May 13, 1783–present
Russian Armed Forces
Russian Empire (1783–1918) Soviet Union (1918–1991) Russian Federation (1991–present)
Naval warfare Amphibious warfare
11,000 (including marines) 45 warships 6 submarines (2014)
The Black Sea Fleet (Russian: Черноморский Флот, Chernomorsky Flot) is a large operational-strategic command of the Russian (and formerly Soviet) Navy, operating in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea since the late 18th century. Its ships are based in various harbors of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, while its aviation and infrastructure is based in various locations in Crimea and Krasnodar Krai.
- Soviet Navy
- After the fall of the Soviet Union
- Joint Fleet and its partition
- Georgia in the Fleet partition
- Combat operations
- Black Sea Fleet and Ukraine
- Additions of ships to the Fleet
- Crimean crisis
- New ships included from Ukrainian Navy
- Black Sea Naval Infantry and Coastal Missile Artillery Forces
- Black Sea Fleet Naval Air Force HQ Sevastopol
It is considered to have been founded by Prince Potemkin on May 13, 1783, together with its principal base, the city of Sevastopol. Russia struggled for a long time against its main rival in the region, the Ottoman Empire, with the Ottoman Navy being its main opponent in the Black Sea. The Black Sea Fleet defeated the Turks in 1790, and fought the Ottomans during World War I, the Romanians during World War II, and Georgia during the 2008 South Ossetia war. The division of the fleet in 1997 became the basis of the Ukrainian Navy.
The Black Sea Fleet is considered to have been founded by Prince Potemkin on May 13, 1783, together with its principal base, the city of Sevastopol. Formerly commanded by such legendary admirals as Dmitriy Senyavin and Pavel Nakhimov, it is a fleet of enormous historical and political importance for Russia. In 1790, Russian naval forces under the command of Admiral Fyodor Ushakov defeated the Turkish fleet at the Battle of Kerch Strait.
From 1841 onward, the fleet was confined to the Black Sea by the London Straits Convention.
As a result of the Crimean War, one provision of the Treaty of Paris was that the Black Sea was to be a demilitarized zone like the Island of Åland in the Baltic Sea, although Russia subsequently renounced the treaty and reconstituted its naval strength and fortifications in the Black Sea.
The crew of the battleship Potemkin revolted in 1905 soon after the Navy's defeat in the Russo-Japanese War. Lenin wrote that the Potemkin uprising had had a huge importance in terms of being the first attempt at creating the nucleus of a revolutionary army.
During World War I, there were a number of encounters between the Russian and Ottoman navies in the Black Sea. The Ottomans initially had the advantage due to their having under their command the German battleship SMS Goeben, but after the two modern Russian dreadnoughts Imperatritsa Mariya and Imperatritsa Ekaterina Velikaya had been built in Mykolaiv, the Russians took command of the sea until the Russian government collapsed in November 1917. German submarines of the Constantinople Flotilla and Turkish light forces would continue to raid and harass Russian shipping until the war's end.
During the Russian Civil War, the vast majority of the Black Sea Fleet was scuttled by Bolsheviks in Novorossiysk; some were managed to be interned by the Central powers (later passed to Ukraine) or Western Allies (later passed to the White movement, see Wrangel's fleet). In 1919 out of the remnants of the Russian Imperial Fleet was established the Red Fleet of Ukraine which existed few months before a major advance of the Armed Forces of South Russia which occupied all the South and East Ukraine. Most of the ships became part of the "Russian Squadron" of Wrangl's armed forces and after the evacuation sailed to Tunisia. Out of those ships, some were passed to the French Navy and some were salvaged.
Upon the defeat of the Armed Forces of South Russia, the Ukrainian National Army and the Polish Armed Forces in Ukraine the Soviet government signed a military union with the Russian SFSR transferring all the command to the Commander-in-chief of Russia. Few ships that did stay in Black Sea were salvaged in the 1920s, while a large scale new construction programme began in the 1930s. Over 500 new ships were built during that period as well as massive expansion of coastal infrastructure took place. The Fleet was commanded by Vice Admiral F.S. Oktyabrskiy on the outbreak of war with Germany in June 1941. The Fleet gave a credible account of itself as it fought alongside the Red Army during the Siege of Odessa and the Battle of Sevastopol. (See Black Sea Campaigns (1941–44) for more details.)
