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Global Britain: why London is building a fleet for Kyiv

Photo: British Navy

Photo: British Navy

Ukrainian Naval Capabilities Enhancement Program: what is its core, and what ships can the Navy get from the UK?


A memorandum between Britain and Ukraine was signed aboard the British ship HMS Defender last Monday. Kyiv was represented by Deputy Minister of Defence Oleksandr Mironiuk, and London—by Jeremy Quin, their Minister of State for Defense Procurement.

The document was named Ukrainian Naval Capabilities Enhancement Programme. It dealt with modernizing existing ships and transferring new ships for the Ukrainian Navy.

The package includes the construction of the missile boats, the handoff of the modern frigates, the construction of two naval bases, and the modernization of industry for localization.

Bases Ochakiv and Berdyansk, the construction of which with the help of British contractors is planned to be completed by 2024.

It is not yet clear whether the memorandum includes the intention to complete the unfinished Volodymyr Velykyi or to supply the 5,700-ton Type 31 that are participating in a tender for Greece and scheduled to enter service for the British Navy.

Although there are big doubts with the latter—$350 million per unit is unlikely to allow us to sell "frigates" in the plural.

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But, Ukraine will definitely get two Sandown class mine countermeasures vesselы from the available ones. These 600-tonne vessels are more coastal mine hunters than minesweepers, but they have a fiberglass hull, and that is extremely important for countermine action. And they will also be modernized with advanced sonars, pilotless submersible vessels and drones.

Plus 8 missile boats—an agreement on them will be signed in August 2021. Half of them will be floated out in Britain, another half—in Ukraine. Equipped with guided missile weapons and artillery, the British boats, together with the American Islands, will become the backbone of the Ukrainian mosquito forces in the Black Sea region.

As a result, Ukraine will get:

  • £1.25 billion of options on credit;
  • access to heavy weapons, missiles and ammunition;
  • British shipbuilding specialists at the shipyards Nibulon and Ocean, and the enterprise Zorya Mashproekt—the first sign of modernization.

And also the operation ORBITAL was expanded from the Ground Forces to the Naval Forces of Ukraine—in Odesa, a two-week course for Ukrainian naval sailors was held on board the British ship Trent in May; a countermine training seminar was held.

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The output is localization, equipment, and training. De facto London is creating a proxy fleet in the Black Sea region.

This is part of the "Global Britain" strategy that Boris Johnson announced on the eve of the EU exit.

Leaving integration into European structures for the continent, the British again want to become a military and political player in a world where the majority of the world's population will live in autocratic or partially unfree countries. The main competitors and opponents are the Russian Federation and China, but challenges like the junta in Myanmar or the Lukashenko regime will not go anywhere (London's reaction in both cases is indicative, while the EU harped on the same string of concern till the last).

Combating money laundering with the help of Great Britain is a hello to the apartments and fur coat storages of Russian oligarchs in Soho. Britain's AstraZeneca is taking part in the vaccine "race" and "diplomacy".

Britain’s defense expenditures will increase by £4 billion each year until it exceeds 2.2% of GDP. Plans for nuclear disarmament of up to 180 warheads have become a thing of the past, and figures were announced to reach the level of 260 nuclear warheads by 2030—plus 80 new nuclear deterrent weapons.

A line of new frigates is being floated out to escort the two new aircraft carriers, on which London has spent nearly £6 billion. Experimental response teams on the coast—a cooperation of special forces, intelligence specialists, landing ships docks, and type 45. HMS Defender and HMS Dragon in 2020-21 passed through de jure Ukrainian waters near the annexed Crimea, and that caused a painful reaction from Moscow. For the first time since the Libyan campaign, British aircraft have struck Islamic State facilities in Iraq—the country returns to operations east of the Suez Canal.

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Britain's willingness to project power in regions where authoritarian regimes are increasing their activity is a gift for Ukraine. Moreover, our state is literally an example, the support of which London declares, even without reminders of the Budapest Memorandum.

The democratic country opposing the Kremlin's totalitarian machine in a region that has historically interested Britain. The Black Sea is the rift between East and West, the rift between the largest defensive alliance and the largest authoritarian country in the world.

Naturally, getting British shipbuilding technologies, the ships themselves and modernizing the industry is priceless for us.

As well as for the British, it is priceless to expand the national shipbuilding programme, open new jobs for Babcock and Thales, and also gain leverage for their ambitions in the Black Sea region. To support a liberal agenda, free trade, and globalization, and not torture cellars in unrecognized republics.

Therefore, the rapprochement between London and Kyiv in the field of defense cooperation will intensify: the long-term programmes for building a fleet for Ukraine are the most striking example of this.

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