RUS
Search
Publications

Convoluted tacks of Kazakhstans Navy

photo: jscsto.org
6 February 2023

This year Kazakhstans Naval Forces will mark their 30th anniversary. On April 2, 1993 Nursultan Nazarbayev, first President of the Republic of Kazakhstan (RK), signed a decree on establishment of the Navy. The reasons for that are clear: this country has the longest coastline 2340 km and a long sea border among the Caspian bordering countries.

Kazakhstans Navy and Coastguard face the task of providing inviolability and territorial integrity, sovereignty and economic interests in the Caspian Sea. These services guard and defend installations of the maritime economic activities. Military seamen also provide navigation and hydrographic survey security of the maritime traffic. In cooperation with the RKs Ministry for Emergencies the Navy performs search and rescue operations, renders assistance to the state authorities in conducting environmental protection and monitoring activities.

Difficult period of establishment

It so happened that Kazakhstans Naval Forces were created twice. The Red Banner Caspian Flotilla of the USSRs Navy, when divided in 1992, lost about 15 combat ships and a large number of support vessels which passed to the Azerbaijani side. The flotillas main base Baku remained in Azerbaijan while Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan renounced their respective shares. Here is what the first Commander-in-Chief of Kazakhstans Navy Rear-Admiral Ratmir Komratov said: «At that time Kazakhstan officially refused to divide the fleet in the hope that our interests in the Caspian region will be protected by Russia». But quite soon development of oil fields commenced. This called for urgent establishment of ones own navy to protect national interests.

When the Soviet Caspian Flotilla was divided again Kazakhstan received 18 pieces of craft. However, there was no place to base them: the Guryev (Atyrau) port was not fit because it is shallow, the Shevchenko (Aktau) port was ill-equipped. The already well worn ships had to spend the winters of 1993-1994 and 1994-1995 at the outer roadsteads using up the service life of mechanisms by breaking the ice and maintaining life support to major ship-borne systems.

The then US Vice-President Albert Gore promised to give Kazakhstan free of charge six patrol boats of the Point type written off from the inventory of the US Coastguard. The first and the only one of these made it to the Caspian Sea in July 1994, but this boat, physically and morally obsolete, did not pose any serious force and was soon decommissioned.

By October 1996 Kazakhstans Navy had nine small boats, including those received from the USA and Germany, as well as nine helicopters (Mi-8, Mi-2). The main base of the RKs Navy was in the port of Aktau (Shevchenko). The building of Kazakhstans Navy was supervised by Captains 1-st rank Petr Redkov and Vladimir Raschupkin.

In October an agreement was reached on delivery from Russia of two mine-sweepers and two patrol boats on account of the «Baikonur debt». It is common knowledge that keeping a navy is a costly and demanding matter. Kazakhstan obviously lacked funds to keep it and to train personnel. On November 17, 1997 after several naval accidents the republics Naval Forces were disbanded as an armed service by decree of Nursultan Nazarbayev. The remaining operational boats and vessels along with the crews were transferred to the sea border guards (Coastguard).

However, the dream about Kazakhstans Naval Forces did not die. To train personnel a Higher Naval School of the Kazakh Ministry of Defense was opened in Aktau in 2001. It was intended for simultaneous education of 180 cadets (by decree of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan No. 684 dated July 10, 2003 the school was renamed into a naval institute).

The intention to re-create the national Naval Forces was substantiated on February 17, 2003 by the then Minister of Defense of the Republic of Kazakhstan M. Altynbayev. He stated the need to «provide security of the oil fields in the Caspian region where big foreign investments had been made by exercising control over the air, water surface and underwater space». Soon after followed decree No.1085 dated May 7, 2003 by the President of the RK «On measures for further improvement of the structure of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan». The decree directed the government to «provide the establishment of the command and control bodies of the Naval Forces and the development of necessary naval infrastructure in conformity with the state program of military development in the Republic of Kazakhstan for the period up to 2005». At the same time a concept of the Navy development was worked out.

By that time the Naval Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan were in a miserable state. Two Turkish patrol boats of the AB-25 Turk project received in 1999 and 2001 were lost. One burned down, the other was written off because of poor technical condition.

In 2006 a detachment of three gunboats of the Sea Dolphin type actually presented by South Korea to Astana at a giveaway price of 100 dollars apiece was met with much fanfare. It was an excellent marketing ploy, but because of poor technical condition they practically never performed duties. All these boats had to be decommissioned in 2014.

The issue of updating naval materiel was high on the agenda.

Turmoil around the Katran and Tornado

In 2010 Astana saw the first international exhibition of armament, military and technical equipment KADEX 2010. Naval sections were significant.

