The Russian Navy doesn’t need to sail around NATO-allied seas anymore, thanks to its inner waterways connecting the Neva River in St. Petersberg to the White Sea.

The Russian Defense Ministry reported completing its Barents Arctic exercise last week, highlighting the successful maneuver of its small yet highly potent guided missiles without sailing around NATO-controlled Scandinavia.

In event of a war between NATO and Russia, the Baltic Sea would be very difficult for the Russian navy to transit in order to enter the North Atlantic. Russian warships attempting to force their way through the narrow straits in Denmark would have to run a gauntlet of coastal defenses by Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Germany, Norway, Lithuania, and Sweden before even reaching the Denmark Straits, where just 2 or 3 NATO submarines could stop anything trying to make it into the North Atlantic.  By using the Neva river instead to move into the Barents Sea Russian warships would be inside friendly territory and under the air cover of Murmansk and Monchagorsk airbase.

According to a report, the corvette “Mytishchi” (ex-Uragan) of the Karakurt-class had sailed an estimated 3,700 km through the Neva River in St. Petersburg, through Lake Ladoga, Lake Onega, and into the White Sea-Baltic Canal. The small warship then navigated across Lake Vygozero and into the river leading to the town of Belomorsk, where the coast of the White Sea awaits. From there, the Mytishchi launched its Kalibr cruise missile towards a coastal target at the Chizha shooting range at Cape Kanin in the eastern Barents Sea.

Google Earth
Russian corvette Mytishchi’s inner waterway route from the Neva River to the White Sea during the Northern Fleet’s Barents-Arctic exercise. (Screenshot from Google Earth)

The Kalibr cruise missile was initially designed for submarines, aircraft, or surface vessels and was actively used in the wars in Syria and, most recently, in the invasion of Ukraine. This purpose-built Mytishchi projectile has a range of up to 500 km, can fly with a supersonic speed of Mach 2.9, and carry a 200 kg warhead.

Russian Navy’s Small But Potent Coastal Defence Corvettes

A Corvette is generally the smallest class of warships a navy sends to sea, they are a step down from a Frigate in terms of size, endurance, armaments, and crew size.  Quite a few maritime countries in Europe build corvettes as coastal defense vessels, and Russia operates the largest number of them on the continent. By contrast, the United States does not build corvettes relying instead on the Cutters of the Coast Guard for coastal patrol duties along with an extensive network of Navy and Air Force bases to patrol the sea by air.

The leading vessel of Project 22800, also known as the Karakurt-class, the corvette Mytishchi, made its maiden sail in July 2017 as soon as the Pella Shipyard in St. Petersburg completed its build. It entered service in the Russian Navy in December 2018 as part of its Baltic fleet in Baltiysk.

The Russian warship measures an overall length of 67 meters, a width of 11 meters, a displacement of around 800 tonnes, and a top speed of up to 30 knots. Armament includes Oniks and Kalibr anti-ship missiles, naval guns, a Pantsir-M close-in weapon system (CIWS), and 14.5mm machine guns. All corvette under Project 22800 features stealth technology powered by twin M-507D-1 diesel engines and proven to last at least 12 days at sea. The National Interest added these vessels are notable for their “increased seaworthiness, high maneuverability, and low radar signature of the superstructure and hull,” an outstanding feature for initiating attacks against coastal defenses.