Since last week, two rival fleets, each belonging to Russia and NATO, have taken turns pretending to drown in the crowded waters of the Mediterranean and Black Seas.
Russian bombers, reinforced by fighters carrying hypersonic missiles, staged at least one mock attack on a British aircraft carrier while other Russian planes hummed the flattop escorts.
The British aircraft carrier’s stealth fighters returned the favor when at least one of the anti-radar jets circled a Russian warship.
Forces started pouring into the Mediterranean and the adjacent Black Sea a few weeks ago. UK’s new flat-roofed HMS at the end of May queen elizabeth led his attack group — two destroyers, two frigates, two Royal Navy supply ships and a nuclear submarine plus a Dutch frigate and an American destroyer — into the Mediterranean.
Three weeks later, some queen elizabethStealth fighters from, on board 18 British and American F-35Bs, struck militants in Syria.
Meanwhile, the destroyer HMS Defender and the Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen detached from the carrier strike group and sailed into the Black Sea, where NATO staged a war game with Ukrainian forces. Sea Breeze exercise involved 32 warships, 40 aircraft and thousands of personnel from 32 NATO and partner countries.
The Kremlin organized a competitive war game involving five warships – the cruiser Moscow as well as two frigates and a pair of diesel-electric submarines, as well as bombers and fighters stationed from Khmeimim air base in Syria. Six other Russian warships—Support vessels, for the most part — are also in the Mediterranean.
The two forces were pushing each other. Tu-22M bombers armed with Kh-22 anti-ship missiles and MiG-31K fighters carrying Kinzhal hypersonic missiles carried out an attack on queen elizabeth while the Su-35 and Su-34 fighters flew under cover. The training raid ended with a mock Kinzhal launch on or before Monday.
The Mach-10 Kinzhal is one of the world’s first operational hypersonic weapons. It is unclear how effective the bulky ammunition could be against fast moving ships. But Sergei Surovikin, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Air Force, said he was confident. “Using an all-weather seeker in the final phase of hypersonic flight ensures the precision and selectivity required to hit targets at any time of day,” said Surovikin.
Either way, the Kinzhal and the Kh-22 with their different flight profiles and sensors could be a lethal combination. “It would be logical to [the Tu-22Ms and MiG-31Ks] train together to target carriers or groups of carriers, ”said Rob Lee, analyst and doctoral student in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London.
As Russian warplanes based in Syria raced to queen elizabeth in the eastern Mediterranean, Russian planes apparently operating from Crimea or neighboring bases buzzed Defender and Eversten as NATO surface ships sailed along the Black Sea coast.
On Wednesday, the Su-24s flew over at low altitude Defender while the destroyer was sailing in international waters near Crimea.
The next day, around ten Su-24s and Su-30s – at least one of the latter carrying a Kh-31 anti-ship missile – buzzed. Evertsen … For hours. Russian forces also reportedly attempted to jam the frigate’s sensors.
The Dutch were scandalized. “Eversten sailed on the high seas in international waters ”, mentionned the captain of the frigate, George Pastoor. “There was no reason for these aggressive actions. “
queen elizabethThe air squadron returned the favor, but with less fury. At least one F-35 – others were busy training over Israel – rocked the main Russian fleet on or before Monday. Russian sailor posted a video of the stealth fighter making a loop around one of the frigates of the fleet, perhaps Admiral Makarov.
The F-35 is not a natural ship killer. The stealth fighter in service in the United States and Britain does not have a dedicated anti-ship missile. Which doesn’t mean the guy can’t sink a Russian frigate, if he does. A GPS-guided slippery bomb will punch a hole in a hull just as reliably as a missile.
If these mutual provocations sound like something from the 1980s, you’re not wrong. Tensions are mounting as Russia and NATO strengthen their southern flanks. “Russia wants to demonstrate that it is the dominant power in the Black Sea and ready to use force against its adversaries,” said Pavel Luzin, an independent expert on the Russian military.
But too aggressive a posture increases the risk of an accident, warned Dutch Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld-Schouten. “The Netherlands will address Russia on this matter,” she said of the recent incident.