Russia’s A2/AD in Crimea

S-400 Air Defense Missile System
S-400 Air Defense Missile System

Russia has been actively upgrading its anti-access/area-denial — commonly known as A2/AD — capabilities in Crimea since the reunification in 2014.

Strategically, Crimea is of vital importance to Russia due to its naval base in Sevastopol, home of the Black Sea Fleet. Because of the neighbouring NATO countries sharing the Black Sea with Russia, Moscow has no choice but to reinforce its military presence in the Peninsula.

BUK-M2 self-propelled, medium-range surface-to-air missile systems
BUK-M2 self-propelled, medium-range surface-to-air missile systems

With Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey — three NATO members — and Ukraine, with whom Russia is not entertaining good diplomatic relations since Crimea voted to rejoin Russia, the main focus of the Russian military has been to protect its fleet as well as possible incursion into mainland Russia from the Black Sea.

One of the main options for Russia to effectively secure its region is to deploy a considerable amount of surface-to-air missile systems as well as anti-ship missiles. Adding to that, a new Podsolnukh over-the-horizon radar could be installed in Crimea enabling the detection of any foreign ship passing through the Bosphorous Strait in Turkey.

S-400 Triumf
S-400 Triumf

To have an effective A2/AD strategy, Russia can deploy different type of missile system and mobile radars throughout the Crimean territory. By doing so, the Russian military benefits from a defence in depth strategy and can engage multiple targets at various distances.

The fact that NATO heavily relies on its air force to counter Russia’s A2/AD significantly reduce the threat of a preemptive strike on Crimea. Due to the amount of surface-to-air missile systems deployed in Crimea, it is impossible for NATO to successfully penetrate the nearby airspace without being noticed.

Pantsir-S1 medium range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapon
Pantsir-S1 medium range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapon

The newest generation of surface-to-air missile systems, the S-400 Triumf, combined with S-300, BUK missiles and Pantsir-S systems can create an impenetrable bubble over Crimea.

Adding some mobile electronic warfare system such as the Krasukha-4 to neutralize Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) spy satellites, ground-based radars and airborne radars (AWACS) at a range between 150 to 300 kilometres. It is also an impressive device capable of rendering radio-controlled missile attacks ineffective.

Krasukha-4 ground-based electronic warfare system
Krasukha-4 ground-based electronic warfare system

As for anti-ship capabilities, the K-300P Bastion-P is already deployed around Sevastopol to protect docked warships.

Another possible option would be the deployment of Iskander missiles to counter any missile launch from Romania. The Iskander’s range is perfect to reach Romania and could be fired against THAAD positions on the Romanian coast and AEGIS ashore stations.

9K720 Iskander is a mobile short-range ballistic missile system
9K720 Iskander is a mobile short-range ballistic missile system

By denying NATO’s both AEGIS and THAAD stations around the Black Sea, Russian aircraft and ships would be in a position to counter any possible threats to come in from the Alliance’s naval base and conduct a blockade on the Bosphorous Strait.

The Russian Navy can also employ the sea-based SS-N-30A Kalibr-type cruise missiles, and its SS-N-27 Sizzler anti-ship missiles.

The SS-N-27 “Sizzler” is a Russian short-range ship-, and submarine-launched anti-ship missile.
The SS-N-27 “Sizzler” is a Russian short-range ship-, and submarine-launched anti-ship missile.

That said, Patriot missiles could be a game changer in Russia’s strategy. By placing them in Poland and near the shore in Romania, where an exercise was already conducted close to Capu Midia, the Patriot missile could intercept and destroy Iskander missiles. However, the Iskander missiles’ stealth technology and its deployment of decoys and small jammers could fool the Patriot missile.

U.S. MIM-104 Patriot Missile System
U.S. MIM-104 Patriot Missile System

Crimea is definitely one of the main concerns of NATO members in the Black Sea region. By denying its potential threats right to their doorstep, Russia is clearly owning the sky and the sea.