In a daring game of maritime concealment, the Russian Navy is employing innovative measures to protect its prized warship from potential Ukrainian attacks. The frigate Admiral Essen, a valuable asset in Russia’s naval fleet, now showcases a clever camouflage pattern. The objective? To confuse Ukrainian drone operators and make them doubt their intended target. The true effectiveness of this intriguing strategy is yet to be determined.
Imagine observing the Black Sea’s most formidable entity, the Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate of the Russian Navy, through a satellite lens, but with a twist. Its front and rear sections are now concealed by a mysterious dark paint, creating a striking contrast to its conventional gray appearance. This cunning transformation serves a purpose beyond aesthetics; it is a calculated maneuver intended to perplex unsuspecting observers.
So, what drives this dramatic alteration? The answer lies in the looming threat posed by the Ukrainian Navy’s maritime drones. These advanced airborne devices utilize cutting-edge cameras to identify their targets. Therefore, the Russian Navy’s new disguise represents a strategic effort to deceive these drone operators, leading them to mistake this formidable warship for a less significant objective.
Impressive satellite images, captured by Planet and shared online through the efforts of MT Anderson, a Ukrainian war enthusiast, have brought attention to the scene. On June 19, clear snapshots of a particular ship in Sevastopol emerged, only for the same vessel to appear in Novorossiysk just a couple of days later, on June 21. Naval News, along with other reliable sources, has confirmed that the intriguing dark markings on the ship are indeed the result of a unique paint job, rather than a clever play of shadows. They are certain that the bow and stern of the ship have been intentionally disguised using paint.
Naval enthusiasts with a passion for history are sure to find this fascinating! It brings to mind a scheme reminiscent of tactics employed by the Kriegsmarine during World War Two. One famous example is the battleship K.M.S. Bismarck, which utilized a similar disguise incorporating elements of deceptive and disruptive camouflage. In our story, the focus is on the deceptive aspect: a false bow and stern painted in a dark color to confuse observers. They even went to the extent of creating a fake bow wave and wake, all in an effort to create the illusion of a shorter hull. The goal was to puzzle the observer about the ship’s size and, consequently, its true identity.
Playing a crucial role in Russia’s assault on Ukraine, the Project 11356P Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates are a formidable force. Each ship possesses the capability to deploy 8 Kalibr land attack cruise missiles, equivalent in power to America’s Tomahawk missiles. These missiles often target locations deep within Ukraine’s borders. As the prized possessions of the Black Sea Fleet and the flagship vessels since the cruiser Moskva met its demise last April, these frigates have become coveted trophies for anyone planning a follow-up to the sinking of the Moskva.
Despite Ukraine’s efforts to strengthen its defenses, their maritime drones, referred to as USVs, have repeatedly managed to infiltrate Sevastopol Harbor. These small but heavily armed vessels pose a genuine threat with their substantial warheads. However, their full potential to cause significant damage has yet to be realized.
The operators of these drones rely on cameras to identify their targets during attacks. Therefore, any deception that hinders their ability to locate the most important target is highly valued by the Russian forces.
The 2022 Russian invasion witnessed the surprising revival of an old tactic. Early in the conflict, the Russian Navy began concealing hull numbers on their Black Sea ships. While this may seem outdated, it is a practical strategy aimed at impeding ship identification.
Despite these attempts at subterfuge, satellite imagery with keen observation suggests that the newly camouflaged Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate is none other than Admiral Essen. The ship is distinguished by the lighter hue of its Pozitiv-M radar dome. Its counterpart, the Admiral Makarov, stationed in Sevastopol, features a radome that seamlessly blends with the rest of the ship’s gray facade.
The effectiveness of this newly adopted camouflage remains a topic of debate. From the perspective of the Russian Navy, any form of disguise is preferable to none. It is not unlikely that other traditional camouflage patterns, like dazzle, may reemerge as long as drones continue to rely on visual targeting. One thing is certain: the Russian Navy is giving significant attention to the threat posed by maritime drones, even though they have shown apparent invulnerability thus far.