Russia is sending the naval landing ship Nikolai Filchenkov to the eastern Mediterranean, state news agency Interfax said on Friday, reinforcing its presence near Syria.
Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, says its vessels in the eastern Mediterranean guarantee security as the United States considers launching military strikes to punish Damascus for its alleged use of chemical weapons.
"The vessel will dock in Novorossiysk where it will take special cargo on board and head to the designated area of military service in the eastern Mediterranean," Interfax quoted an unnamed navy source as saying.
It gave no more details and Russia's Defense Ministry declined immediate comment.
Nikolai Filchenkov was not among vessels that the ministry said last month would enter the Mediterranean as part of a planned rotation.
This is the third naval "landing" ship Russia has sent to Syria, following the previously reported dispatch of the Novocherkassk (150 marines on board) and Minsk (225 marines). According to the website of the Russian Black Sea fleet, the Filchenkov can carry 300 troops + 1,700 tons including about 20 tanks and various trucks or 40 AFV's
Nikolai Fil'chenkov in Sevastopol.
|Operators:|| Russian Navy
|Succeeded by:||Ivan Gren class landing ship|
|Type:||Landing Ship Tank|
3,400 tons standard
4,360-4,700 tons full load
|Length:||112.8-113.1 meters long|
|Beam:||15.3-15.6 meters beam|
|Propulsion:||2 diesels, 2 shafts, 9,000 bhp (6,700 kW)|
|Speed:||16-18 knots (33 km/h)|
|Troops:||300-425 troops or 20 tanks or 40 AFV's or 1,000 tons|
Missiles: 1 122mm UMS-72 Grad-M bombardment RL in some, 3 SA-N-5 SAM positions in some.
Guns: 1 dual 57mm/70cal DP, 2 dual 25 mm AA in some.
Design of Project 1171 was initiated in 1959 by the Navy, while a similar dual-purpose Project 1173 was ordered by the civilian Ministry of Shipping. Eventually both designs were merged under Project 1171 umbrella, and the resulting ship was a compromise between military (speed, survivability) and civil (fuel economy) objectives. Design team produced four different configurations of the ship. The Navy selected the most powerful and fastest option, which was also least fuel-efficient, and the civil Ministry withdrew from the project completely. All production ships were made for the Navy and never operated on shipping lines.
A total of 14 vessels were completed between 1964 and 1975; all were retired in 1992–1995. As at September, 2008, two vessels, currently named Orsk and Saratov are in active service with the 179-th brigade of Russian Black Sea Fleet. An unidentified number remains in reserve.
Saratov (БДК-65) was launched in July 1964, commissioned in 1966 as Voronezhsky Komsomolets. As a leader ship of a formation, it lacked the habitable troops compartments installed on other ships of the class. Saratov was stationed in Donuzlav (Black Sea Fleet) until the Union collapsed and then remained mothballed in Odessa until 1994. The ship was reported in active operations in 2000 and later.
Orsk (БДК-69) was launched and commissioned in 1968 as Nikolay Obekov. It served a total of 11 campaigns in Indian and Atlantic oceans and the Mediterranean. Later, under Russian flag, it carried peacekeeping troops and materials to Yugoslavia, Adjaria and Abkhazia.
Some vessels were used in the 2008 South Ossetia war.[