Nice cruise - pity about the propaganda

MOSCOW. (Nikita Petrov for RIA Novosti) - A combined naval strike group from the Northern and Black Sea fleets, headed by Russia's only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, is currently completing exercises in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

The Black Sea Fleet's flagship, the missile cruiser Moskva commanded by Capt. Igor Smolyak, will shortly set a course for its home base - Sevastopol. But first it will call at Portugal's capital Lisbon, where the crew will take a well-earned rest and tour the city, before brief joint tactical maneuvers in the Bay of Biscay with a Portuguese ship.

The grand finale of the Atlantic exercise will be a coordinated maneuver between the naval strike group and long-range aviation. In the last days of January and early days of February more than 40 Russian aircraft will converge over the ocean.

They will include Tu-160 (Blackjack) and Tu-95MS strategic missile aircraft, Tu-22M3 long-range bombers, MiG-31 (Foxhound) and Su-33 fighters, Il-78 (Midas) refuellers, and A-50 early warning aircraft. The aircraft will practice reconnaissance, attacks on a dummy enemy with missiles and bombs, and aerial combat.

The Admiral Kuznetsov, with the anti-submarine ships Admiral Chabanenko and Admiral Levchenko, and the supply ships Sergei Osipov and Ivan Bubnov, will then head towards Severomorsk, the base of the Northern Fleet.

The Russian vessels will again skirt Europe's western coast, escorted by planes of Russia's long-range aviation squadrons, and ships and aircraft from NATO countries.

In early February, the strike group will return home. They will have covered some 12,000 nautical miles.

The Russian navy has acquitted itself well on this cruise, putting on a performance worthy of its country and the St. Andrew's Flag. All types of missile and artillery weapons were fired.

The maneuvers included live firing of all the full armory of missile and artillery systems, including the Bazalt anti-ship attack system; the Fort medium-range system; the Osa-M close range surface-to-air system; as well as AK-130 130mm artillery and six-barrelled AK-630M 30 mm cannons.

The missiles and shells successfully hit their targets - as was extensively reported on Russian TV.

Fighter pilots and helicopter crews from the Admiral Kuznetsov and the Admiral Chabanenko confirmed the hits. American and German sailors who watched the exercise can also vouch for the results.

This was a performance by the sailors and pilots to be proud of. If only the same could be said for the TV crews.

Television reports waxed lyrical about "the revival of the Russian navy," and were liberally peppered with phrases like "our ships have nearly ousted the 6th U.S. Fleet from the Mediterranean" and "the St. Andrew's Flag is back in the ocean expanses."

Wishful thinking was always the undeclared principle of Soviet party propaganda. And somehow this principle has grown and expanded on television, especially with regard to the army and navy.

It is not very gentlemanly to compare our only, gas turbine propelled, aircraft carrier accompanied by three warships, with the U.S. 6th Fleet. Neither in make-up, nor in combat capability.

The Kuznetsov, for example, has about 50 aircraft. The nine nuclear-powered Nimitz-class carriers of the United States navy each carry 80. They also carry four E-2C early warning aircraft, which can spot targets hundreds of kilometers from the ship. Our ship has no such planes. There is no need to continue.

The revival of the navy is also too early to discuss.

The Admiral Kuznetsov was laid down at Nikolayev (now in Ukraine) in 1982 and entered service in the 1990s. Russia has no other aircraft carriers either sailing or under construction. No production facilities yet exist for their production.

The Admiral Levchenko was built in 1988. Its cousin Admiral Chabanenko was laid down in 1990 and commissioned in 1999, while the Moskva was completed in 1983. Its first name was Slava.

Russia does not yet build new cruisers or Chabanenko-class anti-submarine destroyers. It is now looking forward to a new class of ships - frigates. How they will fare is a big question. So it is too soon to lavish praise on the navy.

Especially since its Main Command plans to move from Moscow to the Admiralty building in St. Petersburg, while the Institute of Naval Engineering, which is currently occupies the building, is to be relocated to Pushkin, a suburb of St. Petersburg.

All this will call for huge effort and expense. The top brass will probably have no time left to deal with the construction of new cruisers, frigates or corvettes. Let alone to revive the navy.

It cannot be ruled out that the television campaign about the "revival of the Russian navy," has been deliberate: to turn public attention away from the big scandal over the move to St. Petersburg, and, above all, to divert the attention of naval veterans, who are protesting against the move and have even sent an open letter to President Putin.

Advertising campaigns always have a hidden agenda.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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