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Arms race on the Caspian Sea or why is it impossible to construct the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline?

Recently many conversations are about the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline the project of which appeared in 1996. There are many people, who are interested in that this project after all was carried out in practice, but there are many problems and you won’t construct the gas pipeline by only good wishes.

After disintegration of the Soviet Union the Caspian states didn't want to recognize the arrangement of the Soviet Union with Iran about the operating division of the water area of the Caspian Sea. Now Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan insist on the division on the median line and Iran - on the water area division by one fifth part between all of them.

Negotiations on legal status of the Caspian Sea proceed. They will be very difficult – after all the matter is not only about the square kilometres of a water smooth surface, but of huge stocks of oil and gas, perspective routes of oil pipelines and gas pipelines.

From here the conclusion of experts is clear: “Especially intensive development in the second decade of the XXI century, undoubtedly, will be received by the naval forces”. How the situation on the Caspian Sea looks today in this sense? What fleet represents the real force and what exist more in imagination of politicians or on paper …

Russia


Our Caspian flotilla in the general opinion surpasses in the fighting opportunities the naval forces of all other Caspian states. The naval forces of Russia have the strongest fleet on fighting structure. It was strengthened at the expense of a transfer of the ships from the Black Sea. Total number of staff of the Caspian flotilla is up to15 thousand people. The structure of fleet has some crews of the ships, aircraft and coastal armies. The guards brigade, marines and sea frontier guards, group of ekranoplans are based in Makhachkala. Also the naval forces of frontier troops of FSB as a part of which is the watchers too are deployed here.

The American designer of ekranoplans Stephen Hooker who has visited ours once regime plants admitted: “They outstripped us for 30 years!” He meant the ekranoplans as Orlenok type of which the Minister of Defence of the USSR by the order disposed to add to armoury in 1984. Tactical technical characteristics of ekranoplans surprised many: take-off weight — 140 tons, speed — 400 km/h, arms — the coupled 12,7-mm machine-gun installation (Utes-M), loading capacity — 28 tons (two armoured personnel carrier) or 150 people), range — 1500 kilometres, flight height — 10 meters.

The Caspian flotilla has four trawlers providing protection of the main base - Astrakhan. The Caspian flotilla is armed also with hovercrafts - in total six landing ships “Swan” and “Jeyran”, armed with antiaircraft rapid-firing installations. Boats can be used for disembarkation of divisions of a part flotilla of the 77th crew of marines.

The major moment is that Russia has the rocket ships on the Caspian Sea which are reliably supervising the sea communications. The Separate Coastal Rocket Division has additional positions for rockets of coastal basing near the city of Izberbash – near the region of sea oil fields and near border with Azerbaijan. Anti-ship missiles of Bal complex act on distance to 130 km. They will reach the middle of the Caspian Sea quietly …

Our leader on the Caspian Sea is the guard rocket ship “Tatarstan” equipped with the anti-ship missiles “Uran” with range of action to 350 kilometres - the most powerful ship in the Caspian Sea. It also is armed with Osa surface-to-air missile system, universal artillery installation and two antiaircraft rapid-firing installations, two torpedo tubes, jet depth-charge mortars. Besides, it can put mines. It is the new ship – it became operational in 2001.

There was also a double of a leader – “Dagestan”. It is intended for search, detection and destruction of the air, surface and underwater targets. Length of such ships is 102 meters, displacement - 2,1 thousand tons, autonomy of swimming is till 30 days. The basing of Ka-28 or Ka-31 helicopters is provided on the ship.

Iran

After disintegration of the Soviet Union the Iranian naval group on the Caspian Sea considerably amplified. Now Iran has here about 90 ships. According to CIA it is a third of the Navy of the country.

The main striking power is the Sine rocket boats, representing the Iranian version of the French boats. They were added to armoury in 2003 and 2006. They are armed with the Chinese rockets with range of firing to 120 km.

According to the experts Iran is capable to increase in a short space of time in one and a half time group of the ships on the Caspian Sea by a transfer of boats from the Persian Gulf. Some days would be required for this purpose with the use of heavy-load cars.

Plans of Iran on the Caspian Sea are very serious. Construction of small rocket boats Peykaap II is conducted: it is planned to put 75 units into operation. New 1000-ton corvettes like “Mouge” with missile and anti-submarine armament and helicopter onboard can be developed on the Caspian Sea. Emergence of small submarines of Naval Forces of Iran which mass production is already arranged by means of North Korea is possible. A number of experts believe that, one-two mini-submarines already act on the Caspian Sea. Besides, there are plans to develop some vessels helicopter carriers.

Turkmenistan

Firstly Turkmenistan had one Coast guard. Now the number of structure of fleet together with coastal services reached already 2000 people. The navy is subordinated to command of border troops, and its main base settles down in Turkmenbashi's port (the former Krasnovodsk). The fully naval base will appear in port by 2015. The naval educational institute will be deployed here.

Turkmenistan bought in Ukraine and in Poland about 30 boats of a coast guard and other military units. In 2003 Iran leased to Turkmenistan seven boats of a coast guard and one destroyer. And within cooperation with the USA the patrol Point Jackson boat arrived. Russia transferred two patrol “Sobol” boats, and in 2008 year Turkmenistan bought three patrol vessels with long-distance rockets and also two patrol vessels.

Recently the Naval Forces of Turkmenistan received also two Russian rocket boats of “Lightning” type. Boats were constructed at “Sredne-Nevsky shipbuilding plant” and they were already showed to the president of the country Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.