In 1952, Turkey decided to join NATO, placing the Bosporus Strait in the Western sphere of influence. Together with the advent of long-range nuclear weapons, this dramatically decreased the strategic value of any naval activity in the Black Sea.
In the later post-war period, along with the Northern Fleet, the Black Sea Fleet provided ships for the 5th Operational Squadron (ru:5-я Средиземноморская эскадра кораблей ВМФ) in the Mediterranean, which confronted the United States Navy during the Arab-Israeli wars, notably during the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
In 1988 Coastal Troops and Naval Aviation units of the Black Sea Fleet included:
In 1989, the 126th Motor Rifle Division at Simferopol was transferred to the Black Sea Fleet from the Odessa Military District.
After the fall of the Soviet Union
The military importance of the fleet has degraded since the collapse of the Soviet Union, due to significant funding cuts and, to a degree, the loss of its major missions. However, in the early 21st century, local conflicts in the Caucasus region (particularly the 2008 South Ossetia war) saw Moscow employ elements of the Black Sea Fleet off the coast of Georgia, and the development of oil transit in the region has strengthen Russia's support of the fleet.
In 1992, the major part of the personnel, armaments and coastal facilities of the Fleet fell under formal jurisdiction of the newly independent Ukraine as they were situated on Ukrainian territory. Later, the Ukrainian government ordered the establishment of its own Ukrainian Navy based on the Black Sea Fleet; several ships and ground formations declared themselves Ukrainian.
However, this immediately led to conflicts with the majority of officers who appeared to be loyal to Russia. Simultaneously, pro-Russian separatist groups became active in the local politics of Ukraine's Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the Sevastopol municipality where the major naval bases were situated, and started coordinating their efforts with pro-Moscow seamen.
Joint Fleet and its partition
To ease the tensions, the two governments signed an interim treaty, establishing a joint Russo-Ukrainian Black Sea Fleet under bilateral command (and Soviet Navy flag) until a full-scale partition agreement could be reached. Formally, the Fleet's Commander was to be appointed by a joint order of the two countries' Presidents. However, Russia still dominated the Fleet unofficially, and a Russian admiral was appointed as Commander; the majority of the fleet personnel adopted Russian citizenship. Minor tensions between the Fleet and the new Ukrainian Navy (such as electricity cut-offs and sailors' street-fighting) continued.
In 1997, Russia and Ukraine signed the Partition Treaty, establishing two independent national fleets and dividing armaments and bases between them. Ukraine also agreed to lease major parts of its facilities to the Russian Black Sea Fleet until 2017. However, the treaty appeared to be far from perfect: permanent tensions on the lease details (including often reported issue of lighthouses) control continued. The Fleet's main base is still situated in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol. In 2009 the Yushchenko Ukrainian government declared that the lease would not be extended and that the fleet would have to leave Sevastopol by 2017. In 2010 the Russian leasehold was renegotiated with an extension until 2042 and an option for an additional five years until 2047.
Georgia in the Fleet partition
The newly independent nation of Georgia, which also hosted several bases of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet when it was the Georgian SSR, also claimed a share of the Fleet, including 32 naval vessels formerly stationed at Georgia's Black Sea port of Poti. Not a CIS member at that time, Georgia was not, however, included in the initial negotiations in January 1992. Additionally, some low-importance bases situated in the Russian-backed breakaway autonomy of Abkhazia soon escaped any Georgian control. In 1996, Georgia resumed its demands, and the Russian refusal to allot Georgia a portion of the ex-Soviet navy became another bone of contention in the progressively deteriorating Georgian-Russian relations. This time, Ukraine endorsed Tbilisi's claims, turning over several patrol boats to the Georgian Navy and starting to train Georgian crews, but was unable to include in the final fleet deal a transfer of the formerly Poti-based vessels to Georgia. Later, the rest of the Georgian share was decided to be ceded to Russia in return for diminution of debt.
