Ukraine lost almost all the ships of the Black Sea fleet; the maximum that the country is capable of today is to replenish the fleet with boats
"The submarine in the steppes of Ukraine died in an unequal battle." Many probably still in Soviet times heard this mocking expression, designed to emphasize the absurdity of a situation. Jokes on the topic “Ukraine - Sea Power” were extremely popular in the post-Soviet period, since from the point of view of the average Russian inhabitant, the phrase “Naval Force of Ukraine” is an oxymoron - even if the country has access to the sea, however, no naval traditions among Ukrainians , they say, is not available, and the Black Sea Fleet is obliged exclusively to the Russians for all its glory.
In Kiev, considered otherwise. Appealing to the sea campaigns of the Zaporozhye Cossacks, which terrified the Ottoman possessions, when not a single ship was built in Russia, the Ukrainian authorities, after the collapse of the USSR, proclaimed a course to create their own naval forces on the basis of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet. His fate was not spelled out in the Belovezhskaya 1991 agreements of the year, which led to a six-year battle of Moscow and Kiev, during which the parties more than once found themselves on the verge of open confrontation.
Finally, in 1997, in Kiev, final intergovernmental agreements were signed on the status and conditions of the presence of the Russian Black Sea Fleet on the territory of Ukraine, on the parameters of the division of the Black Sea Fleet, on mutual settlements related to the division of the Russian fleet and on the Ukrainian territory. By that time, the fleet consisted of 383 surface warships, 56 battle boats, 49 special purpose ships, 190 support ships, 5 submarines, all in all - 655 units. As a result, Ukraine received 30 warships and boats, one submarine, 90 combat aircraft, 6 special purpose ships, and 28 support vessels.
By 2013, the quantitative composition of the Ukrainian fleet did not actually change: by that time there were 15 thousand people in its ranks, more than 70 warships, support vessels and boats, about 30 planes and helicopters, 40 tanks, more than 90 infantry fighting vehicles, about 190 armored personnel carriers and more than 60 artillery systems and mortars.
Though it is sluggish, Ukraine nevertheless made some efforts to maintain its reputation as a naval power. The Kirov patrol laid down during the USSR was completed. Renamed the “Hetman Sagaydachny” and re-qualified as a frigate, he became the flagship of the Ukrainian fleet. At the same time, attempts were made to return to operation the only Ukrainian submarine, the Zaporozhye. But during the 20 years, a submarine launched as early as 1970 was only once launched into the sea to sink to the periscope depth. For the rest of the time, it was mostly under repair, for which more than 60 million hryvnia was spent (at that time about 300 million rubles), serving as a subject for countless jokes about the “submarine forces of Ukraine”.
The frigate of the Ukrainian Navy "Hetman Sagaidachny." Photo: Alexey Pavlishak / TASS
The Ukraine-launched missile cruiser, which Kiev inherited only by 75%, was actually completed by the end of the 90's, but since the Ukrainians still had no money for its complete set, decided to sell the ship. Long bargaining with Moscow did not lead to anything. During the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian authorities seemed to have decided to give up the cruiser for nothing, but circumstances, as we know, have changed and now the ship continues to rust at the Shipyard named after 61 of the communard in Nikolaev. The cost of completing the construction of the cruiser is estimated at $ 200 million, but spending this money no longer makes any sense — the ship is morally and physically obsolete.
The ambitions of the Ukrainian authorities are reflected in the laying in the 2011 of the year at the Black Sea Shipbuilding Plant in Nikolaev of the first corvette of the 58250 project of the “Haiduk” type, named “Vladimir the Great”. It was planned that before the 2026 of the year 12 of such ships with a displacement of 2,65 thousands of tons and worth € 200 – 230 million each will be built. Arms for the ship, the Ukrainian authorities were going to buy from France and Italy. But in the summer of 2014 of the year at the parliamentary hearings in the Verkhovna Rada, Acting Minister of Defense of Ukraine Ivan Rusnak announced that a decision was made to suspend the financing of the construction of corvettes, although the program itself, he said, was not removed from the agenda.
In addition, in 2012, at the Leninskaya Kuznitsa plant in Kiev, two armored boats of the Gyurza-M project were laid, of which nine were planned to be built before 2017. Earlier, the plant had already built such boats for Uzbek border guards. A year later, the Ministry of Defense, however, terminated the agreement with the plant, explaining its refusal to the unsatisfactory quality of the enterprise. But since “Leninskaya smithy” is included in the “Ukrprominvest” group of the current president, Petro Poroshenko, we can expect the resumption of work.
Unclear prospects for the development of the Ukrainian Navy became even more vague after Russia's annexation of the Crimea in March of this year. It was in Sevastopol that most of the ships of the Ukrainian fleet were based — the overwhelming majority of them chose to raise the St. Andrew’s flag and join the Russian fleet — this applies to all missile boats and corvettes, minesweepers, landing craft and anti-submarine forces. True, as Igor Tenyukh, then Minister of Defense, declared at the time, only the Corvette Ternopil, the Slavutych command ship and the Konstantin Olshansky large landing ship were effective from all Russian trophies.
By early April, the Ukrainian Navy had only two warships. "Getman Sagaidachny" at the time of the transition of the Crimea under the jurisdiction of Russia was in the Mediterranean Sea (before that he participated in the anti-piracy operation of NATO off the coast of Africa) and, returning to the Black Sea, headed for Odessa. It was there that the main base of the Ukrainian Navy was transferred from the Crimea.
