Russian Naval deployments during the Ukraine War

March 17

At least six Russian warships were observed near Odessa. The warships maintained their distance and operated on the horizon.

March 16

Several vessels entered the port of Sevastopol including the patrol vessel Vasily Bykov. The Bykov was rumored to be struck and sunk by a Ukrainian grad MLRS barrage near Odessa on March 07 dough this was never officially confirmed. 
The visual confirmation of the vessel entering the port of Sevastopol undamaged indicates that if an MLRS attack took place, it did not struck the Bykov.

Ropucha class landing vessel Kondopoga of the northern fleet allegedly also entered the port of Sevastopol.

March 15

Several Russian warships and landing ships were spotted on commercial satellite imagery during the morning hours. The vessels were heading in the direction of Odessa. 
The vessel leading the formation of landing ships appears to be minesweeper with her sweeping array deployed.

During the evening, around 90 missiles were reported fired against the city of Odessa, most of these missiles were intercepted by Ukrainian air defense systems.

Conclusion
The Russian Navy conducted an amphibious demonstration towards the port city of Odessa. The demonstration involved steaming towards the port with a minesweeper in the lead. It is unknown if the Russians know that mines were deployed at the route of advance or if the made a preventive sweep against unknown minefield.
With over 90 missiles launched, the bombardment of Odessa was aided most likely by missiles launched from aircraft as the number of land attack missiles and vertical launch systems in the Black Sea Fleet is limited.

The amphibious demonstration served to keep the Ukrainian 28th Mechanized Brigade in place near Odessa and prevent it from being deployed towards more critical sectors on the frontline.

March 13

The two Grigorovich class frigates, Admiral Makarov and Admiral Essen, were detected north of Snake island by means of commercial satellite imagery. At least on Ropucha class landing ship was also spotted near Snake Island.

A group of eleven Russian vessels, including some Ropucha class landing ships, were spotted near Lake Donuzlav at the western site of Crimea.

Conclusion:
After taking the time to resupply and rest in port, the amphibious task force is once again assembled near Lake Donuzlav. The task force most likely is deployed once again in this location awaiting the moment for conducting operations against Ukrainian positions at the Odessa Region.

March 12

A group of amphibious landing vessels are reported west of the Crimea near the town of Popovka.

Slava class cruiser Moskva allegedly docked in the port of Sevastopol. Krivak class frigate Ladny is allegedly also in port.

March 11

Tapir class landing vessel Orsk and an unidentified Ropucha class landing vessel most likely headed back towards Sevastopol during the afternoon.

Hydrographic vessel Donuzlav continues to operate in the northwestern part of the Black Sea. The vessel provides weather information for the Black Sea Fleet.

Conclusion
With regards to the amphibious situation, several vessels are heading back to port, most likely for resupply and small rest for the crews. The Russian Navy keeps monitoring the weather, most likely to identify possible windows of opportunity when an amphibious assault could take place. Good weather conditions is one of several requirements needed for a successful landing.

March 10

A Russian warship was vaguely detected in the coastal regions of the Black Sea near Odessa while launching missiles. The vessel is believed to be a Grigorovich class frigate.

Conclusion
Russian naval activity remains within the established patterns with the fleet providing fire support for operations inside Ukraine.

March 09

Amur class repair vessel PM-138 is allegedly preparing to return towards the port of Sevastopol. The vessel has been deployed near Lake Donuzlav where it acted in support of Black Sea Fleet operations.

Ropucha class landing vessel Aleksandr Otrakovsky allegedly is preparing to head out to sea as pre-sea activity is reported with regards to this vessel.

Krivak class frigate Ladny allegedly returned to the port of Sevastopol during the afternoon.

March 08

Slava class cruiser Moskva operates southeast of Zmiyi (Snake) island. Intelligence collection vessel Ivan Khurs was also reported in this area.

Conclusion
Russian warships continue to operate in the vicinity of Zmiyi island. From this position, the patrolling Russian warships can interdict and blockade Ukraine's maritime trade without operating too close to the Ukrainian coastline.

March 07

A Russian warship was struck by GRAD unguided missiles near the Ukrainian port of Odessa. According to reports on social media, the vessel is allegedly the Bykov class patrol vessel Vasily Bykov though this is not yet confirmed.

