaidachny passed through the Turkish Straits today and is now in the Black Sea. I have no information about her destination. It can be Sevastopol or Odessa. We will know better tomorrow.

The ship was doing anti piracy operations first with the CTF-151 and later with Operation Atalanta since September 2013.

A large Ukrainian flag was hoisted as she was passing through the Bosphorus contrary to the earlier reports that she has changed flags.  During her passage she was escorted by large patrol boat TCSG-90 from Turkish Coast Guard. Turkish Coast Guard vessels usually escort foreign warships during their passages through Turkish Straits.

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A few minutes later a Turkish Meko 200 class frigate TCG Yavuz passed through the Bosphorus and followed the Ukrainian warship towards the Black Sea.

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Turkish frigate F-240 TCG Yavuz sailing towards the Black Sea

I do not think that the Turkish warship was shadowing the Ukrainian frigate or escorting her, but the presence of the Turkish frigate was not a coincidence either.

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Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaidachny passing through the Bosphorus. Photos: Kerim Bozkurt. Used with permission.


A group of Ukrainians were cheering as the flagship of their navy passed by them.

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Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaidachny passing through the Bosphorus. Photos: Kerim Bozkurt. Used with permission.

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Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaidachny passing through the Bosphorus. Photos: Kerim Bozkurt. Used with permission.

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