Admiral Kuznetsov dry dock update

**Update to the small update**

**Imagery amendment – The northern floating crane at the dock entrance is actually a fixed one on the wall. – Thanks to Capt(N) for posting an image that shows this**

A few more Capella Space collection passes were tasked after Admiral Kuznetsov was moved to the 35th Shipyard dry dock.

These were dated 26 and 27 May 2022.

They show that work has started again on the dry dock entrance. Here they will likely seal the mouth up with a temporary steel barrier that has been pile driven into the river bed. From that they can then empty the dry dock and construct the full gate system.

Why they didn’t do this at the time of construction is anyone’s guess, but it is likely they wanted Kuznetsov into the dock as soon as possible so that they can continue the work on the ship.

Three floating cranes appear to be back in attendance to help with the work. The image for 27 May looks like a barrier is already in place, but this is the northern crane.

They used this method to construct the dry dock in the first place, but had to destroy it so that Kuznetsov could be floated in.

In theory, they could use the dry dock as soon as it is empty for any work on the hull that would normally be below the waterline, but this could be dangerous. And with the luck Kuznetsov has had recently…. well, anything could happen!

But, the Russian Navy does appear to like risk and I think they’ll put the lower dock to work as soon as they can. Especially if Kuznetsov has been damaged below the waterline in the previous incidents.

Admiral Kuznetsov on the move – but not far!

With rumours filtering through that Project 1143.5 CVGM Admiral Kuznetsov was due to move sometime between 17 and 19 May 2022 from its “temporary” mooring position in Murmansk to a purpose built dry dock just a little further south, I set up at collection task with Capella Space to catch before and after imagery of the event.

Kuznetsov had ended up at its mooring position after floating dock PD-50, of the 85th shipyard, sank on 30 October 2018 whilst the CVGM was being floated out after a month of works. During the accident, a crane that was part of the dock fell onto the flight deck causing considerable damage.

That wasn’t the end of the woes for the already delayed refit Kuznetsov was undertaking – originally planned to start in 2017 and already a year late. On 12 December 2019 the ship suffered from a major fire that the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) estimated would cost 350 million roubles ($4.7 million/£3.7 million at the time) to repair.

An agreement was made with the Russian MoD that two dry docks of the 35th shipyard in Murmansk would be redesigned and knocked through into one large dry dock that could take Kuznetsov and other large Russian navy ships and submarines.

Work commenced on the new dry dock mid to late 2019 and was due to be completed in early 2021 for Kuznetsov to enter and complete the overhaul. Currently, the 35th Shipyard are restricted to works that can take place alongside.

However, the dry dock is still under construction due to several delays in the construction process. This hasn’t deterred the Russian navy from getting Kuznetsov into the dock.

On 20 May 2022, Kuznetsov made the 1.5 km journey with the assistance of tugs rather than under its own power.

Telegram poster, Arctic Observer – Murmansk (Арктический обозреватель – Мурманск) was the first to post imagery of Kuznetsov on the move on 20 May.

They then posted further imagery a little later.

Capella Imagery

The collection request was made to Capella to cover 17 – 20 May. Typically there wasn’t a collection slot available on the 20th, but the request was extended to the next available on the 22nd.

Low resolution EO imagery on Sentinel was only available for 15 May. After this, the region was 100% cloud covered, making further collections of EO imagery impossible. This is where SAR collections from Capella excel – being able to see, no matter the weather.

Sentinel imagery dated 15/5/22 showing Kuznetsov and the “new” dry dock to the south
The dry dock on 17 May 2022. Working is taking place at the entrance. At least two floating cranes are present.
18 May 2022. Work continues on the dry dock.
19 May 2022. Work appears to have been paused at the dry dock and the entrance cleared.
19 May 2022. At Kuznetsov, a possible tug or floating crane is present. No such activity was taking place on the previous days collections.
22 May 2022. Kuznetsov in the dry dock at 35th Shipyard.

FleetMon S-AIS data

The move used at least four tugs according to S-AIS data from FleetMon. These were – Bizon, Grumant, Helius and Kapitan Shebalkin.

