Guide To Russian Seabed Warfare Capabilities In Black Sea

Guide To Russian Seabed Warfare Capabilities In Black Sea

Flag Russia A Russian Navy Vishnya class Intelligence Ship was reportedly attacked by Ukrainian maritime drones (USVs) on June 11. Russia's claims that the ship, Priazovye, was defending gas pipelines in the Black Sea raises some questions.

The first is whether that is really why it was there? That’s highly unlikely since the the Vishnya class is unsuited to the task. Much more likely is that it was there to monitor NATO activity in the Black Sea.

The second is whether the pipelines need protecting? And if so, who from? Again it seems highly unlikely. The TurkStream and Blue Stream pipelines, which send natural gas from Russia to Turkey, are both in deep water. They are each over 2,000 meters (6,500 feet) deep in places. This adds to the complexity of any sabotage mission and limits the navies which could realistically threaten them.

Added to this, the restricted access to the Black Sea via the Bosporus would make it harder for countries to move specialist ships into the sea. And it is unrealistic that Ukraine could seriously threaten them in deep water (or would chose them as the priority target even if it could). Of course, the country with by far the greatest capacity for seabed warfare in the Black Sea is... Russia.

Russian Navy Seabed Warfare Capability in the Black Sea

The most visible seabed warfare asset in Russia’s Black Sea fleet is Kommuna, a 112 year old submarine rescue ship. Despite being a floating museum, she retains relevant capabilities. Principally she is equipped with a DSRV (deep submergence rescue vehicle).

Kommuna deploys a Project 1855 Priz class DSRV, AS-28. This can dive to 1,000 m (3,300 ft) and is equipped with two manipulator arms to allow it to perform other tasks on the sea floor. This is the same type of DSRV that equips the Baltic Fleet's rescue ship SS-750. That ship was observed over Nord Stream in the days before the explosions last September.

CLICK to Enlarge.

Kommuna can also carry remote operated vehicles (ROVs) for deep operations.

The Russian Navy also operates a number of survey ships, intelligence ships, tugs and other axillaries in the black Sea. These often have large working decks suitable for supporting seabed missions or can perform seabed mapping. Because they are naval vessels they are not required to broadcast their positions on AIS.

GUGI - Main Directorate of Deep Sea "Research"

When we talk about Russian seabed warfare capabilities, the conversation normally starts with GUGI (Main Directorate of Deep Sea Research). This secretive branch of the Russian Navy reports straight to the top and, although centered in the Arctic, has assets in the Black Sea. The main ship there is the Pr.11982 Seligher Class reconnaissance vessel "Ladoga".
Pr.11982 Seligher Class reconnaissance vessel "Ladoga"
File image of Ladoga, photo Yörük Işık (Twitter)

Ladoga was in the Black Sea during the start of the invasion when she was at Novorossiysk.

Ladoga is a relatively new ship designed for hydrographic and oceanographic surveys. She is also intended for ‘research’ activities in deep water and retrieval of sunken objects, and inspection of underwater cables and pipelines.

The ship can deploy the Canadian built ARS-600 deep diving submersible. These 1-2 person vehicles were intended for search and rescue but are also ideal for seabed warfare. The vehicle has a maximum diving depth of 600 meters and an endurance of 3 days. The ship can also carry a range of uncrewed underwater vehicles (UUVs) and Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs). There are facilities for specialist divers.

GUGI’s newly rebuilt Project 02670 Oceanographic Vessel ‘Yevgeny Gorigledzhan’ is reported to be destined for the Black Sea. But she is still in the Baltic. With Turkey closing the Bosporus to warships, it is unclear whether she will be able to arrive until after the war.

Other assets

Russia could conceivably employee commercial ships for seabed operations, particularly within its own EEZ (exclusive economic zone. Several large motor yachts are also in the area, including some linked to sanctioned oligarchs.

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