Air missions — March update

Continuing with the series of intelligence-gathering and support aircraft missions around the periphery of Russian borders, mostly in the Baltic and Black Seas regions, but also the Barents as well. Below is a comparison between flights statistics collected for February and March 2021.

Image 1: March 2021 —  Overview of type of aircraft and location of activity
Image 1: March 2021 — Overview of type of aircraft and location of activity
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Naval sitrep 23rd March 2021

An update on the sitrep posted on the 19th.

Image 1 — AIS screenshots 23 March 2021
Image 1 — AIS screenshots 23 March 2021

The newest frigate of the Russian Navy, the 'Admiral Kasatonov' is in Greece — 23 to 26th of March.

The 'Ike', the US aircraft carrier (Dwight D. Eisenhower), was recently alongside in Souda, Crete, while one of the destroyer escort, the 'USS Thomas Hudner' did a quick navigational 'tour' in the Black Sea, having made its debut Bosphorus transit on the 20th, to only return back early on the 23rd March. Talk about a quick spin around the block.

The Russian Navy ' Stoiky' is waiting to transit the Suez Canal and return to the Mediterranean, (waiting because there is a mega containership 'Ever Given' blocking the canal, having run aground).

US | NATO & Swedish air missions — Jan + Feb overview

Presentation of air missions (intelligence-gathering & support tankers) for January and February 2021.

To note the arrival of B1-Bs to Norway and their flights in the Baltic region isn't part of this but do have a connection role regarding the intelligence-gathering activities of both NATO and Swedish military aircraft.

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Iranian ships and sabotage attacks

The WSJ published an exclusive article on covert Israeli targeting of Iranian ships and shipments going to Syria.

I've made a first draft of a timeline of notable events, of maritime incidents occurring to Iranian ships or those connected to Iran in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Red Sea, as well as the timeline of sabotage attacks in the MEG / Arabian Sea / Gulf of Oman region. 

Figure 1
Figure 1

Obviously, there is still chunks of data / information missing on particular events, given the numbers of attacks cited in the WSJ article:

  • 3 in 2019
  • 6 in 2020
  • 3(?) in 2021

One ship that I did not specifically list is the Iranian connected, Panama flagged tanker 'Emerald', which the Israeli Environmental ministry recently accused of being the source of the catastrophic oil spill off the Eastern Med on the 16th of February, causing the worst environmental disaster in the country’s history. It is probable that this was not another targeted ship, although as it stands, Israel has not commented on the WSJ report. 

It was certainly a little more than unusual for Israel to issue a news embargo on the name of the ship. The 'Emerald' had indeed headed to Syria from the Suez Canal, yet managed to carry out an STS off Syria, without a hitch and also return to Suez without any noticeable traces of causing pollution. It sure gets weirder.

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NATO, US & Swedish air missions along Russian borders - February 2021

This is the 2nd part of a dedicated overview on air missions carried in proximity to Russian borders, (NATO members and Sweden), principally intelligence-gathering missions, supported by air tankers in the area.  

Flights details were obtained from various social media aircraft tracking accounts. The variety of intelligence gathering flights, (SIGINT, ELINT, ASW and AEW), tracked were mostly either over the waters of the Baltic,  Black Sea and more rarely, the Barents Seas. 

The 1st part of this series: Air missions along Russian borders — snapshot of January 2021

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A sea change in Russian Navy deployments

This short analysis outlines a recent small but subtle “sea change” in Russian naval deployments that took place recently.

Firstly, the list below outlines an abridged overview of the current elements underpinning Russian naval policies to date:

·  The backbone of the Russian Navy lies in its multipronged capacity to field a range of ships, to support its littoral defence and also deploy primarily in the near sea zone.  

·  A noticeable shift towards “distributed lethality”, with smaller but more versatile combat ships, with smaller corvettes and patrol boats as part of the mix as well as destroyers and the vitally important submarine fleet. 

·  Continued development and deployment of (shipborne) long-range stand-off missiles, coupled with the advances in Russian missile technology.

·  Ensuring a wide distribution of firepower and spreading out the risks to minimise big potential combat losses. [1] 

These are some of the current and anticipated elements that are relevant to this article, (I’m not covering the submarine fleet aspect).  Generally speaking, recent Russian naval developments can cover both power projection and sea control as well as sea denial capabilities closer to home.

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Air missions along Russian borders — snapshot of January 2021

This is part of a series on air missions carried in proximity to Russian borders, (NATO members and Sweden), principally intelligence-gathering missions, supported by air tankers.  Flights tracked were mostly either over the waters of the Baltic,  Black and more rarely, Barents Seas. 

The latest briefing follows on an article written back in May 2020, [1] with several visuals included. This time, I have attached graphs showing an overview of the situation, as seen and reported by social media aircraft tracking accounts. 

Figure.1 LOCATION BY TYPE OF AIRCRAFT Data derived from social media aircraft tracking accounts. Graph: natsouth.livejournal.com 2021
Figure.1 LOCATION BY TYPE OF AIRCRAFT Data derived from social media aircraft tracking accounts. Graph: natsouth.livejournal.com 2021
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