August 12 - an eerie and shameful date for Russian aviation and navy

In Russia, they have a quirk for dates, finding some abstract reasons for celebrating, and getting engaged in anthropomorphic fetishism, perhaps supposed to save Russians from their dull existence and up their jingoistic moods.

The thing is, however, that the more dates supposed to be celebrated with pride, the more reasons for embarrassment.

And this day, August 12, is especially shameful for Russia.

Today, the Russians celebrate their Air Force Day, marking its 110th anniversary. Of course, the day will see some pompous events, awards, titles, and a series of stupid propaganda stunts about their “invincible” aviation.

But, in fact, this is a day marks sheer embarrassment.

The Russian air force, considered by many, until February 24, one of the world’s most formidable ones, got totally disgraced and leveled less than six months into the invasion of Ukraine.

According to the Ukrainian Army’s General Staff, the country’s troops downed 232 Russian warplanes and 193 helicopters, which is the largest air force loss for Russia throughout its entire history.

Massively outnumbering Ukrainians in numbers and technical capacities, as well as having superiority in ground support, not only did the Russian air force fail to gain dominance in the Ukrainian airspace, it is also now forced to disgracefully strike at Ukrainian targets from Russia’s own airspace or from the occupied territories where Ukraine has no air defense deployed.

Throughout the invasion, 24 of the most modern Russian fighter jets were destroyed, which Russia traditionally claims have no analogues worldwide – the Su-35s. These are the fighters that Russian propaganda advertised no less, if not more, than the fifth-gen (in fact not!) Su-57.

And the icing on the cake for the Russian pilots was the recent destruction of the Saki airfield in the temporarily occupied Crimea. There, Russia lost nine aircraft within one day. This is a record one-time loss for the Russian air force since World War 2.

I wonder if anyone in Russia will have guts to speak up about these “achievements” in the Ukraine war…  I seriously doubt it.

Incidentally, on this day 22 years ago, Russia lost its Kursk nuclear submarine. But no one will speak up about it either because this date, so tragic for the Russian submarine fleet, has been blocked from the information space for decades, being traditionally overshadowed by the air force day events. Now these two dates have become equally disgraceful – and tragic – for Russia.

Moreover, the tragedy with the Kursk evolved precisely into disgrace.

The fact is that the Russian Navy still has no sufficient funds to provide crews any serious assistance in the event of underwater emergencies on submarines.

The fact is that after the tragedy with the Kursk, Russian authorities were forced to admit that the “great naval superpower” had no technical means to carry out a rescue operation that was supposed to be launched immediately on August 12, 2000. It was the realization of their helplessness that led Russia to develop within five years a rescue ship project 21300, Igor Belousov, laid down at the Admiralty Shipyards in 2005. Albeit with a big delay, the ship was launched in 2012 and – with more delays – accepted for service with the Russian fleet in December 2015.

And it would seem that by now, Russia would have built enough Project 21300 rescue vessels to ensure that all of its fleets are safe. According to the most conservative estimates, the Russians need at least six such vessels.

However, on the 22nd anniversary of the tragedy in the Barents Sea, not a single new project 21300 rescue ship was built.

The reason is simple. When Russia laid down their first such vessel, Igor Belousov, modern foreign-made equipment was installed on it. For example, the deep-water diving complex GVK-450 was manufactured and delivered to the Russians from the UK by Divex. In fact, 60% to 80% of all components, assemblies, and other equipment at Igor Belousov have been imported.

As is known, in 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine and occupied the Crimean peninsula, as well as part of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, Western power hit the invaders with sanctions, including banning the supply of high-tech equipment. As a result, Russia is now unable to build and equip a ship almost entirely consisting of foreign components.

After even tougher sanctions were imposed over a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, any hopes in this regard vanished altogether.

Russia hasn’t been able to come up with its own copy of the GVK-450, mentioned above. The so-called GVK-300, a version supposed to be designed with import substitution considerations, as of September 2020, wasn’t even properly developed, let alone tested.

In fact, after the commissioning of the Igor Belousov in 2015, it became obvious that the sanctions would hinder all further work on Project 21300 rescue vessels. In general, in perfect conditions, development works take two to three years. But, again, six years on, Russia is nowhere close to even starting such works, which proves them technically and technologically incapable of producing anything resembling the Scottish GVK-450.

As of today, the Russian fleet has the following rescue vessels in service, capable of providing assistance to submarines in distress:

– Rescue ship Kommuna, put into operation in 1915 (!!!);

– RS project 527.5 Epron, commissioned in 1959;

– SS project 05360 Mikhail Rudnitsky and Georgiy Kozmin, launched in 1978 and 1979, respectively;

– RS project 0536.1 Georgiy Titov and Sayany, put into operation in 1982 and 1983;

– RS project 537 Alagez, commissioned in 1987; and

– RS project 21300 Igor Belousov, launched in 2015.

Not only is this group of rescue vessels insufficient to provide full-fledged rescue operations – moreover, many of them are unable to perform their basic functions and can hardly operate safely, including Project 537 Alagez.

But the Russians usually hush down their problems. This was the case with both the Kursk nuclear submarine and the latest aviation losses during their war in Ukraine. The government is also too embarrassed to admit that their defense production capacities are so technically backward that they are incapable of building proper rescue equipment and hi-end warplanes. And since recently, they are trying to hide an awkward fact that they have lost capabilities to produce anything decent at all…

August 12 indeed seems to be a damned date for the Russian army.

Happy holiday!

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