Russian navy – Syrian campaign

Back in late December, the Russian MOD announced a drawdown (1) of the Russian military in Syria, including the naval presence. The “Admiral Kuznetsov” group, including the cruiser “Peter the Great”, have now left the Syrian shores, following a high level visit from General  Ayyoub Chief of General Staff of the Syrian Army, (2) where medals were awarded to Russian personnel for their participation in the campaign.

  1. Russia scales down military presence in Syria, Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier to leave first
  1. Admiral Kuznetsov and cruiser Peter the Great visit:

Syrian delegation lead by Ali Abdullah Ayyoub,Chief of Syrian General Staff visit aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov.

Gen. Ayoub visits Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and cruiser Peter the Great

The major downside of this was the negative publicity that it drew from the MSM and $88 million lost on two ditched planes. it certainly raised increased of the crucial role and of the dependability of the Arresting gear system.   The plus side will never be really be known publicly, apart from the invaluable experience gained and in depth combat testing of systems. The combat experience will leave its traces for some time to come. Despite the ridicule and derision of Western experts, the perceived unprofessionalism & accidents are not correlated to the overall capability of the crew to do their jobs.

  1. An arresting gear on the Kuznetsov.

To compare the technology used, the Kuznetsov uses conventional analog/ mechanical recovery systems, but the US Navy uses a digitally controlled electronic  version, called ARC (Advanced Recovery Control) system.

Admiral Kuznetsov: Long and Challenging Path of the Russian Navy Flagship

Remarkably, the “Admiral Kuznetsov” is the last aircraft carrier to leave the Eastern Med, thus leaving the region without any aircraft carrier presence. The first to leave for home was the “Charles de Gaulle”, in time for Christmas, followed by the arrival and prompt departure of the USS “Dwight Eisenhower”. The “Charles de Gaulle” has gone into a 18 -month refit in Toulon and won’t be operational until June 2018. (In French)

Meanwhile, the US carrier ‘Ike’, called into Marseille, where the antics of 3 French municipal police officers,( taking a leaf out of the Louis de Funes comedy “the gendarmes of St Tropez), hit the headlines, for sailing off onboard. (In French)

It was likely that the Russian navy was already scaling down its Syrian operations, when a key participant, “Admiral Grigorovich“, part of the Russian carrier group left and returned to its Black Sea homeport on the 19th Dec.  Subsequently it took part in the recovery operations of the fatal Tu-154 crash off Sochi.

The Russian navy elsewhere 

Thousands miles away, the Russian Pacific Fleet destroyer “Admiral Tributs” and the tanker “Boris Butomato”, arrived in Manila on a goodwill visit.  The President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, paid a visit, along with high ranking Philippines military delegation. The words his wrote in the visitors book included: – “Come back more often to Philippines”.
This is only the 3rd time that the Russian navy has visited the Philippines, a longstanding US ally. This comes at a time when relations with Washington have become strained since President Rodrigo Duterte took office. Although only a goodwill visit, it didn’t preclude high level talk of potential future joint sea & land exercises, as reported by RT:

There is talk that likely future exercises could set the scene for future regional collaboration focused on anti-piracy & counter-terrorism, between Russia, China and the Philippines in the South China Sea, thereby potentially reducing the current geopolitical tensions in the area. On a side note, the “Admiral Tributs” participated in a joint naval exercise with the Chinese Navy in September 2016. It is significant that this week long annual exercise took place in the South China Sea.

‘Dock here anytime’: Duterte visits Russian destroyer, wants Moscow to be ally & protector


South China Sea and Western Pacific 

This leads me to the next topic, as the Chinese aircraft carrier, the “Liaoning”, had been recently conducting at sea drills involving its J-15 fighter jets and helicopters. The “Liaoning” and its escorts, sailed out into the Pacific for the first time in late December, before heading into the South China Sea, past Taiwan and Japan, who closely watched its manoeuvres.

China aircraft carrier conducts drill in S. China Sea

All of this activity by the Russian and Chinese navies causes jitters in the region as well as in Washington.  So it’s not surprising that on the 5th January, the USS “Carl Vinson” group set sail for the Western Pacific region, the usual show of US exceptionalism, undoubtedly.  Significantly, this is the only US carrier on deployment away from the US at the moment.

Carl Vinson Strike Group Set for Deployment to Western Pacific

To finish off, I’ll leave you with this splendid short video on the “Admiral Kuznetsov”: 


Enjoy and thank you!