FleetMon AIS data shows Tug Bizon alongside Kuznetsov on 20 May 2022.
FleetMon AIS data shows Tug Grumant alongside Kuznetsov on 20 May 2022.
FleetMon track history for Tug Grumant clearly shows it helped with the Kuznetsov move. All the other tugs mentioned also showed similar tracks to this.
FleetMon AIS data shows Tug Helius working at the dry dock on 20 May 2022.
FleetMon AIS data shows Tug Kapitan Shebalkin alongside Kuznetsov and at the dry dock on 20 May 2022.

Since 20 May, further imagery has been published that shows Kuznetsov in the dry dock. bmpd on LiveJournal has some particularly good ones which showed some of the work being carried out.

Imagery posted on bmpd LiveJournal – courtesy of Pavel Lvov / RIA Novosti.

A couple of the images are interesting as they show potential changes to the weapons systems. Below, it can be seen that the RBU-12000 ASW rocket launchers (designed specifically for Kuznetsov) have been retained (central, far left of image) but the AK-630M on the deck balcony below has been removed.

Imagery posted on bmpd LiveJournal – credited to Alexander Loginov, Anna Savicheva, Svyatoslav Ivanov / severpost.ru

The same has taken place on the starboard side of the ship.

Imagery posted on bmpd LiveJournal

A further image on RIA Novosti credited to Pavel Lvov, taken from above also shows the removal of the AK-630Ms along with the eight Kortik/Kashtan CADS-N-1A each fitted with twin AO-18K (6K30GM) 30 mm rotary cannon and eight SA‐N‐11 (9M311) ‘Grison’ missiles.

Imagery from RIA Novosti credited to Pavel Lvov

The Kashtan is likely to be replaced by Pantsir‐M/Pantsir‐SM CIWS hence their removal.

The image above also shows a lot of surface oil. Whether it is from Kuznetsov or the tugs is anyone’s guess – but I have a feeling I know which one it is

Project 02690 class floating crane SPK-54150 returns to Snake Island

According to satellite imagery made available by Planet, Project 02690 class floating crane SPK-54150 – based at Sevastopol for the Russian Black Sea Fleet – has returned to Snake Island on, or before, 15 May 2022.

Low resolution imagery from Planet shows Project 02690 class floating crane at Snake Island Harbour on 15 May 2022

The whereabouts of SPK-54150 between today and when it departed the area on 12 May 2022 is unknown, but imagery from Sentinel dated 14 May 2022 shows it returning to the island.

Located at 45.224993 30.744780, the shape, colour and size of the floating crane can be clearly seen. The wake behind also shows the very slow speed it is travelling at – the class averages a speed of 6 knots generally.

Collected at 0857z, the floating crane is approximately 42 kilometres away from Snake Island – or 23 nautical miles.

Based on the average speed of 6 knots, it is actually more likely that SPK-54150 arrived around 1230z on the 14th. Obviously, this if it went direct from the spot located. Imagery is not available of Snake Island on 14 May 2022 later than this as far as I’m aware.

The resolution of the imagery available to me doesn’t show whether the floating crane has any cargo. No doubt further high resolution imagery will appear soon.

Vsevolod Bobrov – More fake news

On 12 May 2022, reports starting coming in on Twitter about yet another attack on a Russian ship in the Black sea.

This time it was Project 23120 logistics support vessel Vsevolod Bobrov that was making the news.

Commissioned to the Black Sea fleet on 6 August 2021, Bobrov is one of the most capable and modern supply ships in the Russian Navy. To lose a ship like this would be quite a blow.

The ship has a displacement of 9,700 tonnes, measures 95 m in length and has a maximum speed of 18 kts. It has a range of 5,000 nautical miles or an endurance of 60 days. Ordinarily it has crew of 55.

The 700 m2 cargo deck can carry approximately 3,000 tonnes of cargo and is equipped with two 50 tonne electro-hydraulic cranes. Moreover, main and auxiliary towing winches are capable of a pulling capacity of 120 tonnes and 25 tonnes.

The reports of an attack, of course, was yet more fake news emanating from “Ukrainian Sources”.

