Training

Ukraine grasps naval training support from UK

15th September 2020 - 08:00 GMT | by Eugene Gerden in St Petersburg

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The UK is to lead an international training programme for the Ukrainian Navy, which requires new equipment and systems to recover from a period of neglect.

During a visit to Kiev last month, UK Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace said that Ukraine requires protection from ‘Moscow’s aggression’, with training support to help it withstand the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Planned exercises may involve Canada, Denmark, Sweden and possibly the US. According to the Ukranian General Staff, they will be primarily focused on training naval personnel in navigation, operational planning, diving, naval reconnaissance, fire training and ship damage control.

Russian and Ukrainian observers question the value of these plans, given the poor general condition of the Ukrainian naval and coast guard fleets.

According to Russian defence analyst Andrew Kots, the Ukranian Navy comprises 27 vessels (not counting small boats and auxiliary ships) but only a few of them are capable of performing combat missions. Indeed, most ships and their combat equipment are in acute need of modernisation.

Ukraine plans to expand its fleet of small gunboats, despite the poor performance of the Project 58155 (Gyurza-M) class during the Kerch Strait incident in November 2018. In June 2020, the US State Department approved the sale of up to 16 Mark VI Patrol Boats (armed with 30mm cannon) and other related equipment to Ukraine for an estimated cost of $600 million. Other deals may be signed shortly. 

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Sources in the Ukrainian MoD say the planned training programme will see the UK and other NATO military experts focus on improving the anti-ship combat potential of the Ukranian Navy.

This will involve large-scale exercises to be conducted with the newly commissioned 360 MC Neptune anti-ship cruise missile, which entered service with the Ukranian Navy on 23 August.

According to its developer Ukroboronprom, the new missile is capable of sinking a vessel displacing up to 5,000t at a range of up to 300km. Ukroboronprom is also developing air- and ship-launched variants of Neptune.

While the latest UK initiative for Ukraine has some symbolic importance for both countries, it is rather strange because Ukraine lacks the ships and infrastructure to match the combat capabilities of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

An alternative explanation is that the training pact is a precursor to NATO spreading its presence along Russia’s borders, with the broader aim of forming a permanent military presence in the Black Sea.

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