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terça-feira, 25 de março de 2014

Caspian Sea. Power of the nations.

When everybody his worried about Ukraine, in the Caspian Sea another "war" is taking place.  It is a little bit far from Occidental World so Media is not worried about the territory problems and the proposed division about the area in the water that witch country will administrated in future.   So is important to see how this nations are working to defend their territory and winch ships are include in this very important work. So, let´s forget Crimea and talk about  the Caspian Sea situation.

The Caspian Sea is strategic place for the countries of the region. Main reason is oil and natural gas (and Caviar of course), and for Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan the control of the maritime routes are the most important were an imagine line gives to the nations power to certain areas.  After decades of abandon the Caspian Navy's are today in great expansion, with all the nations buying and making new ships, not only the normal patrol but also corvettes and frigates (Iran said that have a destroyer but the tonnage is from a frigate). There is a danger of the number and size of  boats increase in the follow years so the situations is far from be pacific when small navy´s are gradually defiant the big ones and if the propose division in future will be a reality it is possible that the clash between several countries will increase.    

Like we can see in down image Soviet Union had important research facility´s call "Facility Kaspiysk", were the famous "Caspian Monster" was tested for the first time, before went to Baltic.  Not only the Ekranoplane were used extensively but also missiles, speedboats, hovercrafts and also hydrofoils, because the very good conditions of "one big lake" gives to decades of prototypes unique conditions. Only Iran was an outsider but with Iran X Iraq war there was no time and interest in Russian experiments and probably the contraband of military equipment were the most important for Khomeini´s regime.  

It's true that Russia said that Ekranoplane is a "dead idea" and there is no plans for a future resurrection, but with money from oil an gas, and with the situation in Baltic and Black Sea, everything is possible.  The idea is very good and all the research is made with also a positive service evaluation  so is just a matter of time to see at least one of them near the water in great speed, firing several missiles or leaving troops near the coast.

Russian Fleet

Russia have the most powerful fleet in the Caspian Sea. The Flagship is the Tatarstan (two Gepard class frigate but is possible that more go into service) that is the one of the bigger's ships in that waters (the other is the Iran destroyer/frigate), arm with  SA-N-4 and SS-N-25, one 76,2mm and two 30 mm guns, more torpedoes and anti-submarine rockets. Other units include two Gunboats, four missile boats (three Buyan corvette's with at least four under construction, armed with one 100mm and two 30mm guns and Igla M/SS-N-27 in a VLS launcher or other similar equipment),  three Tarantul corvettes ( SS-22/25, SA-N-5, one 76,2mm and two 30mm guns) and three Matka class missile boats (SS-25 and similar guns to other classes). 
Gepard class frigate
Three Sonya minesweeper, one Dyugon landing craft and four Serna hovercrafts complete the fleet. The Headquarter is in Kaspiysk and there are also helicopters (Kamov/Mi) and vehicles (BTR/BMP/BRDM). The troops are three infantry, one reconnaissance and one artillery battalion and a ECM battalion. Is official name is Caspian Flotilla and was created in 1722 by Peter the Great and had great importance in all the wars that Russia and USSR fight since those times.  

Buyan corvette
Russia are working hard in the modernization of the Caspian Flotilla and it is possible that by 2020 at least 16 new ships  will arrived. The Navy Commander Vladimir Vysotsky said to Russia Today that Moscow will also deployed coastal missile systems in the coast and is making a better port in Makhachkala to make two units in the same fleets (the other is in Astrakhan in the Volga Delta).  
Main missions of the fleet is of course give the security to Oil an Gás companies and provide safe navegation in Russian waters. We can see the good health of the flotilla (some said that ships are old but for my they make their job like de old monitors in Beasilian navy) in exercices like the one made in 2011 and there are plans to another "join venture" with Iran in a major naval exercices.
At least there are two intenctions: First is to advise ocidental nations (like US and Israel) that the Caspian Sea is a place of  Russian (and Iran to) influence and that Caspian countries now to talk and resolve ther problems. Second, that when the area is running to re-arm their armed forces, Russia is still the powerfull nation in the Caspian Sea.   

Gun Boats project  1204 "Bumblebee"

Dyugon Class Landing Craft

Serna class 

Tarantul corvette

Zubr Class

Sonya minesweeper

Azerbaijani Navy

The Azery Navy is the second large in the Caspian Sea. Tradition of this now member Azerbaijani Armed Forces is back in to 6 August 1918 when was boarn but after the rise of Soviet Union the six ships were transfered for their jurisdiction and only in July 2002 started to operate full independent of Russian Navy (after de colapse of USSR the navy made the missions together with Russia who gives the necessary support and maintenance).
Today is independent navy with 5 000 man, 36 ships and 6 aircraft, based near Baku (Wolf Naval Base in Baku´s Bay) and is lead by Vice-Admiral Shahin Sultanov since 2011 (the first leader was Captain Rafig Asgarov) in the Azeri's control of their territorial waters.