Conclusion
Though yet to be independently confirmed, it appears the Ukrainian forces have managed to at least damage a Russian warship in the Odessa Region. The vessel was allegedly struck by unguided rockets launched from a BM-21 GRAD Multiple Launch Rocket System. Several observations need to be made.
Either the Ukrainians were very lucky in hitting the vessel or larger things are at play since hitting a moving vessel with unguided munitions is difficult. Either the Russian vessel was stationary or it was moving on a steady course and speed. The latter would allowed the Ukrainians to gain accurate target data and calculate the point of impact for the rockets, taking the traveling time of the rockets in account and the movement of the vessel.
Russian warships operating close to Odessa will probably now change their behavior and change their course and speed randomly as not to give the Ukrainians accurate target information. This increases the risk however that Russian warships accidently sail into the Ukrainian minefields that were placed near Odessa.

March 06

Eight Kalibr cruise missiles were launched towards the Ukrainian airfield at Vinnitsia. The missiles most likely flew over Transdnistria, indicating that they were launched from the Black Sea.

The Ukrainian Navy reports the loss of the patrol vessel P190 Slovyansk due to combat. The vessel was attacked by a Russian aircraft on March 03 near Odessa. The vessel sank as a result of the received damage.

Conclusion
The missile of the Black Sea Fleet is part of the Russian effort to suppress the Ukrainian air force. The fact that eight missiles were launched first suggest that the Vinnitsia airfield ranks high on the target list. Either a significant amount of Ukrainian airplanes were stationed at Vinnitsia, or the airfield is intensively used to launch strikes against Russian positions. The result of the strike are not reported.

The Ukrainians report the loss of an Island class patrol vessel which was attacked by Russian aircraft near Odessa on March 03. This action shows that the Ukrainian vessels are vulnerable against airstrikes when isolated at sea. There is confirmation that at least one more patrol vessel, the P153 Pryluky operates from the Odessa naval base. This vessel was observed at sea on March 02.

March 05

There are reports that the Russian amphibious group located west of the Crimea is returning towards Sevastopol. The task force reportedly missed a window of good weather for amphibious operations with the next window now being reported around March 8-9.
The task force will most likely now return to port, allow the vessels to replenish their food, fuel and water supplies.

A group of four vessels was spotted at 20 kilometers off the coast of Mariupol. The vessels could not be identified.

Conclusion
Bad weather conditions seem to limit future naval operations in the northwestern part of the Black Sea with the amphibious task force returning to port. Having spent two weeks at sea, replenishment of the vessels becomes necessary. 
The weather is expected to clear in the second half of week 10, possibly around March 8th or 9th, to allow for amphibious operations. However, ground units are currently not yet in place to support an amphibious assault in the Odessa Region.

Several Russian vessels remain on station near the Ukrainian port of Mariupol. These vessels were not identified but are most likely part of the amphibious group in the Sea of Azov. So far, this task force has not been reported supporting the ground battle near Mariupol, either by landing troops or shelling coastal positions held by Ukrainian forces.

March 04

Hydrographic vessel Donuzlav continues to operate in the northwestern part of the Black Sea. The vessel collects hydrographic and meteorologic data.

Conclusion
Once again the majority of the Black Sea Fleet remains undetected and unreported through means of OSINT though we can assume that they remain present at least to enforce the blocked of Ukraine, even though at this point commercial vessels are avoiding the area for several days.
We expect an increase in reported naval activity once new Russian operations in the south of Ukraine are in full swing again.

March 03

The Estonian merchant vessel Helt sank near the port of Odessa after having struck a sea mine. As reported on March 02, the Helt was reported in a position where a burning vessel was observed. It is unclear who placed the mines along the roadstead of Odessa.

Conclusion
OSINT sources did not pick up significant Russian Naval movements during this day. An Estonian merchant vessel sank on the roadstead of Odessa due to hitting a naval mine. The mine was hit yesterday on March 02 and the burning vessel was spotted during the afternoon.
The incident proves that the Odessa roadstead is mined, most likely by Ukraine to prevent Russian amphibious vessels from getting near the port.

