Baltic Fleet

Baltic Fleet

The Twice Red Banner Baltic Fleet - (Дважды Краснознамённый Балтийский флот), was the Imperial, later Soviet, and is now the Russian Navy's presence in the Baltic Sea. The Fleet gained the 'Twice Red Banner' appelation during the Soviet period, indicating two awards of the Order of the Red Banner. It is headquartered in Kaliningrad, with the other major base at Kronstadt, in the Gulf of Finland. The Fleet was part of the former Soviet Navy and is now part of Russian Navy.

Imperial Russia

The Imperial Russian fleet was created during the Great Northern War at the instigation of Peter the Great, who ordered first ships for the fleet to be constructed at Lodeynoye Pole in 1702 and 1703. The first commander was a Dutch admiral, Cornelius Cruys, who in 1723 was succeeded by Count Fyodor Apraksin. In 1703, the main base of the fleet was established in Kronstadt. One of the fleet's first actions was the taking of Shlisselburg. Specially for this fleet, a navigation school was opened in Saint Petersburg in 1701; it was renamed the Marine Cadet Corps in 1752. By 1724, the fleet boasted 141 sail warships and hundreds of oar-propelled ships.

During the Great Northern War, the Baltic Fleet assisted in taking Vyborg, Tallinn, Riga, the Moonsund archipelago, Helsinki, and Turku. The first great victories of the Russian Navy were won at the Gangut in 1714 and the Grengam in 1720. During the concluding stages of the war, the fleet would land troops on the Swedish mainland, devastating the coastal settlements.

During the Seven Years' War, the Russian Baltic Sea fleet was active on the Pomeranian coast, helping the infantry to take Memel in 1757 and Kolberg in 1761. The Oresund was blockaded in order to prevent the British Navy from entering the Baltic sea. During Catherine II's Swedish War the fleet, commanded by Samuel Greig, routed the Swedes at Hogland (1788) and the Vyborg (1790). An impetuous Russian attack on the Swedish galley flotilla on the July 9, 1790 at the Second Battle of Svensksund resulted in a disaster for the Russian Navy who lost some 9,500 out of 14,000 men and about one third of their flotilla. It was the greatest naval victory ever gained by Sweden and saved her from defeat in the war.

During the Russo-Turkish Wars the fleet sailed into the Mediterranean and destroyed the Ottoman Navy at Chesma (1770), the Dardanelles (1807), the Athos (1807), and the Navarino (1827). At about the same time, Ivan Krusenstern circumnavigated the globe, while another Baltic Fleet officer — Faddei Bellingshausen — discovered Antarctica.

In the Crimean War, the fleet — although stymied in its operations by the absence of steamships — prevented the Allies from occupying Hanko, Sveaborg, and Saint Petersburg. Despite being greatly outnumbered by the technologically superior Allies, it was the Russian Fleet that introduced into naval warfare such novelties as torpedo mines, invented by Boris Yakobi. Other outstanding inventors who served in the Baltic Fleet were Alexander Stepanovich Popov (who was the first to demonstrate the practical application of electromagnetic (radio) waves [cite web|title =Early Radio Transmission Recognized as Milestone|work=

The Baltic Fleet took a prominent part in the Russo-Japanese War. In September 1904, a squadron under the command of Admiral Rozhdestvenski was sent around Africa - stopping in French, German and Portuguese colonial ports Tangier, Dakar, Gabon, Baía dos Tigres, Angra Pequeña, and Nossi Be (Madagascar), then across the Indian Ocean to Cam Ranh Bay in French Indochina and then northward to its doomed encounter with the Japanese fleet at the Battle of Tsushima. The German Hamburg-Amerika Line provided 60 colliers to supply the Baltic Fleet on its epic journey. The decision to send the fleet to the Pacific was made after Russia had suffered a string of defeats at the hands of the Japanese Army in Manchuria. This historic naval battle broke Russian strength in East Asia and set the stage for the unsuccessful Russian Revolution of 1905, which began the decline that would see the monarchy brought down in 1917.

World War I

Following the catastophic losses in battleships during the Russo-Japanese war, Russia embarked on a new naval building program which was to incorporate a number of the most modern dreadnought-type battleships into the fleet. In late 1914 4 dreadnoughts of the Gangut class entered service with the fleet: "Gangut"; "Poltava"; "Petropavlovsk"; and "Sevastopol". Four more powerful battlecruisers of the Borodino class were under construction, but were never completed. The Fleet's main operation during the First World War was the Ice Cruise of the Baltic Fleet (1918), led by Alexander Zelenoy. However, on the whole the heavy units of the fleet remained in port during the war, as the German superiority in battleships was overwhelming.