Whilst I understand the need for propaganda in this war, stories such as these do not help with the Russian’s denial of any sort of atrocities etc. They can just prove stories such as these are fake, and therefore say all the others are too. Moreover, there is no real need to do it – the Ukrainians are causing enough damage as it is, there’s no need to make any up.

Regardless, it was another “story” I didn’t believe in the first place.

Whilst Bobrov is operational in the Black Sea, the “Ukrainian sources” provided even less information than normal – there wasn’t even an attempt at a fake video.

Therefore, it was just a case of sitting back and waiting for the ship to arrive in Sevastopol. And sure enough, it did!

Images of Bobrov alongside at Sevastopol on 14 May 2022 were made available on Twitter the same day. The images themselves were taken from a Telegram account, Black Sea Fleet, and clearly show no damage whatsoever to Bobrov.

If anything it is near mint condition.

On closer inspection, it can be seen that a Pantsir-S (NATO SA-22 Greyhound) self-propelled surface to air gun and missile system is located between the two cranes. One of the access hatches is open, and a Z can been seen drawn on the side.

Whether the AD system is there for the ship’s own protection or was part of a cargo is not known. However, satellite imagery shown to me which I cannot show here has the system moved to the stern of the ship. This does make it look like the system is there to protect the ship – it doesn’t have any in normal circumstances.

How useful the AD system would be is anyone’s guess and is probably more for show than anything else – or at least to make the crew feel safe. The height of the cranes to the side, and the main structure of the ship forward, would make it extremely hard to defend any attacks from these directions – unless they were directly, or near directly, above.

Pantsir-S highlighted in image provided by Telegram account – Black Sea Fleet

This is possibly a trend though. The Project 02690 class floating crane that was at Snake Island on 12 May 2022 – now departed the area – also had an AD unit on its deck. It is not known though whether this was later offloaded to the island or not.

I’m sure further evidence will be made available on whether the use of mobile AD systems is a thing or not with Russian navy ships not equipped with built-in systems..

Snake Island – further activity

**Updated**

Despite heavy losses at Snake Island, Russian forces continue to operate at the island.

Imagery made available by Maxar shows a Project 02690 class floating crane operating at the island’s harbour – along with a Project 11770 Serna class landing craft.

Maxar imagery showing Project 02690 class floating crane operating at Snake Island harbour. The wreck of the Project 11770 Serna class landing craft can be clearly seen, still carrying its cargo. A further Serna class is at the landing slipway, with its ramp lowered.

The theory on social media is that the floating crane is there to recover the sunk Serna class landing craft. This is probably unlikely as in theory the weight of the ship and its cargo (likely one of the 9K331M Tor-M2 family of SAM systems) combined with the sea would take the lifting weight outside of that capable by the crane – **See below for update**

Two options are more likely. Either to recover the 9K331M Tor-M2; or to be used to transfer cargo from other ships to – or from – the island.

It is a risky operation. The floating cranes are not very maneuverable or fast. Their average speed is 6 kts.

Further imagery of the area shows another Serna class operating close to the island. Some thought “clouds” near the ship were smoke trails from Ukrainian missiles attacking the ship. This isn’t the case and it is possible the ship is dispensing smoke to try and cover/protect the operations taking place at the island.

This is clearly failing.

Getting back to the crane and the image of it operating off the harbour jetty.

There is a possibly a 9K331M Tor-M2 is on the deck. More of these have been located on the island so it does appear the crane has either assisted in, or transported, these. How long they last is another question?

Through analysis of satellite imagery from Capella Space and Sentinel, and in conjunction with historic AIS data from FleetMon, it is likely the floating crane is SPK-54150.

Capella SAR imagery dated 11 May 2022 shows a floating crane in the Pivdenna Bay area of Sevastopol.

A colour, low resolution image from sentinel for the same day shows the floating crane – the yellow colour of the crane is clearly visible.

A search of AIS data in FleetMon for the two known floating cranes operating for the Black Sea Fleet – SPK-54150 and SPK-46150 – produced an outcome for both.

SPK-54150 was last “heard” on 10 May 2022 tracking Northwest at 6 kts, not far from Karadzhyns’ka bay. I have access to S-AIS from FleetMon so this last heard means the ship switched off its AIS at this time – the data list confirms it was transmitting via Satellite.