March 02

Russian warship, later identified as the Grigorovich class frigate Admiral Makarov, was seen on the horizon near Odessa during the morning. Weather conditions have also cleared up with the sea being flat enough to allow BTR's to move safely through the water.
During the afternoon, a smoke plume was spotted on the horizon outside of Odessa. It is unknown if a Russian warship was hit and burning. Given the time of reporting and the angle where the smoke was observed, the Panama flagged vessel Helt was near the place where the smoke was reported. However, no follow up reports were made.

During the evening, the Ukrainian Navy Matka class Hydrofoil missile boat P153 Pryluky  was spotted patrolling the coast near Odessa.

At some point a Grisha class missile boat of the Russian Navy was identified near Odessa as well.

Bangladeshi vessel Banglar Samriddhi was struck by rockets which caused a fire. The crew succeeded in putting out the fire. The last AIS signal reports the vessel in the approaches of Mykolaiv.

A large amphibious task force was reported near the town of Donuzlav at the western side of Crimea. The task force consisted of one Ivan Grenn class, five Ropucha class and two Tapir class landing vessels. Also spotted was a Buyan-M class corvette, believed to be the Orekhovo-Zyuevo.




Conclusion
Confusing naval activity was reported near Odessa with at least Russian warships patrolling the coastal zone. These vessels were identified as the Grigorovich class Admiral Makarov and an unidentifeid Grisha class corvette.
During the afternoon, reports of smoke on the horizon were reported but it remains unclear if these were from engine troubles or the result of a naval engagement. Neither Russia or Ukraine provided any details. During the afternoon, the Ukrainian Matka class Hydrofoil missile boat P153 Pryluky  was spotted patrolling the coast near Odessa. The fact that the Ukrainian navy can operate near Odessa in the presence of two Russian warships indicates that the control over the naval domain near Odessa is currently disputed.

A large amphibious task force is reported near the town of Donuzlav in the western Crimea. This task force has been active west of the Crimea since the outbreak of hostilities. It is unknown how the troops embarked will be used in the coming days. A landing in Odessa would seem as a likely course of action though the beaches are defended and the presence of the Russian warships in the coastal zone has alerted the Ukrainians.

A civilian cargo vessel, the Banglar Samriddhi, was struck while at anchor south of Mykolaiv. It is unclear of the attack was deliberate or the result of a missile or rocket that went astray. Fires broke out on the vessel but were contained by the crew. The Banglar Samriddhi is the fourth commercial vessel to be damaged in this war.

March 01

Defensive preparations are being made in Odessa with civilians filling sandbags on the beaches and transporting these inside the city. The weather near Odessa in bad with lots of wave moment. This could explain why no amphibious assault took place recently as wave conditions make movement of BTRs in the water very difficult. Given Ukraine's defenses at Odessa, beaching the LST's aren't an option.

Conclusion
For the second day in a row, reported naval activity is low to non existent. It is possible that the Russian Navy is also holding an operational pause or are operating out of sight. Bad weather in the Odessa sector helps to explain why we do not see many naval movements along the coast.

February 28

Eight vessels are reported near the town of Melekyne, south of Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov. The identity of these vessels was not reported.

Bykov class patrol vessel Vasily Bykov and rescue tug Shakhter returned to the port of Sevastopol.

A group of Russian vessels allegedly approached the Ukrainian coast near Odessa during the night. It appeared these vessels were preparing an amphibious assault but turned back after Ukrainian forces opened fire.

Conclusion
It appears Russia conducted an amphibious demonstration near Odessa though this action was not verified by regular channels. A large amphibious task force is known to operate west of Crimea but it is unknown what its intentions are.
In general, today was a relatively calm day for the Black Sea Fleet which confirms that a relative pause was initiated with regards to the invasion of Ukraine. As the ground forces regrouped and resupplied, the need for fire support from the sea diminished. No incidents with civilian vessels were reported though at this stage, most civilian shipping has left the area.

February 27

Grigorovich class frigates Admiral Essen and Admiral Makarov reportedly launched several Kalibr cruise missiles against targets inside Ukraine.

The Russian Navy reportedly captured two Ukrainian flagged civilian cargo vessels and is escorting them towards the port of Sevastopol. The vessels are reported as the Afina and the Princess Nicole.

