The Russian Navy no longer has to sail around NATO-allied seas thanks to its inland waterways connecting the Neva to the White Sea at St. Petersberg.
The Russian Defense Ministry last week reported the completion of its exercise in the Barents Arctic, highlighting the successful maneuvering of its small but highly effective guided missiles without bypassing NATO-controlled Scandinavia.
In the event of a war between NATO and Russia, it would be very difficult for the Russian Navy to pass through the Baltic Sea to invade the North Atlantic. Russian warships attempting to weave their way through the narrow straits in Denmark would have to run a coastal defense gauntlet through Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Germany, Norway, Lithuania and Sweden before even reaching the Denmark Strait, where only 2 or 3 NATO submarines could stop anything trying to get into the North Atlantic. By using the Neva instead to penetrate the Barents Sea, Russian warships would be within friendly territory and under air cover of Murmansk and Monchagorsk air bases.
According to one report, the corvette “Mytishchi” (ex-uragan) of the Karakurt class had sailed an estimated 3,700 km through the Neva at St. Petersburg, through Lake Ladoga, Lake Onega and into the White Sea-Baltic Canal. The small warship then navigated across Lake Vygozero and into the river leading to the city of Belomorsk, where the White Sea coast awaited. From there the Mytishchi launched its Kalibr cruise missiles at a coastal target at the Chizha firing range at Cape Kanin in the eastern Barents Sea.
Originally designed for submarines, aircraft or surface ships, the Kalibr cruise missile was actively used in the wars in Syria and most recently in the invasion of Ukraine. This purpose built Mytishchi Projectile has a range of up to 500 km, can travel at supersonic speeds of Mach 2.9 and carries a 200 kg warhead.
The Russian Navy’s small but powerful coastal defense corvettes
A corvette is generally the smallest class of warship that a Navy sends to sea. They are one tier lower than a frigate in terms of size, endurance, armament, and crew size. Quite a few maritime countries in Europe build corvettes as coastal defense ships, and Russia operates most of them on the continent. In contrast, the United States does not build corvettes and instead relies on Coast Guard cutters for coastal patrol duties along with an extensive network of naval and air force bases to patrol the seas by air.
The lead ship of Project 22800, also known as the karakurt-class corvette Mytishchi put to sea in July 2017 as soon as the Pella shipyard in St. Petersburg had completed its construction. It entered service in December 2018 as part of the Russian Navy’s Baltic Fleet in Baltiysk.
The Russian warship has an overall length of 67 meters, a width of 11 meters, a displacement of around 800 tons and a top speed of up to 30 knots. Armament includes Oniks and Kalibr anti-ship missiles, naval guns, a Pantsir-M Close Combat Weapons System (CIWS) and 14.5mm machine guns. All Project 22800 corvettes feature stealth technology powered by twin M-507D-1 diesel engines, proven to last at least 12 days at sea. The National Interest added that these ships are notable for their “increased seaworthiness, high maneuverability and low superstructure and hull radar signature,” a salient feature for launching attacks on coastal defenses.
In addition, the corvette can transport an Orlan-10 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. At the time of writing, there are four variations of the Pella shipyard corvettes, including Mytishchi‘s twin sister Sovetsk (Ex-Typhoon) and Odintsovo (ex-Shkval), introduced in May 2018, and Burya launched in October 2018. All of the first three ships are assigned to the Baltic Fleet, while the latter is expected to join later this year.
Defense against attacks from the Barents Sea
Last week, the Barents Arctic naval exercise was conducted by more than ten Northern Fleet warships and submarines, including the large nuclear-powered battlecruiser.Pyotr Veliky‘, which fired a Granite cruise missile from the Barents Sea at a target on Novaya Zemlya. As a result of the exercise, an area of over 50,000 km2 was closed to civil sea and air navigation.
“It is planned to conduct a series of shelling with naval missiles, artillery and anti-submarine weapons at surface, underwater and air targets in the Barents Sea.” The Northern Fleet informed. In her first warning, sent August 19–20, she did not specify what type of weapons she would be using, but as the exercise began it was discovered that the Northern Fleet was firing its guns, rockets and cruise missiles under live fire practiced drill.
In addition to the Navy, the Russian Air Force and coastal air defense units were also present to support the fleet. As reported by the Barents Observerplayed the fleet into the scenario of repelling an enemy attack on Russia from the Barents Sea while dodging attacks on the country’s Arctic islands.
Keep a watchful eye
NATO countries such as the UK, Norway and the US kept tabs on this extensive week-long Russian naval exercise. Earlier this week, the US and UK sent reconnaissance planes along the coast of the Kola Peninsula to monitor their activities.
A Russian MiG-31 was reported on August 22 when it unexpectedly encountered a British RC-135 that the Kremlin said had violated Russian airspace.
“The plane violated the state border of the Russian Federation in the area of Cape Svyatoy Nos,” the Defense Ministry said in a brief statement.
On the other hand, the British government denied the allegations of border violations, stating that “the British plane was in contact with Russian civil air traffic control and its crew operated safely and professionally”.