Data from FleetMon shows SPK-54150 was using S-AIS from the symbol at the end of each line

On the other hand, the AIS for SPK-46150 was last heard on 26 March 2022. It does appear to have stayed here since then – or been operational but not used its AIS and returned to the same spot each time.

From this data then, we can conclude the floating crane is likely to be SPK-54150.

As previously mentioned, the use of the floating cranes shows a certain desperation with the Russian forces to maintain a presence on Snake Island.

It really does appear they want to stay there, no matter the risks and potential costs.

**Update**

Eventually, the floating crane did recover the Serna class from the harbour. A pretty good job too as this – as I stated above – would have been at the edges of the cranes capabilities. Not known is wether it recovered the “cargo” first.

More information on “Bastion-P” Matua Island deployment


  • Deployment day is now known
  • Maxar and Sentinel capture deployment
  • Identity of ships involved now known

Following on from my previous blog on the deployment of Russian K-300P “Bastion-P” mobile coastal defence missile unit to Matua Island, further satellite imagery from Sentinel and Maxar has been found showing the deployment taking place.

Moreover, the Maxar imagey has captured the actual moment the equipment exits the Pacific Fleet Project 775M Ropucha class Large landing ship – and in such detail you can clearly see the personnel filming the event.

The first thing ascertained is that the deployment took place on November 16th 2021, so the Russian MoD took two weeks to release the news. It is also now confirmed that all the support vehicles and personnel deployed at the same time rather than at an earlier date – which I suggested may have been the case in the previous blog.

If you watched the video from the Russian MoD in my last blog, at the beginning of it a Monolit-B mobile coastal surveillance radar vehicle exits the Ropucha class landing ship. The Maxar image clearly shows the Monolit-B on the beach having passed the “film crew”, and a K-300P just exited the ship and still in the breakwater.

Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies.

The Ropucha can also be clearly identified as Admiral Nevelsky [055].

Imagery of the base for November 16th – the same as that from the ROLES article mentioned in my previous blog – shows little going on so it is likely that a small group of personnel were already there to set up the base, but very little else. However, it is good to get a high resolution of the image now.

Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies.

Of interest is just how lucky a capture this was. Going through Sentinel-2 imagery, the weather before the 16th, up to today (December 9th), has been cloudy for the vast majority of the time. This is the drawback to normal EO imagery, and is why the SAR imagery capabilities of Capella is important to modern intelligence gathering using satellite imagery.

The Capella image from the 3rd December was collected during a period of 100% cloud cover over the island.

There is absolutely no doubt that both capabilities work in tandem with each other and will make it exceptionally difficult to hide deployments such as these in the future. Capella can provide continuous coverage of a target of interest, and should full EO imagery be required for confirmation of activity and/or actual identities of ships etc. then this can be tasked by the likes of Maxar when weather permits.

The Sentinel-2 imagery, though of low resolution, also revealed the other ships used in the deployment. These consisted of:

  • Project 141 Kashtan class tender KIL-168
  • Project 23470 salvage tug Andrey Stepanov
  • Project 19910 AGS Viktor Faleev

S-AIS data from FleetMon for Andrey Stepanov shows that she arrived at the island on the 14th November, staying for the deployment. She then left the region back to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky on the 17th, before returning at the end of the month and arriving on the 27th via Severo-Kurilsk at the island of Paramushir.

A quick hop back to and from Severo-Kurilsk took place over a couple of days, and she is now enroute back to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky as we speak.

The FleetMon Sat 15 package was worth its weight in gold for recovering this data

With this activity from Andrey Stepanov and the timing of the Russian MoD news, can one presume that the deployment is now over and just lasted two weeks?

With the Capella imagery showing very little activity at the base on 3rd December, it may well be.

But, it could also be that Andrey Stepanov has been shuttling supplies back and forth to the island – though as a tug is more likely to be there in support of a further ship such as KIL-168. With no S-AIS data available for both KIL-168 and iktor Faleev it could be they were there also. The runway is operational and also capable of taking flights for supply purposes.

For the time being, some further monitoring of the island is required.