In Odessa there was also a Skadovsk patrol boat, the second of the remaining at that time warships of Ukraine. Three support vessels and five boats were based in Odessa and Ochakovo. The Ukrainian border guards managed to withdraw the equipment and weapons of the Kerch, Sevastopol and Yalta detachments of the Marine Guard in advance from Crimea - 12 boats went to Odessa, and 11 - to Mariupol. At the disposal of the fleet and the marine brigade aviation.
The ship of the Ukrainian Navy "Slavutich" in Sevastopol raised the Russian flag. Photo: Stanislav Krasilnikov / TASS
But it's not only in the combat equipment. In the Crimea, along with the ships, the main cartographic and navigation units, radio intelligence, ammunition depots remained. And out of the 600 marines, only 200 people agreed to continue service under the Ukrainian flag.
From April to July, Russia returned more than thirty ships to Ukraine, including the Vinnitsa corvette. The transfer of fleet assets ceased in early July, when President Petro Poroshenko ordered the resumption of the antiterrorist operation in the Donbas. Thus, as of today, the Ukrainian fleet, which even before the Crimean events was in fact a coastal (coastal) flotilla, is represented by one flagship frigate, the Hetman Sagaidachny, the corvette Vinnitsa and a pair of dozens of boats.
This state of affairs does not bother the Ukrainian authorities. In late October, Poroshenko, arriving on a working visit to Odessa, said that Ukraine would modernize its navy and equip it with modern weapons. “Today, there are developments in modernizing ships, equipping them with high-precision weapons, new means of electronic warfare, which will make these ships more efficient,” said the head of state, adding that updating existing fleet units is more appropriate and efficient than building new ones. According to Poroshenko, the costs of fleet modernization are provided for in the state defense order for 2015 year.
After Poroshenko’s statement, rumors came to life that in Nikolaev they are considering the possibility of resuming the project for the construction of Ukrainian corvettes. On November 4, the Black Sea Shipyard was visited by Advisor to the President of Ukraine Yuri Biryukov, who was informed that the corvette’s technical readiness was about 17%, in particular, all the hull blocks and partly the ship's superstructure were made. To continue the construction, experts say, it is necessary to resume funding work in full from the beginning of 2015. It’s hard to believe that the necessary funds will be allocated - the state only this year owed Nikolaev shipbuilders the 500 million hryvnia “corvette” project.
“The naval forces of Ukraine no longer have the number of ships and auxiliary vessels deployed in the Crimea,” says Andrei Lysenko, head of the Information Center of the Security Council of Ukraine. - Even after the division of the Black Sea Fleet, we inherited not the newest ships. We got 10 – 12 ships of more or less new quality. We need years without pink dreams to restore our fleet, the Ukrainian one. To date, the most combat-ready are the naval units of the border troops, which now bear almost complete responsibility and control over the marine spaces that we have left. This is from Odessa, this direction and further to the Black Sea. ”
The former Ukrainian submarine "Zaporozhye" became part of the Black Sea Fleet of Russia, the sailors threw the caps of the Ukrainian Navy into the water. Photo: Krasilnikov Stanislav / TASS
To the question whether Ukraine needs its own navy, and if so, which one, no one can give an answer yet. There is no money for the construction of new ships in Kiev, but to modernize what is left is a risky business: the fate of the Zaporozhye is an example. Ukraine, of course, can take an example from other Black Sea countries - Bulgaria and Romania. The latter acquired two British frigates of the 2011 project in 22, and Bulgaria bought three Belgian Vilingen frigates in 2004 – 2008. There is still hope for the ships that were decommissioned from the fleets of the United States or Great Britain, which can be obtained as military assistance against the background of an aggravation of Western relations with Russia. But where are all these ships based and who to serve them?
Odessa Sea Port is considered one of the largest passenger terminals in Europe (the third in terms of cargo turnover on the Black Sea). The infrastructure in the port allows to accommodate up to five medium displacement warships (up to 5000 tons), as well as the required number of small ships and boats, but most of the facilities on the coast are outdated and require serious renovation. Even taking into account the fact that part of the ships can be stationed in Ochakovo, there is no reason to talk about the presence of the same material base for the fleet that existed in Sevastopol.
“She (Odessa), of course, will accept all the ships of the Russian Navy, but the fleet basing is, above all, a powerful infrastructure,” said a military expert in March, and subsequently the coordinator of the Information Resistance group, Dmitry Tymchuk. “We will need warehouses for storing ammunition, at least minimal repair facilities, protected and well-functioning communications.”
As for personnel, in June, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine created a faculty of naval forces and a military training department of the Nautical College on the basis of the Odessa National Maritime Academy. By that time 103 cadets and 16 teachers had moved from Sevastopol to Odessa, which accounted for 40% of students and 25% of officers from the whole academy. It is planned that the practice of Ukrainian cadets will be held on NATO ships. But experts spoke about the shortage of qualified naval personnel in Ukraine even before the Crimean crisis, and the situation has hardly changed for the better since then.
Under the conditions of tough financial economy, shortage of personnel and neglect of the fleet infrastructure, Ukraine seems to have only one choice - to give up ambitions to have a fleet on the Black Sea, although from a distance comparable to that of Russia in combat power, and, like Iran in its time, focus on creating "Mosquito fleet", making a bet on rocket, torpedo boats and other ships of small tonnage. And, perhaps, the existing, albeit very sad for Kiev, circumstances will lead to the emergence of the Ukrainian Navy at least some kind of doctrine. At least, its fleet did not fulfill its function, prescribed in the maritime doctrine of Ukraine from 2009 of the year - in terms of "ensuring the territorial integrity of the country" and the "inviolability of its state border at sea".