At the exhibit booth of the JSC «Rosoboronexport» all attention was then focused on the model of a small missile and artillery boat of project 20970 Katran specifically developed by the Central Marine Design Bureau «Almaz» as per the requirements of Kazakhstans Naval Forces. Boats of this type are designed to fight enemy surface ships and combatant craft, to perform patrol duties of guarding a sea area, to conduct reconnaissance, to extend fire support to the landing force. With the displacement of 280 t and length of 46 m the Katran boat fitted with two diesel engines and two water-jet propellers could develop the speed of 42 knots and run to 2,200 miles. The sea-going qualities are sufficient for safe navigation at sea state up to 7 and for effective use of arms at sea state up 5 inclusively without limitations in course and speed. Insubmersibility was provided when any two adjacent compartments were flooded.

Composition of the Katran armament was balanced. In conjunction with a high striking potential it guaranteed effective self-defense of the boat from the enemy surface ships and aircraft. The main armament is two quadruple launchers for anti-ship cruise missiles X-35E or X-35UE with a range of destruction of surface targets at 130 km and 260 km, respectively. Artillery is represented by a multi-purpose 57 mm gun A-220M with a cyclic rate of fire 300 rounds per minute and a range of fire 12 km, by two six-barrel 30 mm automatic gun mounts AK-306 with the digital fire control system Bagira, as well as by two 12.7 mm machines guns. Protection from air strikes is vested in the 3M-47 Gibka system which provides guidance and remote automated launch of the anti-aircraft missiles of the Igla-M type. The above-mentioned artillery systems were quite effective in performing air defense missions as well.

The Positiv-ME 1.2 active three-coordinate radar performs the functions of the combat information and control system in target acquisition and distribution. The automated control system includes an integrated bridge system (automated workstation of the commander, officer of the watch, navigator and steersman), provision is made for controlling technical aids. For electronic suppression of homing heads of the enemy missiles the Katran is fitted with the PK-10 passive jamming system. At the Customers request the boat may be equipped with a submersible sonar to detect underwater sabotage assets Anapa-ME, as well as a man-portable underwater grenade launcher DP-64.

Endurance in food supplies is 10 days. Comfortable conditions were created on the boat for the crew: there is a state room for the commanding officer, as well as two-berth rooms for officers, four-berth rooms for petty officers and eight-berth quarters for privates, the main saloon for officers and the crews mess room.

Also at the KADEX-2010 exhibition South-Korean ship-building company STX rolled out a model of a similar purpose boat. Having characteristics similar to those of the Katran, she nevertheless was inferior to the latter in a number of qualities. Thus, the draft of the South-Korean boat is more by 20 cm. It may seem to be a little thing, but in the shallow waters of the North-East Caspian area it is a significant circumstance. The South-Korean boat was also second to the Russian one in armament. While the number of anti-ship missiles on them is the same (4 pcs), the 57 mm gun mount A-220M on the Russian boat is superior in firepower to the 40 mm twin-barreled automatic gun of the Korean counterpart. The ring gun mount of the anti-aircraft system Gibka and the six-barreled 30 mm automatic gun AK-630M of the Russian boat are much more effective than the same 40 mm automatic gun and the 20 mm cannon of the Korean boat in repulsing air attacks. The Russian boat had the option of a submersible sonar and an anti-sabotage grenade launcher, while the South Korean counterpart had nothing of the kind.

Besides, STX offered to build the boat only, while negotiations with the subcontractors on her armament and electronics were supposed to be the business of the Kazakh side. This was not suitable for Astana. However, there were persons in Kazakhstan who said that South Korea offered lower prices. Of course, the «empty» boat without armament and electronic equipment would cost much cheaper. But the electronics and armament are known to constitute the lions share of the cost of modern naval fighting entities.

The Katran boats were supposed to be built at a Kazakh enterprise Ural Plant «Zenit» with which even a preliminary contract was signed.

At the KADEX-2010 Nursultan Nazarbayev while making a tour of the exhibition approached the booth of the JSC «Rosobornexport». Representatives of the Central Marine Design Bureau «Almaz» briefed the president about the Katran boat.  Nazarbayev listened attentively and then said addressing the ministers and other high-ranking officials around him: «We shall build!». But those either did not hear or did not want to fulfill the instruction of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Kazakh Armed Forces.

A similar thing happened with the small-size missile ship Tornado of project 21632 developed by the Zelenodolsk Design Bureau which were supposed to be built at the Zelenodolsk Shipyard named after A.M. Gorky for the Naval Forces of Kazakhstan.

