Submarines: Save The Last Foxtrot For Me


August 24, 2012: The Ukrainian Navy got its only submarine (the Zaporozhye) back into service. The 40 year old Foxtrot class boat has been out of action for 18 years and was recently refurbished. Zaporozhye is the only sub in the Ukrainian Navy, which mainly consists of small, Cold War era frigates (one) and corvettes (seven). There are also two amphibious ships and six minesweepers. The Foxtrot class diesel-electric subs were designed in the late 1950s, and 58 were built until production ended in 1983. These are 1,900 ton boats with ten torpedo tubes and a crew of 78. Russia retired all of its Foxtrots by 2000, but they were all obsolete by the early 1980s. The Zaporozhye is the last Foxtrot still in service.

The Black Sea has not been kind to submarines. Three years ago the Russian Black Sea Fleet suffered a major blow when its only operational submarine, a 19 year old Kilo class boat, broke down at sea and limped back to port on partial power. The only other sub in the fleet, a 32 year old Tango class boat, was undergoing repairs (and still is but will soon be scrapped). During the Cold War the Black Sea Fleet had thirty or more submarines.

The Black Sea Fleet is a pretty ragtag outfit, equipped with Cold War leftovers (the Kilo class sub was the youngest major ship it has). Most of the fifteen major surface ships are in need of repair, or not able to leave port at all. Some of the twenty minesweepers and missile equipped patrol boats date from the 1990s, but for the most part, the Black Sea Fleet is a rest home for Cold War relics.

The Black Sea fleet has been continually declining since the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. That decline was the result of new countries (like Ukraine and Georgia) inheriting old Soviet ships and bases. That was the dissolution deal. Whatever Soviet weapons or bases were normally, belonged to one of the 14 new nations. Most of Russia’s high seas ships were based in northern Russia (the Northern fleet, based next to Finland and Norway) or the Far East (the Pacific fleet, based north of China and North Korea). But the Baltic and Black Sea fleets were largely based in ports that were now part of a foreign nation. Russia negotiated several leases on their large naval base in Ukraine (Sevastopol) and the latest deal lasts until 2042. Russia is also building a new base to the east, on the Russian Black Sea coast, just in case there are problems with Ukraine.


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