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By Peter Suciu,The National Interest
The head of the Russian Navy announced that the Baltic Fleet will be bolstered by the addition of six new warships, which will be armed with Kaliber cruise missiles.
In a patriotic message that was sent to the sailors to mark Baltic Fleet Day, Navy Command-in-Chief Nikolia Yevmenov declared that the fleet that was established under Czar Peter the Great more than 300 years ago, and had won brilliant victories over its enemies and has made "invaluable contributions" to the Russian people. Yevmenov further emphasized that six Karakurt-class corvettes from Project 22800 will join the fleet, while four of the vessels will also be equipped with Pantsir-M anti-aircraft systems.
"Soon, the surface part of the Baltic Fleet will be reinforced with a batch of six Project 22800 missile corvettes," read the Commander's congratulatory telegram to the sailors, dedicated to the Fleet's 317th anniversary, as reported by Tass. "Four of them will carry a naval version of the Pantsir system. Odintsovo will become the first one, the Pantsir system will undergo testing on this ship."
The Pantsir-M close-in weapon system has been undergoing testing on the Odintsovo corvette, and it can target and destroy helicopter gunships, assault jets, cruise, and anti-ship missiles. The weapon platform will enable the corvette to take down all air targets within a radius of 20km. The Odintsovo was initially laid down as the Shkval in July 2016 and was commissioned in May 2018. It is the first Russian warship to be equipped with the naval version of the Pantsir system.
As noted, all of the Russian Project 22800 corvettes are equipped with the Kalibr cruise missiles as well as modern control, radio, navigation, electronic warfare systems, counter-division armaments, and man-portable air-defense systems. The ships were designed to act as part of a naval group or to be deployed on their own.
This is the latest effort by Russia to replace its aging warships with newer, smaller, faster, and more agile systems – and to protect Russia's interest in the region. Since the founding of St. Petersburg in 1703, the city has been Russia's Window to Europe, serving not only as a seaport but also as a base for the Czar Peter the Great's navy.
The timing of Russia's announcement comes as NATO's planned Defender-Europe 20 military exercises that were to have taken place across Germany, Poland, and the Baltic States this month were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The exercises are now scheduled for June but have been scaled back.
Earlier this month the Russian Baltic Fleet conducted military drills against hypothetical enemy attacks including anti-submarine warfare (ASW) exercises. Last summer the Russian Baltic Fleet conducted its second annual "Ocean Shield" naval exercises in the Baltic Sea, and it involved more than 10,500 troops and dozens of warships. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had declared that these military maneuvers would be conducted on a regular basis.
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 includingA Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.