Several vessels headed back towards the port of Sevastopol, these included Grigorovich class Admiral Makarov, an unidentified Buyan-M class, Ropucha class landing vessel Tsezar Kunikov and Tapir class landing vessel Orsk.

Conclusion
Russia continues to target Ukraine's maritime trade by capturing two Ukrainian flagged vessels and escorting them back to Sevastopol. Several warships are returning to Sevastopol for unclear reasons. Admiral Makarov could be returning for reloading after firing Kalibr cruise missiles. 
The return of two landing vessels seems strange as no amphibious assault was confirmed at this point. It is unclear if these vessels disembarked troops at a coastal zone already under Russian control or if they are coming in to embark troops or supplies to keep the offensive going in the coming days.


February 26

The Ukrainian armed forces report that several Kalibr cruise missiles were launched by the Black Sea Fleet towards targets inside Ukraine. The launches took place during the night of Feb 25th to 26th. There is no confirmation which targets were stuck.

Russian warships are still maintaining the blockade of the Ukrainian coast. Commercial vessels now receive warnings on the VHF-16 channel to stay away from the area of operations. This course of action is in line with internationally accepted rules of engagement in regards to keep commercial vessels away from hostilities.
A group of Russian warships including the Slava class cruiser Moskva and an unidentified Bykov class patrol vessel were observed near Zmiiny Island at 09:07 UTC. The vessels appeared to be escorting or deterring a group of commercial vessels out of the area of naval operations.

SAR imagery of Sevastopol showed what appears to be a Buyan-M class warships next to a floating crane. The vessel could possibly be rearmed with new cruise missiles before heading back out to sea but this was not verified.

Conclusion
The third day of the naval war did not brough any large highlights expect for the established patterns seen over the past two days. The fleet continues to strike key infrastructure deep in Ukraine with cruise missiles. It also appears that additional cruise missile strikes are to be expected in the upcoming days.
The Russian Navy changed tactics in regards to enforcing its blockade around Ukrainian ports. Vessels are now called upon on VHF-16 to stay clear of the area. This practice is in accordance with internationally accepted rules of engagements. It also marks a clear break from previous Russian actions that involved striking civilian vessels with missiles and gunfire.

February 25

A Russian amphibious task force remains present in the Sea of Azov. This task force is most likely the one that entered on February 20th. These vessels were identified as Ropucha class landing vessels Novocherkassk and Tsezar Kunikov, Tapir class landing vessel Saratov, Grisha class anti-submarine corvette Yeysk, Bykov class patrol vessel Pavel Derzhavin, Tarantul class missile boat Naberezhnye Chelny. The task force was located in position 46.09 N, 36.42 E around 0348Z.

For the second day in a row, the Black Sea Fleet struck  civilian cargo vessels operating in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Ukraine. The vessels were reportedly struck by a missile around position 46°22.221’N, 031°07.095’E.
One vessel is reported as the Moldavian flagged Millennial Spirit which suffered heavy damage and subsequent fires. The second one was the nearby bulk carrier Namura Queen which only had minor damage to the superstructure.

Late during the evening, there were reports of an amphibious landing near the city of Mariupol. These reports could all be traced back to a single US senior official making a statement that a landing was happening with 'thousands of troops'. While the amphibious task force in the Sea of Azov can carry only three combat companies at best, the Russian Naval Infantry has never trained in night time amphibious landings and thus lacks the expertise and equipment to succeed in one.




Conclusion
The second day of the war confirmer earlier observations. West of the Crimea, the Russian Navy is enforcing a blockade of Ukrainian ports by even going as far as to fire upon civilian vessels. Their actions are seen a violent escalation and not in line with international rule. The Russian Navy did not appear to broadcast warnings on VHF 16, nor are their reports of warning shots before the bow to warn and stop civilian cargo vessels.
The attacks against civilian shipping seems to be aimed to create fear and force civilian cargo vessels to leave the area as soon as possible. All three attacks against civilian cargo vessels have so far been taking place in the coastal zone. It is possible that Russian warships act in this manner because they do not want to spent too much time in the coastal zone. A possible fear for Ukrainian air and missile strikes are a possible reason. Ukraine operates one mobile launcher for Neptune anti-ship missiles that is not yet destroyed to our knowledge. Six other launch vehicles are reportedly already build by the Luch Design bureau and were undergoing testing. It is unknown if these six vehicles are now rushed into service.