Probably the most strange ship use by this navy is the Triton Submarine (four of them but it is not clear witch type and for what missions). The bigger ship is one Petya classe frigate (ARN Gusar modernize by USA and Turkey) and the rest area Patrol Boats (5 Stenka torpedo boats, 3 Osa missile boats, 2 AB25, 2 Svetlyak and 1 Point class cutter) and minesweepers (2 Syonia and 5 Yevgenya).
Very important are the landing crafts (6 Polnocny) becouse the Azeri navy has one of the best special forces (641st Special Warfare Naval Unit), similar to Turkish Navy (who coperate with them in the creation of the unit) and with training give by US Navy SEAL and USA Blackwater maritime division.

Osa class missile boat

The Naval Aviation has three Casa CN-235, two Eurocopter Dauphin and one Eurocopter Super Puma. It is possible that like Azerbaijani Air Force and Army some of the ex. Soviet material Kamov's, Mi-8 and Mi-24 will be in active in navy's units.
America donated three power motor boats and there is an agreement to provide more tecnical support to Azeri warships. The US Military are also provided advanced laser marksmanship device and are training for the use of the equipment. Turkish Armed Forces are expanding the cooperation betwen two countries in exercices like the one in 2006 witch the military's clean mines and against terrorist forces in a very good practice of maritime and sea operations.   

Stenka and Yevgenya class Minesweeper

Moscow is not pleased with the new ocidental friends, so when Azerí's said that in 2014 they will build local new ships (Navy power modernization program by 2020) and will operade from a new naval base next year (the plan is like the Russians to had several diferent divisions in north and south), Kremlin sell 75 Millions Dollars of "Uran E" missiles to equiped the boats (and it is possible that other material will folow).
But Azarbeijan is also purchase missiles "Barak" from Israel and gunboats from Turkish, so voices like from Iran Navy Commander Habibollah Sayari told journalist Sara Rajabova from Azernews that "some countries are interested in disturbing the peace of the region, and that some neighboring countries witj other states area taking steps to toward violating peace in Caspian Sea.    

1400M Grif Class

Sonya Class Minesweeper
Older ASW boat "Araz" a Turkish AB-34, now a Patroal Boat
Petya Class Corvette

Two Polnocny landing Crafts

Iran Caspian Fleet

With a force of  90 vessels in the sea (and a plan for more 75 missile ships to build in the area in the next years), Tehran have the same retoric like in the Persian Golf. Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayari talk about Iran's force like was the most powerfull in Caspian Sea but it is not true that they control good all the 20% share of the sea.
For decades Iran atention was to war with Iraq and then to US expansion in Ormuz and Persian Golf (and it is their first attention). Only in the last years the rich oil and gás reserves and the navy's re-boarn in Caspian Sea made the islamic nation look with another atention to the region. The Hamzeh (an old yatch) was been equiped with C-802 anti-ship missiles an deployed in Anzali (an ancient training base but now home of the fleet) with a new Moudge class frigate (SSM and SAM missiles) launch in 2013 (more 6 are under construction but only one or two will go to Caspian Sea). 

Sina Class Missile Boat (a made copy of La Combattante II) Paykan was also to Caspian and at least more three units are seen in Naval Base in Anzali. There are plans to launch some units of the Ghadir Class midget submarines and more patrol boats but at this time there are only see some gunboats similiar to Chinese Hainan class  
There is one force of Minesweeper (probably some units of Riazi class) and Navy Aviation presence are ASH-3D and AB-212 ASW (Mi-17 it is possible too) but in small numbers (the most of them are in Persian Golf). No landing crafts or hovercrafts have been see but it is easy make them come (or build) into these waters.  

It is always difficult to now what forces have iran In Caspian Sea from the "". They have no regular base in Anzali or near but ther presence is garanted becouse they are everywere, with Thondar, Seraj missile boats, Tir and Zolfaghar torpedo boats, Zodiac commando boats and Boghamar Patrol Boats with helicopters like the Mi-17( in 2007 the Iran governement split the areas of action to IRIAN in Caspian Sea and Ormuz, since the IRGCN have the Persian Golf, but nothing is garanted in this islamic republic).
Regular exercices are made in Caspian Sea by Iran Navy (with the participation of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution), but most important are with Russia like the one made in the last week of June 2013 ( when Iran send 10 ships to Astrakhan and with Russia's fleet made joint exercices).For now Tehran only can give some land and sea manouvers in response to the rase of naval power of other nations, but in future with US and Turkish influence in the area, it is normal that the number of ships and man get bigger. 

