What to expect from Ukraine in the Azov-Black Sea region and what are the prospects of the domestic Navy
One of the threatening directions of the continuation of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine is the coast of the Black and Azov Seas. In view of this, the issue of ensuring the security of the southern borders of the country through the development of powerful national naval forces is relevant. However, after the loss of main forces and resources in 2014, the Ukrainian fleet is still unable to recover, and the government, unfortunately, does not pay due attention to increasing its capabilities. Defense Express spoke with the Commander of the Ukrainian Navy 2014-2016, Vice Admiral Serhiy HAYDUK, about the challenges and threats to security in the Azov-Black Sea region and the current development of the Ukrainian Navy.
Serhiy Anatoliyovych, the expert community is already talking a lot about the significant risks of further military intervention of the Russian Federation against Ukraine from the Azov-Black Sea region. In your opinion, what justifies this?
The answer is obvious – Russia is demonstrating its aggressive intentions towards Ukraine, both by increasing its capabilities in the temporarily occupied Crimea, and by artificially creating obstacles to freedom of navigation, reconnaissance activities using captured maritime infrastructure, and so on. In the last five years, the Black Sea Fleet has been replenished with at least 16 new warships, boats and submarines. The Russian fleet currently has up to 40 warships, 11 of which are surface-to-air carriers of Caliber naval-based cruise missiles. At the same time, their total missile volley is 64 cruise missiles. In addition, the number of Black Sea Fleet has increased several times and today is almost 35 thousand sailors, officers and officers.
In fact, Russia pursues a systemic policy aimed at increasing its capacity in the Azov-Black Sea region. Moscow is well aware of the importance of the navy as an instrument of influence, which is why they focus on it. By the way, the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation “On approval of the Fundamentals of the state policy of the Russian Federation in the field of naval activities for the period up to 2030” clearly outlines what Moscow wants to do in Crimea. I advise you to read. There and the creation of an interspecies group of troops (forces), and a single state system of coverage of surface and underwater conditions, and much more.
Against this background, the weakness and systemic unwillingness of the Ukrainian authorities to engage in state maritime policy is surprising. Problems related to maritime activities, challenges and threats in this area are perceived only through certain events or circumstances. And where is the system, predictability, deep analytics, work ahead?
We must finally realize that the loss of Ukraine’s access to the sea means losing the meaning of the national fleet, losing domestic shipbuilding and related industries, forgetting about foreign trade in the sea and finally taking another step towards turning the Black Sea into a “Russian lake”.
We must finally realize that the loss of Ukraine’s access to the sea means losing the meaning of the national fleet, losing domestic shipbuilding and related industries, forgetting about foreign trade in the sea and finally taking another step towards turning the Black Sea into a “Russian lake “.
In fact, it is a national tragedy at the cost of Ukraine’s possible existence as a state. And Russia’s plans remain clear enough and one should not convince oneself that the Kremlin has abandoned its project of creating a so-called “Novorossiya” in southern Ukraine.
In such circumstances, if we estimate the budget expenditures of the Defense Ministry on the Ukrainian Navy, are they sufficient for the development of the fleet? Why do they need to be built and how can this be done in the current conditions?
Due to the fact that the national fleet is not a priority of public policy, it is financed, in my opinion, not systematically and on a residual basis. The vertical of the problem is obvious – if the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff do not have structures that would carry out “maritime lobbying”, then where will they appear in the Cabinet and the Verkhovna Rada, and even more so in the President’s office.
We must finally understand a simple banal thing. The national fleet (military, civilian, fishing, transport, research) is built by the state, not by individual ministries and departments. The Ukrainian Navy, the General Staff or the Ministry of Defense only create the need for naval staff and other weapons to ensure the reduction or elimination of threats from the sea. Until there is this understanding, there is no system and continuity of the process, maritime issues will be addressed situationally.
It is necessary to talk about separate state programs / subprograms of financing of the maritime branch of the state, but to take into account the bitter experience of building a national corvette, when “business and political interests have defeated the economy and national security.”
To date, the Strategy for the Development of the Ukrainian Navy until 2035 has been adopted, which provides for the development of the species and the gradual increase of the ship and boat composition and capabilities of the domestic fleet. Several American boats have already been received and a number of domestic boats have been built. However, this is clearly not enough. In your opinion, is the logic set out in the document correct, and what hinders the implementation of the planned, since there is a certain delay in the implementation of certain plans with the construction, repair and modernization of weapons?