To the east, the Russian Navy operates a small amphibious task force that, at best, carries three companies of naval infantry. The task force has not yet made any moves. Rumors spread by US senior defense officials caused quite a stir but were based on nothing as the Russians are unable to conduct amphibious assaults at night due to a lack of training.
A landing near Mariupol with this small size does not serve the Russian war effort unless there is a very high change that the landed troops can make contacts with Russian ground forces in the first hours after landing. Either these are troops that broke out from Crimea or troops that have broken through the frontline at Donbas. In the later scenario, the amphibious task force could serve to help encircle Mariupol and prevent Ukrainian forces from escaping.

February 24

During the opening moves of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Black Sea Fleet played a supporting role through the use of several missile strikes. The first amongst these strikes targeted the Ukrainian Navy while it was still located inside its bases. Within the opening phase, the Russian Navy achieved the goal of 'Copenhagening' the Ukrainian Fleet. With the Ukrainian Navy destroyed, the Russian Navy established sea control.

Also during the opening phase, the Russian Navy launched several cruise missiles such as Kalibr missiles, against key infrastructure inside Ukraine. These targets included airbases and storage depots. Strikes resumed halfway the morning with images of depots around Odessa being struck.

During the afternoon, Slava class cruiser Moskva and Bykov class frigate Vasily shelled Snake Island in the Black Sea. The island is held by 13 Ukrainian troops of the border guard. Later during the evening, the island was reportedly captured by Russian troops. It is unclear if these troops were flown in from the previously mentioned two warships or if an amphibious landing had taken place.

A Turkish cargo vessel was reportedly struck by a bomb when it operated near Odessa. Later reports claim that the vessel was shelled by Russian warships. This event seems to have been a trigger for other commercial ships to start leaving the port of Odessa as several AIS signals conform the mass departure of civilian ships.




Conclusion
The Russian Navy played a supporting role in the opening phase of the war by neutralizing key infrastructure and presumed weapon depots within the opening hours of the war. In the process, it established sea control by destroying the Ukrainian Navy while it was in port. 
In a second phase, the navy started to establish a naval blockade around Odessa. Snake Island reportedly housed a military facility and was subjected to a naval attack in the afternoon. Its position in the Black Sea makes it a good spot to strike Russian shipping and protect the approaches of Odessa if the Ukrainian Navy positioned Neptune anti-ship missiles on it.
It is unknown if these missiles were present on Snake Island but it appears that Russia did not took any risks and occupied the island on the first day. Having established sea control, the Russian Navy is now free to blockade the port of Odessa.

Comments

  1. What is the point of a navy that sits in its bases when under imminent threat? Seems expensive and useless; when were they planning on using it if not now?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Keeping them at sea indefinitely was not a viable option. The first strikes happened so fast after the declaration that there was no time to man these vessels and have them dispersed.
      Also, the Ukrainian navy was so small in size compared to the Black Sea Fleet that going out to sea and confront the Russian warships would have ended with their destruction as well.

      Delete
    2. There are two articles about a mutiny on one of the LST ships: [ https://www.wnd.com/2022/03/report-russian-marines-mutiny-ordered-attack-ukrainian-beach-assault-canceled/ ] & [ https://dumskaya.net/news/rossiyskie-matrosy-ustroili-bunt-kogda-im-prikaz-160512/ ] & twitter post by Ukrainian Ambassador [ https://twitter.com/olex_scherba/status/1498587998627282945 ] that mention this.

      The delay in the invasion may also be due to concern over UK Brimstone anti-ship missiles (delivered prior to the start of the war) & Ukrainian Neptun anti-ship missiles (1 launcher vehicle was delivered and six were in testing phase when war broke out).

      Delete
  2. Why was the Ukrainian Navy not cruising when the invasion appeared imminent? Did they not want to appear to provoke an attack?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Any news about Vasily Bykov?

    ReplyDelete

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