Since the 2008 South Ossetia war the Russian Black Sea Fleet has not taken part in any joint naval exercises involving Georgian warships. However, such a statement has little meaning since the Georgian Navy has ceased to exist (early 2009 it was merged with the Georgian coast guard).
Russia is a member of the Black Sea Naval Co-operation Task Group usually referred to as BLACKSEAFOR.
Russia employed part of the fleet during the 2008 Georgian conflict. Russian units operating off Georgia's separatist Abkhazia region resulted in a reported skirmish with the Georgian Navy unconfirmed by Georgia. As a result, Ukraine's then President Viktor Yushchenko decreed that the Black Sea Fleet would henceforth need permission to cross the Ukrainian border to enter and leave to Sevastopol, to which a Russian admiral retorted that the President of the Russian Federation and not Ukraine commands the Black Sea Fleet. Yushchenko's decrees were without force and deployed units of the Russian Black Sea Fleet returned to their home moorings without incident.
Black Sea Fleet and Ukraine
In a letter to then Russian president Medvedev, former pro-NATO president Yushchenko complained about alleged "infringements of bilateral agreements and Ukrainian legislation"
In 2009, Ukraine government announced the lease of Russian naval bases on the Crimea will not be extended beyond 2017, in response the Russian Black Fleet initiated the expansion of its base in Novorossiysk. In July 2007, the Navy Commander announced that the new base will be ready in 2012. Under the 1997 bilateral treaty, Russia paid $98 million annually and the treaty provided for an extension by mutual agreement. Russian officials repeatedly said they would like to extend the lease.
In June 2009, the head of the Ukrainian Security Service said that after December 13, 2009, all officers from the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) represented at the (Russian) Black Sea Fleet must leave Ukraine, from then the Security Service of Ukraine will ensure the security of the (Russian) Black Sea Fleet and Russian sailors on Ukrainian territory. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry the employees of the FSB, who are working at the Black Sea Fleet facilities, are staying on the Ukrainian territory "in line with bilateral agreements".
In October–November 2009, the (Russian) Black Sea Fleet complained about illegal inspection of (non-boat) transport vehicles owned by the fleet by the Sevastopol State Auto Inspectorate and Ukrainian security officers, calling them "disrespect for the status of the Russian military units and an unfriendly step aimed at worsening the Russian-Ukrainian relations".
On April 21, 2010, Ukrainian President Yanukovych and Russian President Medvedev reached an agreement whereby the Russian lease on naval facilities in Crimea would be extended beyond 2017 by 25 years with an additional 5-year renewal option (to 2042–47) in exchange for a multiyear discounted contract to provide Ukraine with Russian natural gas. This deal is controversial in Ukraine.
Joint exercises of the Ukrainian Navy and the (Russian) Black Sea Fleet might have been resumed after a seven-year interval in June 2010.
In 2010, based on an agreement between Ukrainian and Russian governments military counterintelligence officers from the Russian Federal Security Service returned to the (Russian) Black Sea Fleet base.
While a Yushchenko administration minister said that Russia cannot unilaterally replace its Black Sea Fleet ships without Ukraine's consent, the recent lease extension also revalidated the agreements of 1997. Those agreements stipulate that the Russian Black Sea Fleet can maintain the same numbers and types of ships that it had based in Sevastopol as a result of the 1997 fleet division without approval by Ukraine. This stipulation permits Russia to increase the current size of the fleet which has fallen below those numbers.
As a result of the stance of the Ukrainian authorities, it was reported on 20 May 2013 that Russia would be concentrating on its new base in Novorossiysk and putting Sevastopol on hold as it upgrades the Black Sea Fleet. The Project-11356 frigate Admiral Grigorovich and the Project-636 submarines (Kilo class submarine) Novorossiysk and Rostov-na-Donu were expected to join the Fleet in 2014 and new moorings were being made ready for them at the base.
