The Black Sea Report (2). Composition of the Warring Parties' Forces and Russian Black Sea Fleet Objectives at the Opening Stage of Aggression

The attack of the command post of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation near Sevastopol by the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Photo:

The Monitoring Group of the Black Sea Institute of Strategic Studies and BlackSeaNews continues the publication of the analytical report: Situation in the Black Sea Over the Course of Russian Aggression Against Ukraine.

Neptun missile system. Photo: Defense Express

Composition of the Warring Parties' Forces and Russian Black Sea Fleet Objectives at the Opening Stage of Aggression

On the eve of the large-scale aggression in February 2022, the Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSFRF) consisted of approximately 80 warships and boats and up to 200 support vessels stationed at 7 naval bases.

The main base was Sevastopol with up to 85% of the ships, boats and support vessels, as well as all missile and amphibious ships and submarines. Also, two weeks before the start of the big war, the BSFRF had been reinforced with six large amphibious as-sault ships deployed from the Northern and Baltic Fleets. 

To ensure its superiority in the Black Sea, Russia had also deployed boats from the Caspian Flotilla. Those were mainly landing craft of various modifications — project 11770 of the Serna class, project 03160 Raptor, project 21820 of the Dugon type and the like. Already dur-ing the siege of Mariupol, Caspian Flotilla artillery boats of the project 1204 Shmel, were ac-tively used to strike Ukrainian troops.

The Project 1204 "Shmel" artillery boat of the Russian Black Sea Fleet near Mariupol.
Photo: Russian media

Among others, the rather powerful naval grouping had been further enhanced by up to 100 ships and boats of various modifications of the Russian FSB Air Force. In addition to a fairly well-balanced strike, amphibious and auxiliary fleet,

the Russians had fairly powerful land and air forces in the Temporarily Occupied Territories of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (TOT of the ARC) with a developed logistics infrastruc-ture capable of providing comprehensive support to its troops/forces, including through transport links with the Russian mainland, i.e. the Crimean Bridge.

As of February 2022, the responsibility for conducting defense operations in the southern regions of Ukraine, namely Odesa, Mykolaiv and Kherson, rested with the Operational Com-mand “South” and the Navy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU).

Between 2014 and Feb-ruary 2022, due to the fact that the vast majority of hostilities took place on land, mainly with-in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the Ukrainian command considered a Russian offensive from Crimea or intensification of hostilities on the coast unlikely. Only with the changes in the General Staff leadership in the second half of 2021, the AFU began to take certain urgent preparatory measures, which unfortunately, had not allowed them to adequately prepare the troops and command for the start of the fullscale aggression.

Due to the reasons above and chronic underfunding of the national fleet development programs, the Ukrainian Navy had a rather modest ship and boat composition. 

The Ukrainian Navy patrol boat Slovyansk. Photo: Defense Express

Its surface forces included 4 Island patrol boats without regular artillery, 7 Gyurza-M river artillery boats, a medium landing ship, and up to 20 different boats, ships, and support vessels, mostly Soviet-built.

The medium-sized reconnaissance ship Simferopol, a former fishing trawler of the 502EM project, was undergoing sea trials, while several new amphibious assault boats of the 58503 Centaur-LK project had been arrested by the State Bureau of Investigation of Ukraine (DBR) and were not in service.

As of February 2022, the flagship of the Ukrainian Navy, a project 1135 frigate Hetman Sahaidachnyi, was undergoing repairs in Mykolaiv and could not be put into service quickly. But even those modest forces were dispersed to perform tasks in both the Black and Azov Seas.

The Ukrainian Navy had no land- or sea-based anti-ship missiles. The coastal complex RK-360MC Neptune had been transferred for testing only in March 2021, and as of February 2022, was not ready for mass production, which also meant that there were no naval carriers of that type of weapon. 

The AFU Navy grew only due to the formation of new marine units, that in turn, had been partly transferred to the operational subordination of other AFU branches, including those in Donetsk region and on the administrative border with the TOT of the ARC.

The naval aviation, namely the 10th Naval Aviation Brigade, was armed with outdated weapons and capable only of conducting reconnaissance/patrol operations.

Formed with a great delay due to the criminal inaction of the former leadership of the Ministry of Defense, the naval unmanned squadron, armed with Bayraktar TB2 strike drones, proved to be ineffective after the start of full-scale aggression.

Thus, Russia had complete military dominance in the region. Standard calculation of the parties troops ratio makes little sense in that case, since it doesn’t take into account any truly meaningful data.

It should be noted, however, that the BSFRF was still capable of conducting only limited operations in the Black Sea-Azov basin, which was due to a number of subjective and objective factors — from the lack of experience in conducting such scale operations by the naval command to strategic miscalculations in assessing the projected activities of the Ukrainian Navy, which ultimately played a decisive role in Russia's loss of initiative in the northwestern part of the Black Sea.

* * *

Read the previous part of the report Situation in the Black Sea During the Russian Aggression Against Ukraine in 2022-2024 HERE.

* * *

This article has been prepared with the support of the European Union in Ukraine. The content of the article is the sole responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the position of the EU