Newspapers are reporting that Vladimir Putin has sent a Russian frigate to the Mediterranean to confront the US ships which rained bombs on the Syrian runway. Russia has sent the Admiral Grigorovich to position itself between the USS Ross and USS Porter which launched the Tomahawk missiles at Syria. Supposedly, this has heightened fears of a conflict between Russia and the West.
This may be a fear in the minds of those who are unfamiliar with the military strength of the two types of vessels, Russian and American. There is a vast difference in lethality in the two types. The Admiral Grigorovich is the first of the Project 11356 frigates, displacing 3,850 tons. It is designed for anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare on the high seas, and for anti-aircraft operations, both independently and as an escort ship. The ship is armed with an eight-cell launcher for Kalibr and Klub (3M54E) anti-ship and surface-to-surface missiles, a 100-mm A190main gun, a Kashtan gun/missile close-in air defence systems, a Shtil vertical-launch air defence missile system, two torpedo tubes, an anti-submarine rocket system and a Ka-28 or Ka-31 helicopter.
The vessel was completed on 2015 and entered service in early 2016. It was constructed at the Kaliningrad-based Yantar Shipyard and uses a Ukrainian Zorya-Mashproyekt gas-turbine propulsion plant. It was to be a project which would produce six ships, but while Russia had received the propulsion systems for the first three vessels, Ukraine's termination of defence exports to Russia left the final three without their turbines. Saturn was contracted to build alternative M90FP turbines for the class under Russia's import substitution program, but these cannot be completed before 2019-2020. Delays have moved this timeline even further away. The other three frigates lack propulsion plants, the production of which is to be launched by defence contractor Saturn in the city of Rybinsk under the import substitution program, but the schedule does not suit the Russian Navy.
TASS said that the Russian Defence Ministry had decided to reallocate the money earmarked for the second troika of Project 11356 frigates to pay for other ships it badly needs. The discussions between the military and the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation led to the opinion that the only way that the continued production of the remaining three frigates can be funded was by offering them for export.
The terms of delivery to the Russian Navy of the newest frigates are under threat because of the backlog with the development of missile systems. This was reported 24 March 2017 by Deputy Defence Minister Yury Borisov. "Due to the untimely performance by the Almaz-Antey concern of the development works Polymet-Redut and Shtil, the terms of delivery of the 22350 Admiral Gorshkov and 11356 Admiral Makarov ships are in jeopardy, Borisov said. According to him, the main reasons for late delivery were the low level of organization of their work, delays in the supply of components, insufficient production capacity and a lack of qualified personnel. In total, six ships were planned for this project, of which in 2016 the fleet received two - Admiral Grigorovich and Admiral Essen. "Admiral Makarov" is on state tests. The fourth and fifth ships of the series will be transferred to India, the fate of the sixth was still unknown.[i]
The Admiral Grigorovich is no match for either the USS Porter or the USS Ross destroyers. Both the Rosss and the Porter are Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers which have been deployed to Rota and frequently travel to the Black Sea on rotating patrols.
Ross' weapons include surface-to-air missiles, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, Tomahawk cruise missiles, antisubmarine rockets, torpedoes, Phalanx Close-In Weapons Systems and a five-inch rapid-fire deck gun. Its tactical ability is expanded by its state-of -the-art electronic warfare countermeasures, decoys, and passive detection systems. The most important of these is the AEGIS Weapon System - the only fully integrated electronic detection, engagement and fire control system in the world today. AEGIS enables Ross to detect, evaluate and engage an enemy with lethal firepower and accuracy. This includes Russian ICBM and Cruise missiles as well as anti-aircraft and marine vessels.
A report by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) in September 2011 concluded that the Aegis missile system represents a grave threat to Russian nuclear strategy. “The focus,” wrote Yousaf Butt and Theodore Postol, “is on what would be the main concern of cautious Russian military planners —the capability of the missile defines interceptors to simply reach, or “engage,” Russian strategic warheads—rather than whether any particular engagement results in an actual interception, or “kill.” Interceptors with a kinematic capability to reach Russian ICBM warheads at launch or in flight would be sufficient to raise concerns in Russian national security circles – regardless of the possibility that Russian decoys and other countermeasures might defeat the system in actual engagements. In short, even a missile defence system that could be rendered ineffective could still elicit serious concern from cautious Russian planners.
Such a large number of interceptors could be expected to create fears among Russian political and military leaders that their PAA [Phased Adaptive Approach] would cause some attrition of Russian warheads. According to the FAS report, shore-based radar units to support Aegis missile targeting by US warships are already installed around the Black Sea shore in Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, and Georgia. Others are on U.S. naval vessels, like the USS Vella Gulf, the Ross and the Porter. It is widely believed in military circles that the Aegis System’s electronic warfare kit has compromised the security of the most sophisticated Russian radar systems including the S-300 and S-400 Triumf (A-21 Growler) radars installed in Syria.
Ross' undersea warfare suite consists of underwater surveillance equipment including a hull-mounted sonar and an acoustic array towed behind the ship. Together, these undersea warfare systems give Ross the capability to detect and prosecute submarines in blue ocean and littoral environments. Four powerful gas turbine engines provide power. They are capable of propelling Ross to speeds greater than 31 knots. Two controllable reversible pitch propellers assist her rapid acceleration and uncanny manoeuvrability.
In short it may make political and strategic sense for the Russians to position the Admiral Grigorovich between the USS Ross and USS Porter in the Mediterranean but, in reality, like much of Russian bluff and bluster, it is ultimately an exercise in utter futility.