The fleet operated 355 ton submarines made by Electric Boat Co. in the United States. Four of these submarines, AG 11, AG 12, AG 15 and AG 16 were scuttled in the harbour of Hanko on April 3, 1918, just before the 10,000-strong German Baltic Sea Division landed in support of the White side in the Finnish Civil War. During the war the fleet was aided by a detachment of British submarines. These subs were scuttled by their crews near the Harmaja lighthouse outside Helsinki on April 4, 1918. [ [ Finnish Navy in World War II] ]

oviet era

During the October Revolution the sailors of the Baltic Fleet (renamed "Naval Forces of the Baltic Sea" in March 1918) [ [ чпеообс мйфетбфхтб - чПЕООБС ЙУФПТЙС - вПЕЧПК РХФШ уПЧЕФУЛПЗП чПЕООП-нПТУЛПЗП жМПФБ ] ] were among the most ardent supporters of Bolsheviks, and formed an elite among Red military forces. Some ships of the fleet took part in the Russian Civil War, notably by clashing with the British navy operating in the Baltic as part of intervention forces [] . Over the years, however, the relations of the Baltic Fleet sailors with the Bolshevik regime soured, and they eventually rebelled against the Soviet government in the Kronstadt rebellion in 1921, but were defeated.

The Fleet, renamed Red-Banner Baltic Fleet on the 11 January 1935 [ [ чпеообс мйфетбфхтб - чПЕООБС ЙУФПТЙС - вПЕЧПК РХФШ уПЧЕФУЛПЗП чПЕООП-нПТУЛПЗП жМПФБ ] ] , was developed further during the Soviet years, initially relying on tsarist warships, but adding modern units built in Soviet yards from 1930s onwards. Among the Fleet's Soviet commanders were Gordey Levchenko in 1938-39 and Arseniy Golovko in 1952-56. Ships and submarines commissioned to the fleet included Soviet submarine M-256, a Project 615 short-range attack diesel submarine of the Soviet Navy. The fleet also acquired a large number of ground-based aircraft to form a strong naval aviation force.

Baltic pacts of mutual assistance and subsequent invasion

In September 1939, the fleet threatened the Baltic states as part of a series of military actions staged to encourage the Baltics to accept Soviet offers of "mutual assistance." [,9171,762664,00.html Moscow's Week] at Time Magazine on Monday, October 9 1939] [ The Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania by David J. Smith, Page 24, ISBN 0415285801 ] Subsequently, in June 1940, the fleet blockaded the Baltics in support of the Soviet invasion.

Winter War

Finland, which had refused to sign a pact of mutual assistance, was subsequently attacked by the USSR. The fleet played a limited role in the Winter War with Finland in 1939-1940, mostly through conducting artillery bombardments of Finnish costal fortifications. Many fleet aircraft were involved in operations against Finland, however. Its operations came to a close with the freezing of the Gulf of Finland during the exceptionally cold winter of that year.

Great Patriotic War

In the beginning of the Great Patriotic War the Baltic Fleet had 2 battleships, 2 cruisers, 2 flotilla leaders, 19 destroyers, 48 MTBs, 65 submarines and other ships, and 656 aircraft. During the war the Fleet, commanded by the vice-admiral Vladimir Tributz, defended the Hanko Peninsula, Tallinn, several islands in Estonian SSR, participated in the break through breach of the Siege of Leningrad, etc. 137 sailors of the Baltic Fleet were awarded a title of the Hero of the Soviet Union. However, for most of the war the fleet was trapped by German minefields in Leningrad and nearby Kronstadt, the only bases left in Soviet hands on the Baltic coast. Many of the fleet sailors fought on land as infantry during the siege. Only submarines could risk the passage into the open sea to strike at German shipping. They were particularly successful towards the end of the war, sinking ships like Wilhelm Gustloff, Steuben and Goya, causing great loss of life.