With the full displacement of 560 t, length 61.4 m and width 9.6 m these small-size missile ships are to develop the maximum full speed of 26 knots and to have a cruising range of 2,300 miles at an economic speed. Stealth technologies make them difficult to detect. Armament includes  two quadruple launchers of the anti-ship missiles Uran-E or Uran-UE, multi-purpose 100 mm gun mount A-190, anti-aircraft system Gibka, two six-barreled automatic 30 mm guns AK-306, two 14.5-mm machine guns and anti-sabotage grenade launchers DP-64 with submersible sonar Anapa-ME.

Negotiations on the purchase by Kazakhstan of the small-size missile ship Tornado were conducted for several years. In 2006 even the deal to buy them was announced. But in the long run it came to nothing.

If Astana had implemented the Katran and Tornado projects, Kazakhstans Navy would be one of the strongest in the Caspian region.

Attractive offer and dashed hopes

Competition on Kazakhstans naval market proved to be extremely high. As early as at the KADEX-2012 South Korean company STX Offshore & Shipbuilding signed a memorandum of understanding with Kazakhstan Engineering uniting leading enterprises of Kazakhstans defense and industrial complex. According to this document, the sides intended to examine the possibility of joint implementation of such projects as the construction of a shipbuilding and ship repair shipyards in the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea, modernizing one of the countrys shipbuilding enterprises, as well as the possibility of transferring advanced South Korean shipbuilding technologies to the republic.

Besides South Koreans, various European and Asian enterprises demonstrated their ships, boats and naval technologies to Astana. Thus, a well-known transnational Damen Shipyards Group based in the Netherlands offered several variants of its corvettes and border guard ships.

Turkish shipbuilding company Yonca-Onuk intended to supply and jointly build with Kazakhstan missile boats, type MRTP44, with displacement 250 t, length 47 m and full speed 50 knots. The armament included two quadruple launchers of anti-ship missiles Exocet or Harpoon, 57 mm automatic gun mount BAE Systems, two stations of the Simbad anti-aircraft missile system and two remotely controlled machine guns.

At the same exhibition the then Commander-in-Chief of Kazakhstans Naval Forces Rear-Admiral Jandarbek Janzakov signed a protocol of intentions with representatives of Kazakhstan Engineering and European MBDA Missile Systems, as well as Spanish INDRA Sistemas on cooperation «in building coastal defense» based on MBDAs missile system Exocet MM40 Block 3. The range of fire of this anti-ship missile is 180 km. It can be installed on ships, shore-based stationary and mobile mounts. «Implementation of this project will significantly facilitate to increasing the security of the Republic of Kazakhstan and, in particular, in the Caspian region», said Dimash Bijanov, Vice-President of Kazakhstan Engineering, at the protocol signing ceremony.

In 2016 a memorandum was signed with the Turkish shipbuilder Dearsan Ship Construction Industry on the acquisition of a missile and artillery ship for Kazakhstans Naval Forces. It was about a new modification of the patrol ship of the Tuzla type with full displacement 400 t, length 55.7 m, width 8.8 m and maximum speed 25 knots. Dearsan built 16 such ships for the Turkish Navy on its slipways. These were mostly designed to guard bases and ports. The armament includes a twin-barreled 40 mm gun mount Oto Melara, two stabilized 12,7 mm machine guns made by Aselsan, four-barreled depth-charge rocket launcher with sonar station Simrad SP92 Mk II. With a bit of a stretch these patrol ships can be categorized as small anti-submarine ships, though these, of course, are closer to the big anti-sabotage boats.

Dearsan also fulfilled an order for the supply of ten such ships for Turkmenistans Navy and Coastguard. Part of them (for the Coastguard) is practically similar to the basic version, but without anti-submarine armament. Besides the 40 mm gun mount, two 25 mm remotely controlled automatic cannons and two anti-aircraft systems SIMBAD-RC, multi-barrel depth-charge launcher Roketsan, these carry two two-pod launchers for anti-ship missiles Marte ER or Otomat Mk 2. Components for these ships were made in Turkey while the final assembly was made at the shipbuilding/ship repair enterprise in Turkmenbashi (former Krasnovodsk).

Obviously, Kazakhstan wanted to borrow the experience of Turkmenistan. For this reason the project of the missile and artillery ship based on the Tuzla patrol ship was selected.

Practically simultaneously with the memorandum on the purchase of the Turkish ship a similar document was signed with the German company Abeking & Rasmussen. «Naval Forces of Kazakhstan perform monitoring of modern ships with an anti-ship missile strike system», said Vice-Admiral Jandarbek Janzakov in this connection. «One of the German companies indicated willingness to organize the production of these ships in our territory. At this exhibition we are signing the protocol of intentions and the company will have grounds for further work on this project».

