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Reinforcing The Black Sea Fleet
by James Dunnigan
January 31, 2014

In late 2013 Russia delivered the first of six Kilo diesel-electric subs to its Black Sea fleet. These Kilos are being built in the Baltic Sea (outside St Petersburg) and move to the Black Sea on their own. These new Kilos make a big difference in the Black Sea. That’s because back in 2009 the Russian Black Sea Fleet suffered a major blow when its only operational submarine, a 19 year old Kilo class boat, broke down at sea and limped back to port on partial power. The only other sub in the fleet was a 32 year old Tango class boat that was undergoing repairs and has since been scrapped.  During the Cold War, the Black Sea Fleet had thirty or more submarines.

The Black Sea Fleet has been a pretty ragtag outfit since the 1990s. It has been getting along with Cold War leftovers (the 23 year Kilo class sub was, until recently, the youngest major ship it had). Most of the Black Sea surface ships are in need of repair, or not able to leave port at all. Some of the minesweepers and missile equipped patrol boats date from the 1990s, but for the most part, the Black Sea Fleet has become a rest home for Cold War relics.

The Black Sea fleet has been continually declining since the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991 because the new countries (like Ukraine and Georgia) inherited many Soviet ships and bases. That was the dissolution deal. Whatever Soviet weapons or bases were normally were, belonged to one of the 14 new nations. Most of Russia’s high seas ships were based in northern Russia (the Northern fleet, based next to Finland and Norway) or the Far East (the Pacific fleet, based north of China and North Korea). But the Baltic and Black Sea fleets were largely based in ports that were now part of a foreign nation. Russia negotiated leases on their large naval base in Ukraine (Sevastopol), and the latest deal lasts until 2042. Russia is also building a new base to the east, on the Russian Black Sea coast, just in case there are problems with Ukraine.

The 2,300 ton Kilos are long range subs capable of operating at sea for up to 45 days, which makes it capable of long range patrols. On batteries it can travel at slow speed (under 10 kilometers an hour) for about 700 kilometers. Max diving depth is about 300 meters. The Kilos have six 533mm (21 inch) torpedo tubes and 18 torpedoes (including one or more Shkval rocket torpedo) or 24 mines. There are also eight portable surface-to-air missiles for use while surfaced. The crew of 52 operate a lot of new equipment on a highly automated ship. Kilo is very similar to the world-standard diesel submarine, the 1800-ton German Type 209. The Kilo is a formidable foe, especially the latest models (Project 636M type) which have better sensors and more silencing.

 


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