Boats are intended for destruction of the fighting surface ships, boats and sea transport of the opponent, they are capable to gather speed to 38 knots, have 16 anti-ship missiles “Uran-E”, the Igla mobile surface-to-air missile system, the artillery AK-176 installation and two antiaircraft artillery AK-630 complexes.

But as a whole the Turkmen navy remains the weakest on the Caspian Sea. However, the president of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov already declared that “it is necessary to conduct effective fight against smugglers, terrorists and any other forces which will try to break the state sea border of Turkmenistan or to create there an unstable situation” …

Kazakhstan

The structure of the Navies includes marines, coastal artillery and the Caspian flotilla, and staff number makes 5000 servicemen. Earlier the Naval Forces had boundary boats and one guard ship. Some boats like Grif type and four patrol like “Kalkan” boats were bought from Ukraine. Turkey donated to Kazakhstan the guard boat like “Turk” and South Korea - three artillery “Sea Delphin” boats which received the names “Shapshan”, “Batyr” and “Izet”. The commander-in-chief of Naval Forces of Kazakhstan Zhandarbek Zhanzakov declared that the Kazakhstan crews went by the South Korean ships across the Sea of Japan and “carried out firing practice from all types of weapon”.

In 2010 the USA transferred to Kazakhstan four landing boats and also free of charge. At the same time the Ural plant “Zenit” received the order to make two rocket boats like Super Bars - they are put at Zenit plant also in 2010. Two high-speed patrol boats are bought from Turkey the price of which was 55 million Euros. The 40-millimetric tool made by the Italian company Oto Melara is applied to these vessels.

In Uralsk the first rocket and artillery ship made in the territory of Kazakhstan was floated. It received the name “Kazakhstan”. The ship has displacement about 250 tons and can put out to sea at a storm to seven points and height of waves to five meters. The ship is intended for destruction of the fighting surface ships, boats and vehicles of the opponent.

Kazakhstan has big plans on the Caspian Sea. It is planned that in ten years marines will enter the structure of fleet as well. The Minister of Defence of Kazakhstan Mukhtar Altynbayev declared that the fleet will supervise “air space of the republic over the Caspian Sea, surface and underwater parts of the Kazakhstan sector of the sea”. Tasks are defined also: “safety of the Kazakhstan borders and oil fields on the Caspian Sea where big foreign investments are enclosed”.

Therefore already now Kazakhstan is engaged in construction of naval base in Aktau, and cadets are trained abroad, generally in Russia and in Turkey. Besides, small groups are in the United States, Germany, India and Pakistan. The agreement on preparation on the basis of the prospecting and diversionary centre of Naval Forces of Azerbaijan of staff of sea special troops of Kazakhstan is reached.

Azerbaijan

Naval Forces of Azerbaijan have divisions of the ships of protection, the landing ships, search and rescue vessels. Their structure includes battalions of marines and sea special troops which possess small “Triton” submarines. Personnel constantly are trained in the USA and Turkey.

Military experts believe that in view of underwater threat from Iran the Naval Forces of Azerbaijan replenish with the ships with powerful anti-submarine arms. The leader of the Azerbaijani fleet – is Qusar guard ship (once it was called “Bakinets”) – it has two jet anti-submarine depth-charge mortars RBU-6000.

It is considered that the most powerful unit of Naval Forces of Azerbaijan is the sea diversionary and prospecting centre of a special purpose, which appeared on the basis of the former sea prospecting point of the Caspian flotilla of the Navy of the USSR. On arms of this part there are already mentioned midget submarines “Tritons-1М” and “Triton-2” and also underwater means of movement “Sirena”. It is characteristic that the instructors of diversionary and prospecting divisions of SEAL Naval Forces of the USA are engaged in training in the centre.

Weakness of Naval Forces is obvious to experts as a whole. The most developed structure is rather not the fleet, but a coast guard. Some guard boats and patrol boat of the USA are in its structure. That is why the decision on a construction of shipbuilding plant in the country, including for assembly of the military ships is made. The president of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev publicly declared the following: “Azerbaijan carries on negotiations with the foreign companies for construction in Baku of the shipbuilding plant answering to modern standards. It has to be such plant at which any vessels, including military will be made”.

***

Fortunately, there were no direct collisions on the Caspian Sea, but different incidents happened, and hardly they become less in the near future. Here is typical example: the Kazakhstan boundary ship “Oskemen” detained two Azerbaijani harvesting vessels for poaching. The fishermen swimming in waters of Kazakhstan had the expired license granted in … Azerbaijan.

There were more serious situations. So, in 2001 year the Naval Forces and Air Force of Iran several times were at fields Araz, Alov and Sharg which are located in the south of the Azerbaijani sector. The Iranian ships forced the Azerbaijani geophysical vessel to depart from a disputable field. Turkey right declared that it supports Azerbaijan. Just in case the squadron of the Turkish Air Force carried out demonstration flights in the sky over Baku …

Therefore, military experts aren't surprised, noting the growth of attention of the states having an exit to the Caspian Sea, to development of the Navies on the Caspian Sea. This interest is supported with concrete steps on strengthening of fleet. Here is the most characteristic conclusion: “In the next years it is necessary to expect the quantitative growth of ship structure and its high-quality improvement. It is possible even to speak about race of sea arms in the region”.
While there are no arrangements on division of the Caspian Sea on sectors, about the principle of this division, the destiny of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline looks sad. It is too much questions and rocket boats…

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Author: Vladimir Kuzmenkin

Publication date : 15 July 2013 01:00

Source: The world and we

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