Abeking & Rasmussen based in 1907 is very well-known. Its shipyards built more than 6,500 vessels, mostly sailboats and yachts. For the navies it designed and built mine-sweepers only, for the coastguards patrol boats, one of which was built at the Baltic Yantar Shipyard. For the Latvian Navy small patrol ships of the Skrunda type with a small waterplane area were assembled in Riga from German components. This German enterprise never handled missile ships, but it is quite probable that it will be able to master their production as well. However, the Kazakh side was definitely attracted in the first place by the willingness of Abeking & Rasmussen to set up production of such ships in the territory of this Caspian country.

But these and a number of other memorandums, protocols of intentions and even preliminary contracts failed to gain momentum, like those related to the Katran boat.

Lunge of the Bars guard ships

In all likelihood, a national path of naval development was selected to avoid aggravation of contradictions among the elite. While negotiations with foreign partners on the purchase of ships and boats, building of enterprises in the territory of Kazakhstan to assemble them were underway at the KADEX exhibitions, Ural Plant «Zenit» had already been involved since 2003 in building  border guard ships of the second rank, as per the Kazakh classification, of project 0300 Bars with displacement 240 t, length 42 m and speed 25 knots based on a small support vessel of project 22180 developed by Severnoye Design Bureau. These were designed to protect the state territorial waters and continental shelf, to patrol and prevent illegal navigation, smuggling operations, piracy and illegal fishing, to fight underwater saboteurs. The afterbody of the Bars ships carries motor rigid-hull inflatable boats for boarding teams. Launching craft onto the water and hoisting them aboard is done by the hydraulically driven lifting gear. Armament of the border guard ship consists of a twin-barreled 25 mm gun mount 2M-3 or 30 mm six-barrel automatic gun AK-306. By now six border guard ships of project 0300 Bars had been commissioned.

Another seven entities built by «Zenit» belong to project 0200 Burkit a Kazakh version of the coast-guard motor boats of project 1400 Grif developed by the Central Marine Design Bureau «Almaz». With displacement 42 t and length 23.8 m these develop the maximum speed of 35 knots and are armed with 14.5 mm twin-barrel machine guns.

Now instead of the Burkit boats 70 t coastguard boats of project 0210 Aibar with high sea-going qualities are being built at the «Zenit» slipways. These are able to develop the speed of 40 knots. At the same location 28 t 50-knot boats of the FC-19 type are built.

Coastal navigation patrol boats of project 110 Sapsan, as well as those of project 100 Sunkar based on project 14081 Saigak developed by Central Design Bureau «Redan» are also operational in Kazakhstans Coastguard.

The second enterprise engaged in assembling boats for Kazakhstans Coastguard is the Research Institute «Gidropribor» from Uralsk. The latter built about twenty boats of project 110 Sapsan and of the Shagal type. These are intended for use both on the rivers and lakes and in the coastal waters of the Caspian Sea.

In December 2018 in the port of Bautino (Mangystau region) a ceremony was held to commission two air cushion boats built by Ural Plant «Zenit» for the Border Service of Kazakhstans National Security Committee. These were named to honor the leaders of the anti-Russian Adayev (Mangyshlak) uprising of 1870 Isa Tlenbayula and Dosan Tajiula Isa Batyr and Dosan batyr. The boats have displacement 10 t, load carrying capacity up to 1,500 kg and accommodate four crew members and eight members of the landing party.

We dwelled on the ship composition of Kazakhstans Coastguard in so much detail because the republics Naval Forces were organized for the second time exactly on the Coastguard basis. Even now they cooperate closely and complement each other. Combat ships for Kazakhstans Naval Forces were based on the projects of border guard ships.

In 2012 on the eve of the KADEX exhibition Ural Plant «Zenit» launched a missile and artillery ship Kazakhstan of project 0250 Bars-MO. She became a further development of the border guard ship Bars of project 0300. With characteristics being close the Bars-MO version is different from the prototype in composition of armament and electronics. The artillery and missile ships themselves are also different (all in all four were built). While the Kazakhstan ship carries two twin-barrel 23 mm automatic gun mounts and 40-barrel MLRS Grad and is designed to extend fire support to the landing party and to neutralize enemy gun emplacements ashore, subsequent ships of the series have different missions and other armament.

Thus, the missile and artillery ship Oral that followed after the Kazakhstan with displacement 250 t, speed 30 knots and crew of 23 men carries the Barrier-VK system with four laser-guided anti-tank guided missiles RK-2V, Ukraine-made ring mount launcher Arbalet-K with four Igla portable air defense missiles and with the 30 mm six-barrel automatic gun AK-306 in the ships forebody. Electronic equipment includes weapon control system Kaskad-250, two-coordinate radar Delta-250, optical-electronic artillery fire control system Sens-2, as well as a sonar to detect combat divers.