See - Baltic Sea Campaigns (1939-1945) for more details

Cold War

During the Immediate post-war period the importance of the Red-Banner Baltic Fleet increased despite the Baltic being a shallow sea with the exits easily becoming choke points by other countries. The Baltic Fleet was increased to two Fleets, the 4th Red-Banner Baltic Fleet and the 8th Red-Banner Baltic Fleet on 15 February 1946. However during the post-Stalinist period and general reforms and downsizing in the Soviet Armed Forces the two fleets of the Baltic were again reduced, with many vessels, some built before the Revolution, were scrapped, and the Fleet was again renamed Red-Banner Baltic Fleet on the 24 December 1955. [ [ чпеообс мйфетбфхтб - чПЕООБС ЙУФПТЙС - вПЕЧПК РХФШ уПЧЕФУЛПЗП чПЕООП-нПТУЛПЗП жМПФБ ] ] Far from being reduced in importance, operations of the Red-Banner Baltic Fleet during the early-Cold War period earned it a great amount of prestige and profile, with the second awarding of the Order of Red Banner being presented on the 7 May 1965 when the Fleet was again renamed to Twice Red-Banner Baltic Fleet. [ [ чпеообс мйфетбфхтб - чПЕООБС ЙУФПТЙС - вПЕЧПК РХФШ уПЧЕФУЛПЗП чПЕООП-нПТУЛПЗП жМПФБ ] ] Although the Soviet Union poured resources into building up the Northern Fleet and the Pacific Fleet, both of which had easy access to the open ocean, the Twice Red-Banner Baltic Fleet assumed the very important position of supporting northern flank of the European Theatre in case of a confrontation with NATO. This role was under-rated from the blue water navies perspective, but was seen as a highly valuable one from the strategic perspective of the Soviet General Staff planning. The Twice Red-Banner Baltic Fleet remained a powerful force, which in the event of war was tasked with conducting amphibious assaults against the coast of Denmark and Germany, in cooperation with allied Polish and East German naval forces.

A notable incident involving the fleet occurred in 1975 when a mutiny broke out on the frigate Storozhevoy. There were also numerous allegations by Sweden of Baltic Fleet submarines illegally penetrating its territorial waters. In October, 1981 the Soviet submarine U 137 ran aground in Swedish territorial waters, near the important naval base of Karlskrona, causing a serious diplomatic incident. Swedish naval vessels raised the damaged submarine and permitted it to return to the Soviet fleet in early November [] .

Russian Federation

The breakup of the Soviet Union deprived the former-Soviet and Russian Baltic Fleet of key bases in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, leaving Kaliningrad Oblast as the Fleet's only ice-free naval outlet to the Baltic Sea. However, the Kaliningrad Oblast between Poland and Lithuania is not contiguous with the rest of national territory of the Russian Federation.

hips and personnel

As of 2008 the Baltic Fleet included about 100 combat ships of various types, operational forces include 2 Kilo class submarines, 8 Parchim class corvettes, 2 Sovremenny class destroyers, 1 Neustrashimy class frigate, 2 or 3 Krivak class frigatesand the Fleet's Sea Aviation Group units were equipped with a total of 112 aircraft. []

The remnant of the 11th Guards Army, Baltic Military District was reorganised as the Ground and Coastal Defence Forces of the Baltic Fleet in the late 1990s and includes the 7th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade and 18th Guards Motor Rifle Division, plus a Naval Infantry brigade and several Bases for Storage of Weapons and Equipment, former divisions, holding enough vehicles and weaponry for a division, but only having a few hundred men assigned, to maintain the equipment and guard the base.

Naval Aviation

The Fleet's Naval Aviation currently consists of: [Air Forces Monthly, August 2007 issue.]
*689th Independent Fighter Aviation Regiment - Kaliningrad Chkalovsk - operating Su-27;
*4th Independent Naval Assault Aviation Regiment - Chernyakhovsk Air Base - operating Su-24M/MR;
*125th Independent Helicopter Squadron - HQ at Chkalovsk - operating Mi-8, Mi-24 (this was the former 288th Independent Helicopter Regt of the 11th Guards Army and used to be at Nivenskoye);
*396th Independent Shipborne Anti-Submarine Helicopter Squadron - Donskoye Air Base - Ka-27/PS, Ka-29;
*398th Independent Air Transport Squadron - HQ at Khrabrovo - An-2, An-12, An-24, An-26, Be-12, Mi-8.


* Richard Connaughton, 1988, 1991, 2003. "Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear: Russia's War With Japan". Cassell. ISBN 0-304-36657-9.
* Jürgen Rohwer and Mikhail S. Monakov, "Stalin's Ocean Going Fleet - Soviet Naval Strategy and Shipbuilding Programmes: 1935-1953", Frank Cass, 2001, ISBN 0-7146-4895-7.
* Gunnar Åselius, "The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Navy in the Baltic, 1921-41", Routledge (UK), 2005, ISBN 9780714655406.

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