For the first time in the post-Soviet period, the Caspian Flotilla will receive its own aviation. By the end of next year, it will be replenished with Mi-8 and Ka-27 helicopters. This is part of a large-scale effort to strengthen the Russian Navy in the Caspian and create a new main base. With such military equipment, the association will be able to exert a strategic influence on the entire region, experts say.
Sources in the military department told Izvestia that the task of helicopters in the Caspian will be primarily search and rescue operations. If necessary, the vehicles will also be able to transport the marines and paratroopers of the flotilla. In the future, they will be joined by Be-200 amphibious aircraft. The question of entering into the staff of percussion machines is under consideration, added the interlocutors of the publication. Until the naval aviation of the Caspian Flotilla (CFL) will include the unique Mi-14 amphibious helicopters.
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In May 2019, the commander of the Caspian Flotilla, Rear Admiral Sergei Pinchuk, told reporters about the plans to create an aviation squadron in Kaspiysk. But then he did not specify the timing of the appearance of this formation. According to him, in addition to the Be-200, it was planned to receive Mi-14 helicopters – an amphibious version of the Mi-8 transport, which is capable of landing and taking off from water. This week, information about the imminent appearance of naval aviation in the Caspian Sea was confirmed in his speech at the final collegium of the Ministry of Defense (held on December 21) by the commander of the Southern Military District, Army General Alexander Dvornikov.
The emergence of aviation in the CFL will become possible thanks to large-scale work to create a new full-fledged base. At the final meeting, the head of the military department Sergei Shoigu said that military infrastructure facilities and a mooring front for ships were put into operation in Makhachkala this year, the filling of the northern and southern breakwaters with a total length of about 3 km was completed.
Earlier, the Ministry of Defense reported that by the summer of 2020, the transfer of the command of the flotilla, its headquarters, ships and coastal units from the Astrakhan region to the bases in the Republic of Dagestan was completed.
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Before the ships were based in Astrakhan. To go out to sea, they had to walk about 100 km along the Volga. It was not easy to do this in winter and during summer shallowing. The new base makes it possible to promptly respond to any situation in the region all year round.
Even in Soviet times, the flotilla did not have its own aviation. Its last air units were disbanded in 1948. Since the 1960s, the Caspian Sea has been used to develop the technology of amphibious and attack ekranoplanes – hybrids between aircraft and ships. The giant “Lun”, nicknamed the “Caspian Monster” abroad, was widely known among them. Today, when working out joint actions with the flotilla, aircraft of the Black Sea Fleet and the Southern Military District are used.
“In Soviet times, relatively small forces were kept in the Caspian, since only Iran was close by, which never posed a serious threat,” ex-Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ordzhonikidze told Izvestia. – Today Russia has good relations with all states of the region – with Iran, and with Azerbaijan, and with Kazakhstan, and with Turkmenistan. Nevertheless, this direction cannot be called stable. Suffice it to recall the recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Therefore, Russia should strengthen the Caspian Flotilla and regularly conduct exercises there.
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The Caspian Flotilla demonstrated its strategic importance in 2015 when its ships attacked terrorist targets in Syria, the expert noted.
“It was a big surprise for the whole world, and especially for the terrorists and their patrons,” said Sergei Ordzhonikidze. – Russia has shown that this is its zone of influence and it has the potential for this. In addition, ships from the Caspian Sea can, if necessary, support forces in the Black Sea, where the situation is more tense – NATO ships often enter there, reconnaissance aircraft of the alliance fly in, and so on.
In 2015, the Caspian Flotilla made headlines in the world’s leading media. On October 7, she launched a massive strike against extremists in Syria. Dagestan, Grad Sviyazhsk, Uglich and Veliky Ustyug used 26 Caliber cruise missiles against 11 targets. This became a combat debut for both weapons and ships. Prior to that, they were used and participated only in exercises.
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Subsequently, a massive missile strike from the Caspian Sea was repeated on November 20, 2015. Then 18 “Calibers” fired at seven targets of IS (banned in Russia). At the same time, strikes on the territory of Syria from the Black Sea have never been inflicted. Due to the peculiarities of geography, the Black Sea Fleet ships have to pass the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits and come close to the SAR.
The Caspian Flotilla can serve as a reserve for the Black Sea Fleet. Last year, two of its small missile ships – the Grad Sviyazhsk and the Veliky Ustyug – crossed the Black Sea along the internal sea routes, and from there into the Mediterranean, where they joined the Russian group off the coast of Syria. Then they returned to their base the same way.
Now the CFL has two patrol ships and three small missile ships, seven small artillery ships and boats, as well as minesweepers. Four combat units have eight Caliber cruise missiles. They can hit both ground and surface targets at a distance of at least one and a half thousand kilometers. The fleet can transfer the marines and their armored vehicles on eight landing boats.
In 2018, a marine regiment was formed at the new base in Kaspiysk, instead of two separate battalions. A battalion of the Bal coastal missile complex with Kh-35 anti-ship missiles was also deployed on the coast.
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The Caspian Flotilla was created by Peter the First by his decree of November 15, 1722. This played an important role in the establishment of Russian statehood in the region. At present, she remains the strongest in the Caspian Sea, surpassing all other coastal states combined in the number and power of ships.
Today the Caspian Sea is an inland water body of five states. Serious reserves of minerals, primarily oil, have been explored on its offshore shelf. Throughout the post-Soviet period, this has caused controversy and political conflicts.
On August 12, 2018, the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan signed the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea. Negotiations on its terms have continued since 1996. The main part of the Caspian water area and biological resources remained in the public domain. The bottom and subsoil were divided into national sectors. The political document was supposed to reduce tensions between the countries of the region on the issue of resource allocation.
Nevertheless, even after the signing, the issue of underwater borders remains settled not in all areas, especially in the southern part of the sea. In addition, the agreement has not yet been ratified by the Iranian parliament.