Conversion of project 0300 into project 0250 was made by Ukraines State Research and Design Shipbuilding Center in Nikolayev (former branch of the Severnoye Design Bureau») for 8 million dollars. Then another 400,000 dollars was paid for updating the design in order to accommodate Ukraine-made weapons systems on the missile and artillery ship.

However, what turned out are quasi-missile ships. These are able to destroy small targets above the water at a range not more than four miles and only in fair weather, too.

In the light of todays events related to the special military operation the choice of Ukrainian partners proved to be imprudent. Shipbuilding enterprises in Nikolayev are destroyed like the Kiev «Luch» Design Bureau, developer of the Barrier-VK and Arbalet-K systems.

Ural Plant «Zenit» also built a special purpose boat Lashyn with displacement 12 t and speed 25 knots for the Naval Forces of Kazakhstan. She is designed to provide operations conducted by special forces in order to counter underwater sabotage assets, including patrolling and protection of installations in the port zone and the facilities of maritime economic activities from underwater sabotage threats.

The most advanced ship of Kazakhstans Navy is the harbor mine-sweeper Alatau of project 10750E developed by the Central Marine Design Bureau «Almaz» and commissioned in June 2017. This is a small mine countermeasures ship built by Sredne-Nevsky Shipbuilding Plant that meets all modern requirements. With displacement 140 t, length 31.4 m, width 6.5 m and speed 11 knots this ship with the crew of 14 men carries various anti-mine weapons, including the latest mine detection sonar Sea Bat with a range up to 500 m, autonomous underwater vehicle Alister 9 for initial search for mine-like objects, remotely controlled unmanned underwater vehicles K-Ster Inspector for classifying objects detected and K-Ster Mine Killer to dispose of the mines. The harbor mine-sweeper can also use traditional countermine equipment: contact and influence sweepers.

All this sophisticated equipment is controlled by an automated mine countermeasures system Diez-10750E. The ship also carries a 30 mm gun mount AK-306, 12.7 mm machine gun Kord, and the Igla portable antiaircraft missile system. If necessary, she can be used as an anti-sabotage boat. The mine-sweeper of project 10750E is suitable for operations in the shallow waters of the North and North-East of the Caspian Sea in the best way possible. She fully meets the requirements for the ships of this class. There was an option for the second hull, but this was not implemented.

A hydrographic survey vessel Jayik built for Kazakhstans Navy at the Astrakhan shipyard is a rather modern one. She has the length of more than 31 m, width 7 m. The crew has eight seamen. The vessel is designed to study seabed relief and currents of the Caspian Sea. Owing to this vessel the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea provides secure navigation not only for the naval, but also for commercial ships. The Jayik vessel is fitted with a hydrologic laboratory and other modern equipment, a hoisting crane and has satellite radio communications.

To provide a bold rebuff

In terms of combat capabilities Kazakhstans Navy is No.5 among the Caspian bordering countries. Nevertheless, combat readiness in the Navy is maintained on a sufficiently high level which was confirmed by participation of the Naval Forces in the complex inter-departmental command and staff exercise «Batyl Toytarys 2022» («Bold rebuff 2022»). Within the framework of the exercises servicemen of the assault combat battalion of Kazakhstans Naval Forces in cooperation with the units of the Border Service drilled in protecting strategically important installations and anti-sabotage security of a sea port. Servicemen of the Naval Forces jointly with the border guards exercised access control regulations, performed searches of the transport coming to the territory of the sea port. Seamen drilled in training and combat missions related to anti-sabotage defense of ships, disposal of sea mines and search of vessels. At the final stage of the maneuvers in the Caspian sea area the naval command organized combat drills.

However, it should be stated that Kazakhstans Naval Forces in conjunction with the Coastguard are able to accomplish only police, checkup and rescue missions. Defense from external threats at sea is still vested in Russia and other countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. It will be recalled that it is these countries exactly that came to help Astana when the republic was hit by a wave of disturbances in January 2022.

However, it looks like that Astana does not abandon hope for the resurrection of the full-fledged navy. It is quite easy to understand by looking up a section of promising projects of Ural Plant «Zenit». Among them is an amphibious assault ship (boat) with displacement 300 t. Judging by the picture given in the plants booklet she is a copy or modification of the Russian air cavity landing boat of project 21820 Dugon developed by Alekseevs Hydrofoil Design Bureau able to deploy  two main battle tanks or four AFV/APC onto an unimproved shore at a speed of 35 knots. Kazakhstan really needs such landing ships since the Naval Forces have marine infantry, but do not have means of delivery.