The ancient yatch hamzeh

Kazakhstan Navy

The Kazakhstan Navy is one of the small navy´s in the Caspian Sea, with a force of 3 000 man and 14 to 17 ships, but it is truth that was the last one established in 7 May of 2007 in Aktau. In 2011 a naval aviation base was open (612th) with 2 Su-27 and some helicopters (MI-8/Mi-24).
It is only seen gunboats in the fleet (there's a reference to a missile boat name Kasakhstan but the one with the number "250" have rockets), 4 Almaty class patrol boats, 1 Dauntless, 5 Guardian vessel, 2 Grif patrol craft and 2 Turk vessels. Plans are made to buy patrol missiles boats from Koreia (3 Chamsuri gun boats were receved in 2006 with 032-033 numbers) and 2 Minesweeper to Russia.  

 Kazakhstan is one of the two so call  "Navies of landlocked Countries" (no acess to sea) of the Caspian Sea (the other is the Azarbeijan), what makes a problem to buy a vessel. The only way of make a foreign boat to go pass the Caspian is by the Volga (like the Azeri's US cutter) with aproved by the Russia. Then, more that the patrol boats (like future PKX or Yoon-Young - HA class from South Korea) may be a problem. 
It is true that this small flotilla is formed for the protection of  economic interests in the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea but if the plans made in mid-1990s with bases from the Caspian to Aral Sea (and Lake Balkhash to), only two things are possible: Make the ships local or buy them to Russian's state company's (the deal about boats with USA were cancelled after a sell of Mig-21 to North Korea). 

The Navy Commander Zhandarbek Zhanzakov have great plans for future patrol boats (with Exocet missiles) but so far the ships made local area armed with guns (AA missiles and modern guns are not see) and at least Zenit power plant is making more huls. There's no other way when Russia and Iran are not supporters of Kazakhstan Navy and America or Europe see this new nation with noo need of boosting cooperation, at least for now.

Turkmenistan Navy

A Lightning Class corvette

For years there was no formal Navy in Turkmenistan but a Border Guard Service with arround 700 men and 16 ship. The four missiles Boats (12418 Lightning Class corvettes with 76mm gun, SSM Uran E and SAM Igla with more one to buy in next years becouse it is one of the most heavy armed ships of the Caspian Sea), one Point Class Cutter (ex Point Jackson 82378) and five Kalkan Patrol vessel's. Since 2009 that were made plans for a navy and in 2010 the Naval Institute was created an a naval program until 2015, with aquisition of Ukrainian patrol boats (more like Zhuk class or Stenka but documents refer to Grif and Kalkan M) and Sable Russian Patrol vessel's.
When there's a proximity with Moscow an Tehran (and against the Azerbaijan) chance of getting more equipment is bigger, but for now only Russia can sell modern patrol boats so when the local governement talks about getting Iran's frigates when the islamic republic have only a few in Caspian Sea it is only propaganda of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. 

Kalkan Patrol vessel
Only in 10/10/2011 was created in Asgabath the Turkemenistan Navy with the mission of protect the homeland waters of the nation and two YTKB patrol boats made by Turkish in a 55 millions contract were delivered (armed with Oto Melara 40mm gun). In September 2012 the country made ther first naval exercice named Khazar 2012, after a summer of tensionwith Azarbeijan over natural gás field in a contested part of the Caspian Sea. The way that this recent navy is making garanties his policy of neutrality but they now how rich is Caspian Sea (Turkemenistan holds the fourth-larger natural gás reserves in world), so there's a need of a strong group of man and ships (240 millions of dollars to 2015) to have a good neighborliness with other nations in area. But US Department have some interest in the country naval plans and Turkemenistan started becoming interest in 2007 in military cooperation (by Wikileaks) and they receved de EDA Cutter Point Jackson. It is a slow cooperation but in the future and with problems with Russia in Crimeia, who now.

Zhuk class
Port of operations is Turkmenbashi (there area plans for a new base in 2015 with a surveillance radar system) but there's more than 700 km of coast to patrol. Two LCAC class Skat are now in active service and there´s plans for buy more from Russia and made a quiet purchase to Turkey for more eight Tuzla inproved class (one 40mm, two 25mm, two 12,7mm guns and four Teseo missiles). But with all the money spent in boats, personal and plans for a new base, the Turkemenistan Navy is still the more week of the reigion and it is likely that this naval force upgraded can't no match with Azarbeijan.

Point Class Cutter (ex Point Jackson 82378)

TCG - Tusla YTKB patrol boat 

TCG - Tusla YTKB patrol boat in Caspian waters

Patrol Boat Class Sable