Photo: Aircraft carrier Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov. Northern Fleet Information Support Group
Russian carrier strike group armed with missiles and torpedoes will be stationed off Syrian port Tartus, writes Izvestiya on Nov 28.
The only Russian naval base abroad – Syrian port Tartus – will meet a task unit headed by the only Russian aircraft Admiral Kuznetsov in spring 2012. According to Russian military, deployment of Admiral Kuznetsov has no relation to politico-military situation in the region.
"Presence of any non-NATO force is very advantageous for that region, since it will prevent unleashing of armed conflict", said ex-chief of Russian Navy Main HQ Admiral Viktor Kravchenko in the interview to Izvestiya.
He reminded that Soviet Navy had founded Tartus base for repair and supply of 5th Operational Squadron deployed in the Mediterranean Sea with a view to deter Western forces.
At present, the base is used as Russian Navy's maintenance station, mainly by Black Sea Fleet (BSF) ships. In Tartus, they can undergo light repairs as well as replenish fuel, water, and food supplies. About 600 military and civilians presently serve there. However, no Russian warships are based in Tartus; BSF floating workshop PM-138 left the base early in 2011 and has not been shifted yet.
Meanwhile, the US Navy's carrier strike group including the newest carrier USS George H.W. Bush, two guided missile cruisers and two destroyers started patrol mission off Syria.
"Of course, the Russian task force will be incomparably weaker than the US Navy's 6th Fleet deployed in the Mediterranean Sea with one or two aircraft carriers and several escort ships at hand. But combat conflict is not in question today, because any attack on a Russian ship will be classified as declaration of war with all ensuing consequences", explained the admiral.
Russian military says the cruise bears no relation to the situation in Syria, since it was allegedly scheduled a year ago.
"Call of Russian warships at Tartus should not be regarded as a kind of reaction on events happening in Syria. This cruise was planned back in 2010 when there was no tension. We have been preparing for this cruise, and there are no reasons to cancel or postpone it", said the representative of Russian Navy Main HQ. He emphasized that except for Tartus, Admiral Kuznetsov and her escort would visit Lebanese Beirut, Italian Genoa, and Cyprus.
The cruise will start early in Dec 2011. Aircraft-carrying cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov will leave the Barents Sea along with large ASW ship Admiral Chabanenko. The ships will double Europe and enter the Mediterranean Sea via Gibraltar.
Black Sea Fleet (BSF) frigate Ladny will move from the other side – via Bosporus and Dardanelles straits – and join the task unit in the Med Sea. Prior to that, Ladny will call at Maltese port Valletta.
Air wing of Admiral Kuznetsov will consist of eight deck-based fighters Su-33, several new MiG-29K build for India and attending their first long-range cruise, and two ASW helicopters Ka-27. Flight drills will take place at high sea, far away from Syrian coast.
Except for aircrafts, Admiral Kuznetsov is armed with 12 launchers of Granit antiship missiles, SAM systems Kinzhal, eight Kortik antiaircraft missile/gun systems, six 6-barreled 30-mm automatic guns AK-630M, two antisubmarine rocket launchers RBU-12000 Udav and other weapons.
It is noteworthy that the aircraft carrier will not call at the port due to her deep draft. She will remain off the harbor, and all supplies will be brought by Admiral Chabanenko and Ladny. Aircraft carrying cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov is the fifth Project 11435 ship and the only carrier in Russian Navy. She has performed four long-range cruises to the Mediterranean Sea and Northeast Atlantic. The ship has passed three large repairs with total duration of 6 years. After the cruise, Admiral Kuznetsov will be laid up for repairs again.
Kuznetsov's twins were sold abroad: Varyag – to China, and Admiral Gorshkov – to India. Deck-based fighters MiG-29K which are to be tested during the cruise will be based on the Indian aircraft carrier being presently retrofitted at Sevmash shipyard.
Admiral Kuznetsov has visited Tartus two times, in 1995 and 2007, writes Izvestiya.