An advanced 70 t anti-sabotage boat is a further improvement of the 40-knot border guard boats of project 0210 Aibar. Unlike the Lashyn, she can operate in any point of the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea having large displacement and high sea-going qualities. The boat will be armed with a remotely controlled machine gun or a small caliber artillery cannon.

Finally, the booklet of «Zenit» contains a picture and some characteristics of an advanced border guard ship of the second rank with displacement 550 t. Her length is 62 m, width is 11 m, maximum speed is 30 knots, operational range is 2300 miles, endurance is 10 days. The crew is expected to include 36 men. Architecturally this ship is a mix of the Russian small-size missile ship Tornado and a lesser version of Damens corvette. In the forebody there is a 76 mm multipurpose gun Oto Melara, behind the pilot house are two twin-barrel launchers of the Exocet anti-ship missiles, aft is a small hangar and a small helipad. It is said that this border guard ship will be able to receive either a light helicopter or a couple of UAVs. But a light helicopter seems to be able to land on a pad, but will not fit into the hangar.

However, these are just projects and it is hard to say how things will work out practically. Today Kazakhstans leadership faces many challenging tasks and development of the Navy does not seem to be a priority.

16+
4 office, XXIVd premise , 5 floor, 2 Novodmitrovskaya Str., 2 bldg., Moscow, Russia 127015.
Savyolovsky City Business Center, Davis Tower
Ph. +7 (495) 767-81-36
Ph./Fax: +7 (495) 783-68-27
E-mail: info@caspian.institute
Legal footer
All the rights for the materials published on this website reside with the Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies. Reprint of materials and their use in any form including in digital media is permissible strictly subject to exclusive reference to CISS.
2022-2023, Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies
top
Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies
Publications

Convoluted tacks of Kazakhstans Navy

photo: jscsto.org
6 2023

This year Kazakhstans Naval Forces will mark their 30th anniversary. On April 2, 1993 Nursultan Nazarbayev, first President of the Republic of Kazakhstan (RK), signed a decree on establishment of the Navy. The reasons for that are clear: this country has the longest coastline 2340 km and a long sea border among the Caspian bordering countries.

Kazakhstans Navy and Coastguard face the task of providing inviolability and territorial integrity, sovereignty and economic interests in the Caspian Sea. These services guard and defend installations of the maritime economic activities. Military seamen also provide navigation and hydrographic survey security of the maritime traffic. In cooperation with the RKs Ministry for Emergencies the Navy performs search and rescue operations, renders assistance to the state authorities in conducting environmental protection and monitoring activities.

Difficult period of establishment

It so happened that Kazakhstans Naval Forces were created twice. The Red Banner Caspian Flotilla of the USSRs Navy, when divided in 1992, lost about 15 combat ships and a large number of support vessels which passed to the Azerbaijani side. The flotillas main base Baku remained in Azerbaijan while Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan renounced their respective shares. Here is what the first Commander-in-Chief of Kazakhstans Navy Rear-Admiral Ratmir Komratov said: «At that time Kazakhstan officially refused to divide the fleet in the hope that our interests in the Caspian region will be protected by Russia». But quite soon development of oil fields commenced. This called for urgent establishment of ones own navy to protect national interests.

When the Soviet Caspian Flotilla was divided again Kazakhstan received 18 pieces of craft. However, there was no place to base them: the Guryev (Atyrau) port was not fit because it is shallow, the Shevchenko (Aktau) port was ill-equipped. The already well worn ships had to spend the winters of 1993-1994 and 1994-1995 at the outer roadsteads using up the service life of mechanisms by breaking the ice and maintaining life support to major ship-borne systems.

The then US Vice-President Albert Gore promised to give Kazakhstan free of charge six patrol boats of the Point type written off from the inventory of the US Coastguard. The first and the only one of these made it to the Caspian Sea in July 1994, but this boat, physically and morally obsolete, did not pose any serious force and was soon decommissioned.

By October 1996 Kazakhstans Navy had nine small boats, including those received from the USA and Germany, as well as nine helicopters (Mi-8, Mi-2). The main base of the RKs Navy was in the port of Aktau (Shevchenko). The building of Kazakhstans Navy was supervised by Captains 1-st rank Petr Redkov and Vladimir Raschupkin.

In October an agreement was reached on delivery from Russia of two mine-sweepers and two patrol boats on account of the «Baikonur debt». It is common knowledge that keeping a navy is a costly and demanding matter. Kazakhstan obviously lacked funds to keep it and to train personnel. On November 17, 1997 after several naval accidents the republics Naval Forces were disbanded as an armed service by decree of Nursultan Nazarbayev. The remaining operational boats and vessels along with the crews were transferred to the sea border guards (Coastguard).

