Russian warships steam from Arctic storm to exercise in Irish waters
The warships started the voyage westbound in the Barents Sea on Saturday and were met by Norway’s Coast Guard vessel “Andenes” outside the coast of Finnmark on Sunday. Due to bad weather, storms with high waves, the ships moved slowly, partly at 3-4 knots, for about 48 hours around Finnmark before entering into the Norwegian Sea late Tuesday.
A Norwegian P-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft flew over and took these photos during daylight on Tuesday near North Cape where the Barents Sea meets the Norwegian Sea.
There are five ships sailing together, of which only the fuel tanker “Vyazma” has the AIS turned on and can be followed by civilian tracking systems, like MarineTraffic.com
The three warships are the anti-submarine hunter “Vice-Admiral Kulakov”, the frigate “Admiral Kastanov” and the cruiser “Marshal Ustinov.” The latter is the 3rd largest vessel in the Northern Fleet.
Sailing along is also the navy rescue tug SB-406. Most likely, a nuclear-powered submarine is also following the navy group underneath the surface.
Norway’s coast guard ship “Harstad” is on watch not far from the Russian ships which are sailing in international waters. The Norwegian Armed Forces said in a statement that it constantly follows all Russian military movements near the country.
It was last week, Moscow announced a major navy exercise involving 140 combat and supply ships from all four fleets, from the Pacific to the North Atlantic. Three of the Northern Fleet’s amphibious assault ships that in mid-January were flexing muscles in the Baltic Sea and made Sweden to increase military readiness, sending troops to the island of Gotland, are now sailing into the Mediterranea. Likely on their way to the Black Sea amid growing tensions and part of Russia’s military buildup in the area.
Simultaneously as the warships from the Northern Fleet’s main base Severomorsk on the Kola Peninsula started the voyage, Russia announced it intended to conduct an exercise with artillery shootings some 240 kilometers southwest of Ireland in the North Atlantic in early February.
On Monday, Russia’s Ambassador to Dublin, Yury Filatov, arranged a press briefing where he assured that there is “nothing to be disturbed about” and that all the media attention in Ireland to the exercise has become part of a “propaganda campaign” against the Russian threat.
The embassy posted a recording of the press conference on Twitter.
In the second half of March and early April, NATO kicks off a Norwegian-led large-scale exercise north of the Arctic Circle, where both a British and a U.S. aircraft carrier group will participate.
Last time Norway was home to a large exercise, the Trident Juncture in 2018, Russian warships announced a live missile shooting exercise in the same waters outside southern Norway as NATO vessels were sailing and aircraft were flying.
Barents Sea and Arctic exercise
While three of Russia’s largest warships now sail south, the Northern Fleet on January 25 started another exercise in home waters and on land near the border to Norway and Finland.
It is planned to involve up to 1,200 personnel, about 140 units of military and special equipment, up to 20 aircraft, up to 30 ships, submarines and support vessels, according to a press release from the Headquarters in Severomorsk.
This Arctic drill is part of the larger all-navy Russian exercise. In the coming days, preparedness of military command and control structures of the fleet will be assessed in both planning and real actions to resolve crisis situations in the Arctic waters, the fleet informs.
Sailings in the Barents Sea include the frigate “Admiral Gorshkov”, the anti-submarine ship “Severomorsk” and the large landing ship “Ivan Gren”. Submarines and units from the air force and coastal air defense take part.
“The military personnel of the Northern Fleet will work out the issues of protecting the communications of the Northern Sea Route, the protection and defense of the garrisons of the Northern Fleet, and exercises will be held to counter imaginary terrorist groups, as well as to block and destroy them,” the statement from the navy said.