The Russian Navy is holding large-scale drills in the Black Sea region, according to top military officials.
Russia’s Southern Military District (SMD) announced in a Wednesday press release that the country’s Black Sea Fleet will hold major drills in “the waters of the seas adjacent to the Russian territory, as well as operationally important areas of the World Ocean.”
According to the release, more than twenty warships will participate in the exercises as “part of heterogeneous groups, ship shock and search and strike groups, as well as a detachment of landing ships.” The Black Sea force includes the Admiral Grigorovich-class Admiral Essen, Krivak-class missile frigate Ladny, Buyan-class corvettes Grayvoron and Ingushetia, and Tarantul-class missile corvette Naberezhnye Chelny. These warships performed joint drills with unspecified fighter aircraft belonging to the SMD, according to the statement.
"The drills of combined-arms task forces, naval strike and amphibious assault groups in the Black Sea involve frigates, guard ships, missile corvettes and missile boats, amphibious assault ships, small anti-submarine warfare ships and also minesweepers," the statement noted.
The Black Sea Fleet is one of the Russian Navy’s five principal formations, with the others being the Northern, Baltic, and Pacific Fleets, as well as the Caspian Flotilla. The Black Sea Fleet has recently taken delivery of all three of Russia’s Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates-- Admiral Grigorovich, Admiral Essen, and Admiral Makarov. According to earlier Russian state media reports, the Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates could be outfitted with Russia’s potent new 3M22 Tsirkon winged, anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile, slated to enter service sometime in 2022.
The Black Sea Fleet also possesses the guided-missile cruiser Moskva, as well as numerous Kilo-class and Project 636.3 Improved Kilo diesel-electric attack submarines. The Black Sea Fleet will reportedly receive an unspecified corvette from the advanced Steregushchiy-class by the end of 2022.
The drills are part of a larger series of regional exercises that the Russian military says will involve over one hundred and forty naval vessels and more than sixty aircraft, 1,000 other units of military equipment, and 10,000 personnel.
The Black Sea Fleet’s drills come amid spiraling military tensions between Moscow and Kiev, with western governments pointing to an ongoing buildup of Russian forces along Ukraine’s eastern border. The small and backward Ukrainian Navy, consisting of just one frigate and a handful of smaller ships, is severely outmatched by Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Military experts have warned that the Black Sea Fleet’s warships and submarines could play a significant role in a potential Ukraine conflict scenario, potentially threatening the country’s coastal cities and military infrastructure with missile strikes.
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.