However, the dream about Kazakhstans Naval Forces did not die. To train personnel a Higher Naval School of the Kazakh Ministry of Defense was opened in Aktau in 2001. It was intended for simultaneous education of 180 cadets (by decree of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan No. 684 dated July 10, 2003 the school was renamed into a naval institute).

The intention to re-create the national Naval Forces was substantiated on February 17, 2003 by the then Minister of Defense of the Republic of Kazakhstan M. Altynbayev. He stated the need to «provide security of the oil fields in the Caspian region where big foreign investments had been made by exercising control over the air, water surface and underwater space». Soon after followed decree No.1085 dated May 7, 2003 by the President of the RK «On measures for further improvement of the structure of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan». The decree directed the government to «provide the establishment of the command and control bodies of the Naval Forces and the development of necessary naval infrastructure in conformity with the state program of military development in the Republic of Kazakhstan for the period up to 2005». At the same time a concept of the Navy development was worked out.

By that time the Naval Forces of the Republic of Kazakhstan were in a miserable state. Two Turkish patrol boats of the AB-25 Turk project received in 1999 and 2001 were lost. One burned down, the other was written off because of poor technical condition.

In 2006 a detachment of three gunboats of the Sea Dolphin type actually presented by South Korea to Astana at a giveaway price of 100 dollars apiece was met with much fanfare. It was an excellent marketing ploy, but because of poor technical condition they practically never performed duties. All these boats had to be decommissioned in 2014.

The issue of updating naval materiel was high on the agenda.

Turmoil around the Katran and Tornado

In 2010 Astana saw the first international exhibition of armament, military and technical equipment KADEX 2010. Naval sections were significant.

At the exhibit booth of the JSC «Rosoboronexport» all attention was then focused on the model of a small missile and artillery boat of project 20970 Katran specifically developed by the Central Marine Design Bureau «Almaz» as per the requirements of Kazakhstans Naval Forces. Boats of this type are designed to fight enemy surface ships and combatant craft, to perform patrol duties of guarding a sea area, to conduct reconnaissance, to extend fire support to the landing force. With the displacement of 280 t and length of 46 m the Katran boat fitted with two diesel engines and two water-jet propellers could develop the speed of 42 knots and run to 2,200 miles. The sea-going qualities are sufficient for safe navigation at sea state up to 7 and for effective use of arms at sea state up 5 inclusively without limitations in course and speed. Insubmersibility was provided when any two adjacent compartments were flooded.

Composition of the Katran armament was balanced. In conjunction with a high striking potential it guaranteed effective self-defense of the boat from the enemy surface ships and aircraft. The main armament is two quadruple launchers for anti-ship cruise missiles X-35E or X-35UE with a range of destruction of surface targets at 130 km and 260 km, respectively. Artillery is represented by a multi-purpose 57 mm gun A-220M with a cyclic rate of fire 300 rounds per minute and a range of fire 12 km, by two six-barrel 30 mm automatic gun mounts AK-306 with the digital fire control system Bagira, as well as by two 12.7 mm machines guns. Protection from air strikes is vested in the 3M-47 Gibka system which provides guidance and remote automated launch of the anti-aircraft missiles of the Igla-M type. The above-mentioned artillery systems were quite effective in performing air defense missions as well.

The Positiv-ME 1.2 active three-coordinate radar performs the functions of the combat information and control system in target acquisition and distribution. The automated control system includes an integrated bridge system (automated workstation of the commander, officer of the watch, navigator and steersman), provision is made for controlling technical aids. For electronic suppression of homing heads of the enemy missiles the Katran is fitted with the PK-10 passive jamming system. At the Customers request the boat may be equipped with a submersible sonar to detect underwater sabotage assets Anapa-ME, as well as a man-portable underwater grenade launcher DP-64.

Endurance in food supplies is 10 days. Comfortable conditions were created on the boat for the crew: there is a state room for the commanding officer, as well as two-berth rooms for officers, four-berth rooms for petty officers and eight-berth quarters for privates, the main saloon for officers and the crews mess room.

Also at the KADEX-2010 exhibition South-Korean ship-building company STX rolled out a model of a similar purpose boat. Having characteristics similar to those of the Katran, she nevertheless was inferior to the latter in a number of qualities. Thus, the draft of the South-Korean boat is more by 20 cm. It may seem to be a little thing, but in the shallow waters of the North-East Caspian area it is a significant circumstance. The South-Korean boat was also second to the Russian one in armament. While the number of anti-ship missiles on them is the same (4 pcs), the 57 mm gun mount A-220M on the Russian boat is superior in firepower to the 40 mm twin-barreled automatic gun of the Korean counterpart. The ring gun mount of the anti-aircraft system Gibka and the six-barreled 30 mm automatic gun AK-630M of the Russian boat are much more effective than the same 40 mm automatic gun and the 20 mm cannon of the Korean boat in repulsing air attacks. The Russian boat had the option of a submersible sonar and an anti-sabotage grenade launcher, while the South Korean counterpart had nothing of the kind.