Additions of ships to the Fleet
Repeated and sometimes contradictory announcements have been made claiming that new ships will join the fleet. On December 3, 2009, First Vice Mayor of Sevastopol Vladimir Kazarin stated that Russia's Black Sea Fleet could lose its combat capability, given a small number of ships and the absence of new ones. Similar doubts had been stated by the Russian media. The Gazeta newspaper noted that, by 2015, the majority of the warships would no longer be fit for duty.
In April 2010, Russian Navy sources said that up to four frigates and four diesel-electric submarines will be added to the Black Sea Fleet by 2015. In June 2010, Russian Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky announced that Russia was reviewing plans for the naval modernization of the Black Sea Fleet. The plans include 15 new warships and submarines by 2020. These vessels will partially replace the reported decommissioning of Kerch, Ochakov (decommissioned in 2011 and sunk as a blockship in 2014), several large support ships, and a diesel-electric submarine.
Russian Navy Headquarters sources have said that, by 2020, six frigates of Project 22350 Gorshkov-class, six submarines of Project 677 Lada-class, two large landing ships of Project 11711 Ivan Gren-class and four class-unspecified ships will be delivered. Due to the obsolescence of the Beriev Be-12 by 2015, they will be replaced with Il-38s. Sukhoi Su-24M aircraft are planned to be upgraded to Su-24M2 at the same time. However, the November 2011 suspension of the building of the second and third Lada-class boats throws this particular announcement into doubt.
The Project 636.3 (Kilo-class) diesel-electric submarine Novorossiysk — the first of three such new submarines, which was laid down at Admiralty Wharves Shipyard, St. Petersburg on August 20, 2010 — is destined to serve in the Black Sea Fleet. Navy sources also say that Project 11356 Grigorovich-class frigate will be dispatched to the Black Sea. The Admiral Grigorovich, the lead ship of the class, was laid down on December 18, 2010 and was expected to be in service 34 months from that date (October 2013). Three ships of this class are to be in service in the Black Sea Fleet before 2015.
After the 2014 Crimean crisis, in which Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Ukrainian Navy were evicted from their bases and Ukraine subsequently withdrew its forces from Crimea, Russia plans to integrate several vessels from the Ukrainian Navy into the Black Sea Fleet. According to sources from Black Sea Fleet Headquarters, inspections of all ships will be done by the end of 2014.
Russia’s Black Sea Fleet was boosted by more than ten boats and support vessels after a forced pause, the Fleet’s Commander Adm. Alexander Vitko said ahead of the 2015 Navy Day. Speaking ahead of the nationwide festivities, Adm. Vitko said that, "For the first time in quite a long period, more than ten brand-new boats and support vessels have been accepted into service within one calendar year." Totally, in 2015 the fleet received 15 new ships, including two submarines, two missile corvettes, seven counter-sabotage boats, support, rescue and auxiliary vessels.
The Russian Black Sea Fleet's (BSF) use of leased facilities in Sevastopol and the Crimea was sometimes controversial. A number of incidents took place:
New ships included from Ukrainian Navy
In the 2014 Crimean crisis Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Ukrainian Navy were evicted from their bases and Ukraine subsequently withdrew its forces from Crimea. Fifty-four out of sixty-seven ships of the Ukrainian Navy have been transferred to the Black Sea Fleet, with St. Andrew flags raised on them. On 8 April 2014 an agreement was reached between Russia and Ukraine to return Ukrainian Navy materials to Ukraine proper. A part of the Ukrainian Navy was then returned to Ukraine but Russia suspended this agreement after Ukraine did not renew its unilaterally declared ceasefire on 1 July 2014 in the conflict in the Donbass. According to the fleet commander Aleksandr Vitko, this happened because the materials "would be used [by Ukraine] in fighting against its own people".
Black Sea Naval Infantry and Coastal Missile-Artillery Forces
Black Sea Fleet Naval Air Force – HQ Sevastopol
Also, a squadron of Sukhoi Su-30SMs (2016).