The changing tide of the Ukraine War appear to have led the Russian Navy to ‘regroup’ its forces in the Black Sea. Early during the invasion they loitered boldly close to Odessa. Now the Black Sea Fleet barely sails out of sight of Crimea for fear of Harpoon missiles. Its submarines too have recently shifted their base further from the shadow of Ukrainian attack.
For the past few weeks, they have been concentrated at Novorossiysk, another naval base much further from Ukraine.
Novorossiysk sits on the Russia’s Black Sea coast, between Sochi and the now famous Kerch Bridge linking to Crimea. In recent years the naval base has been expanded and, during the Ukraine War, has been the home of many landing ships. Some submarines are normally based there but for much of the war Sevastopol became their hub.
Now they have largely moved back from Sevastopol. Submarines do still call at Sevastopol, and the older submarine Alrosa, which is undergoing post-refit trials, is still active there. But it is now normal to have three Kilos in Novorossiysk, and that is a change.
The move came shortly after Ukraine stepped up drone attacks on Sevastopol, targeting the Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters. The prominent HQ building was approached by drones which flew from the east, over the submarine berths. This may be part of the motivation for the change.
Given the war approaching Crimea, and Ukraine’s growing ability and confidence to attack Sevastopol, the retreat seems prudent. And it is difficult to disassociate it with the war threat.
The submarines do not however have to be based at Sevastopol in order to launch Kalibr missiles. These have enough range to be launched from near Novorossiysk and hit targets inside Ukraine. And the submarines have the ability to sail unmolested throughout the northern Black Sea.
As Russia moves its Navy around, reacting to Ukraine’s military moves, the location and activity levels of the submarines will continue to be of interest.
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