Last week Russian state media reported that forty-four foreign reconnaissance planes along with an additional ten foreign drones were engaged in reconnaissance along Russia’s borders. All flights were monitored by Russian radar and no border violations took place, while the Russian military also announced that its own aircraft took part in some 313 training sorties from sixty-two airfields.
Among the incidents were an aircraft identified as a U.S. Air Force P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft over the Black Sea; and a U.S. Navy P-8A and Swedish Air Force Gulfstream reconnaissance plane over the Baltic Sea. Russian aircraft reportedly identified the air targets and after the foreign military planes turned away, the Russian fighter jets returned to their respective air bases.
Patrol flights and intercepts have become common in recent months with hardly a week going by in which there isn’t a report of such flights.
NATO Black Sea Presence
The missions of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) warships in the Black Sea have also steadily increased, Tass reported last week. The NATO warship exercises are also lasting 30% longer this year, Chief of the Main Operations Directorate of Russia’s General Staff Sergei Rudskoi said at a briefing at the National Defense Management Center on Friday.
“The number of NATO warships’ visits to the Black Sea remains high,” Rudskoi explained. “The overall duration of their missions has increased by 33% compared to last year. Up to 40% of them carry long-range, high-precision weapons.”
Rudskoi also mentioned the presence of the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt aircraft carrier, which can carry up to ninety Tomahawk cruise missiles.
“The aircraft carrier is currently in the Black Sea along with three other ships from non-Black Sea countries. The Black Sea Fleet timely detected NATO’s ships, started to escort them and track them with weapons,” Rudskoi added.
Whether it was an issue of translation or confusion isn’t clear, but the United States Navy does not currently operate a carrier named the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, and while it did operate a carrier with that name in the Mediterranean Sea as part of the United States Sixth Fleet, that Midway-class aircraft carrier was decommissioned in 1977.
It is possible that Rudskoi believed it was USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), the Nimitz-class carrier that has operated since the mid-1980s. However, it is currently in San Diego after it completed a two-carrier operation in the Philippine Sea with USS Nimitz (CVN-68).
However, the “Roosevelt” that was actually taking part in NATO operations was actually the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), which began its northbound international strait transit en route to the Black Sea on September 15. It was taking part in maritime security operations with NATO allies and partners in the region. The U.S. Navy routinely operates in the Black Sea consistent with international law, including the Montreux Convention.
It is easy to see how Rudskoi could have been confused as vessel is in fact named to honor both President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She is the thirtieth destroyer of her class and was commissioned in October 2000. USS Roosevelt, which is forward-deployed at Naval Station Rota, Spain, has been in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
However, USS Roosevelt is by no means an aircraft carrier. Yet it is armed with fifty-six Raytheon Tomahawk cruise missiles, with a combination of land-attack (TLAM) missiles with a Tercom-aided navigation system, and anti-ship missiles with inertial guidance.
The Montreux Convention doesn’t prohibit carriers from transiting the straits, but modern carriers are simply too heavy over the 15,000 ton limit imposed on warships—making it impossible for non-Black Sea powers to operate a carrier there.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.