After the Crimea reunified with the Russian Federation in 2014, the military-strategic situation has changed drastically in the Black Sea area and the entire Southern European Theater of Operations. In this regard, the importance of the Russian Black Sea Fleet has markedly increased. An essential part in the activities of the Black Sea Fleet was played by the 2015 beginning of the Russian armed forces' military operation in Syria and the establishment of a Russian Navy stationing site in that country's port city of Tartus.
2019 has become the next stage in strengthening and developing Black Sea Fleet, as evidenced by at least the following figures. The fleet integrated six new ships and boats and four service vessels. Over the past year, the crews and coastal troops conducted 150 various training drills, in the course of which more than 500 battle exercises were performed, including 35 missile-firing ones against waterborne, shore-based and aerial targets.
The firing of Caliber high-precision cruise missiles against sea- and shore-based targets deserves special attention. Such drills were carried out by the newest frigates Admiral Grigorovich and Admiral Essen, as well as the small-size missile ship Vyshny Volochyok and the Kolpino submarine. During the Caliber firing in December this year, the missile hit a target at the land-based test site, having flown along a complex trajectory of more than 250 kilometers. All the missile launches were carried out with unconditional success, with the hits fixed by means of visual control.
The air defense exercises involved the S-400 Triumph and Pantsir complexes with Black Sea Fleet naval aviation acting as control targets. In the course of the drills, the aircraft operated from different directions, at top speed and a maximum distance from the radar detection zones, at maximum and nap-of-the-earth altitudes, using the terrain as a cover.
A truly "invaluable service" in improving the professional training and quality of working out combat training tasks by ships and units of the Black Sea Fleet was rendered by the frequent visits (a total of eight this year) of US Navy missile destroyers to the Black Sea. The reaction to the appearance of "uninvited guests" was one and the same, with each object monitored by surface ships of the Black Sea Fleet. The fleet command, in strict adherence to international practice, announced the closure of vast water areas over the planned exercises. Bastion and Bal coastal defense systems began their training activity with practicing missile strikes against surface targets when deployed on the run. Fleet aircraft entered the operating areas of air-surface missiles at a distance of destructing the localized targets. Electronic warfare installations neutralized the simulated enemy ships' electronic equipment.
Thus, the last of this year's Black Sea visits by the American Navy USS Ross destroyer which began on December 12, "coincided" with exercises of the small-size missile ship Vyshny Volochyok with the crews of four SU-24M and two SU-27 planes, as well as the fireteam of a Bastion coastal defense system. According to the scenario, the mentioned crews were tasked to detect and notionally hit the "enemy" ship, while Vyshny Volochyok battle stations had to fend off an air attack and launch the Caliber missiles to destroy a surface facility. The simulated battle was accompanied by electronic missile launches. As a result, the "enemy" ship never got a chance to use missile weapons and was assuredly "eliminated".
A US State Department official lodged a formal protest, describing actions against the Ross destroyer as "unprecedented" and "tough." Earlier, recently dismissed US Navy Chief Richard Spencer said American destroyers entering the Black Sea cannot feel safe and that none of NATO's 2019 joint exercises with the navies of Ukraine and Georgia went with a run because of actions of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Its commander-in-chief Vice Admiral Igor Osipov did not enter into a debate with his colleague and only promised to keep creating the most uncomfortable conditions to American ships in the Black Sea.
In 2019, more than 30 warships, submarines and vessels of the Black Sea Fleet performed combat service tasks in the off-shore maritime zone. The ship forces' time spent underway amounted to over 4 500 vessel-days in the outgoing year, during which they covered some 240 thousand nautical miles. In doing so, they made more than 50 calls at the ports of Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Cyprus, the Syrian Arab Republic, Oman, Djibouti, Yemen and Pakistan. Among other things, the Russian seamen took part in celebrations dedicated to the 192nd anniversary of the battle of Navarino, in the Greek port of Pylos.
Among the Black Sea Fleet's key objectives for 2020, Igor Osipov mentioned the commissioning of 16 new ships and support vessels, weapons, military and special equipment, as well as combat service in the Mediterranean Sea. The flagship command and battle training event for the coming year will be the engagement in the Caucasus-2020 strategic command and staff drills.