Sorry for the frankness, but the Navy Strategy is another “corporate” product that has nothing to do with the classic concepts of maritime security and the development of the national fleet, which are characterized by systemicity and continuity. In the absence of resources, it is simply a declaration similar to the Maritime Doctrine of Ukraine for the period up to 2035.
We need to talk not only about the ship-boat composition. The fleet is much wider and more complex: submarines, naval aircraft, coastal missile forces and marines, parts of operational, combat, logistics and technical support, a system for monitoring the surface and underwater situation, and so on.
And this is a balance, in addition, promising standardization and versatility of naval weapons, not situationality and “mosquito”!
Given the maritime geography of the Black and Azov Seas and the specifics of recent military conflicts, in my opinion, the territory of the state should be protected not from its shores, but from the shores of the enemy. That is, the mother, as they say, “long arm” of fighting the enemy and over water, and on water, and under water. And only this can be a deterrent to the aggressor!
As for obtaining an American “land lease” and building coastal boats, this has a certain positive, but we should not talk about quantitative indicators, but about qualitative, ie combat potential. And here we have nothing to oppose the aggressor yet.
The difficulty of ensuring safety in the maritime direction is that it is necessary to carry out simultaneous control of air, surface and especially underwater conditions. Which of these areas needs special attention and what basic principles should be the basis for further development of the sea coast control system?
Given the composition of the heterogeneous group, which was created by the Russian Federation in the Crimea, of course, all spaces are important, but to confront each of them, the algorithm is simple: “discovered – issued a target – impressed.” And here it is important to understand that without the timely detection of the enemy it is difficult to talk about the accuracy of the impression of sea and coastal targets, which can have both static and dynamic state.
Obviously, in the face of threats of air and missile strikes from submarines, surface ships, coastal missile systems, etc., we must talk about creating a single integrated lighting system for air, surface and underwater environments, which would cover the entire section of space. Interagency integration between the participants of the process, who are armed with radio equipment, namely the Navy, the Air Force, the State Traffic Police of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, and domestic enterprises of the Ministry of Infrastructure is very important here.
It is difficult to comment from the point of view of the country that is at war for the seventh year, but today, in fact, an integrated surveillance system that would “cover” near and far areas, cover surface and underwater space, has not been created.
At the same time, if we have some positive results in the control of air and surface conditions, there are gaps in the monitoring of the underwater situation in terms of eliminating anti-submarine, mine and anti-submarine sabotage threats.
So, in the current conditions, how do you think it is possible to ensure effective control over the underwater and partially surface situation in the region? What is a good foreign experience in this context?
Of course, the actions of special operations forces pose a threat not only to ships, but also to marine infrastructure (weapons and ammunition storage facilities, maritime industry enterprises, the berth front, port waters, etc.). The obvious solution is to create a multi-zone and submarine defense facility. Of course, it is necessary to have a set of forces that is ready to perform the task of detecting the signs and the very fact of the actions of underwater saboteurs, issuing targets for their destruction and elimination of consequences.
Counteraction to submarine-sabotage forces and means must be started at the far frontiers, ie on the principle of combating their carriers, and in the near zone and self-defense zone – to fight them directly.
The experience of monitoring the marine environment can be seen in the example of the Black Sea NATO countries – Turkey and Romania, which are systematically improving the surveillance system.
For example, the Romanian integrated system for detecting, monitoring and controlling traffic in the Black Sea SCOMAR was created within 5 years. The system consists of two subsystems: the Border Police subsystem and the Naval Subsystem and has surveillance components (air, ground, sea), command component and response component. The peculiarity of the SCOMAR system is that, along with radar and optoelectronic equipment, both maneuverable and stationary means of sonar reconnaissance are used. That is, there is someone to borrow experience from. At the same time not so far.
Are we able to independently develop in Ukraine our own domestic system of protection of the underwater and surface waters of the country’s coast? Are there appropriate solutions and technical possibilities in this direction?
Of course, we have managed to preserve the national experience, and most importantly, specialists who are ready to work towards the development, modernization and maintenance of naval armaments. What is the value of the example of the preparation of the frigate “Hetman Sagaidachny” to perform the tasks of the anti-terrorist operation in the Indian Ocean, when specialists of the research and production corporation “Cleaver” (Kiev) restored both towed and towed sonar stations. As far as I know, the company is still at the forefront of the marine armaments market. In addition, locators are moving “in step with the times” – the Research Institute of Radar Systems “Quantum Radar” (Kyiv) and the open joint-stock company “Holding Company” Ukrspetstechnika “(Kyiv).
That is, there is potential in Ukraine. The main thing is the correct formation of the state defense order and rhythmic financing ….