Besides, STX offered to build the boat only, while negotiations with the subcontractors on her armament and electronics were supposed to be the business of the Kazakh side. This was not suitable for Astana. However, there were persons in Kazakhstan who said that South Korea offered lower prices. Of course, the «empty» boat without armament and electronic equipment would cost much cheaper. But the electronics and armament are known to constitute the lions share of the cost of modern naval fighting entities.

The Katran boats were supposed to be built at a Kazakh enterprise Ural Plant «Zenit» with which even a preliminary contract was signed.

At the KADEX-2010 Nursultan Nazarbayev while making a tour of the exhibition approached the booth of the JSC «Rosobornexport». Representatives of the Central Marine Design Bureau «Almaz» briefed the president about the Katran boat.  Nazarbayev listened attentively and then said addressing the ministers and other high-ranking officials around him: «We shall build!». But those either did not hear or did not want to fulfill the instruction of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Kazakh Armed Forces.

A similar thing happened with the small-size missile ship Tornado of project 21632 developed by the Zelenodolsk Design Bureau which were supposed to be built at the Zelenodolsk Shipyard named after A.M. Gorky for the Naval Forces of Kazakhstan.

With the full displacement of 560 t, length 61.4 m and width 9.6 m these small-size missile ships are to develop the maximum full speed of 26 knots and to have a cruising range of 2,300 miles at an economic speed. Stealth technologies make them difficult to detect. Armament includes  two quadruple launchers of the anti-ship missiles Uran-E or Uran-UE, multi-purpose 100 mm gun mount A-190, anti-aircraft system Gibka, two six-barreled automatic 30 mm guns AK-306, two 14.5-mm machine guns and anti-sabotage grenade launchers DP-64 with submersible sonar Anapa-ME.

Negotiations on the purchase by Kazakhstan of the small-size missile ship Tornado were conducted for several years. In 2006 even the deal to buy them was announced. But in the long run it came to nothing.

If Astana had implemented the Katran and Tornado projects, Kazakhstans Navy would be one of the strongest in the Caspian region.

Attractive offer and dashed hopes

Competition on Kazakhstans naval market proved to be extremely high. As early as at the KADEX-2012 South Korean company STX Offshore & Shipbuilding signed a memorandum of understanding with Kazakhstan Engineering uniting leading enterprises of Kazakhstans defense and industrial complex. According to this document, the sides intended to examine the possibility of joint implementation of such projects as the construction of a shipbuilding and ship repair shipyards in the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea, modernizing one of the countrys shipbuilding enterprises, as well as the possibility of transferring advanced South Korean shipbuilding technologies to the republic.

Besides South Koreans, various European and Asian enterprises demonstrated their ships, boats and naval technologies to Astana. Thus, a well-known transnational Damen Shipyards Group based in the Netherlands offered several variants of its corvettes and border guard ships.

Turkish shipbuilding company Yonca-Onuk intended to supply and jointly build with Kazakhstan missile boats, type MRTP44, with displacement 250 t, length 47 m and full speed 50 knots. The armament included two quadruple launchers of anti-ship missiles Exocet or Harpoon, 57 mm automatic gun mount BAE Systems, two stations of the Simbad anti-aircraft missile system and two remotely controlled machine guns.

At the same exhibition the then Commander-in-Chief of Kazakhstans Naval Forces Rear-Admiral Jandarbek Janzakov signed a protocol of intentions with representatives of Kazakhstan Engineering and European MBDA Missile Systems, as well as Spanish INDRA Sistemas on cooperation «in building coastal defense» based on MBDAs missile system Exocet MM40 Block 3. The range of fire of this anti-ship missile is 180 km. It can be installed on ships, shore-based stationary and mobile mounts. «Implementation of this project will significantly facilitate to increasing the security of the Republic of Kazakhstan and, in particular, in the Caspian region», said Dimash Bijanov, Vice-President of Kazakhstan Engineering, at the protocol signing ceremony.

In 2016 a memorandum was signed with the Turkish shipbuilder Dearsan Ship Construction Industry on the acquisition of a missile and artillery ship for Kazakhstans Naval Forces. It was about a new modification of the patrol ship of the Tuzla type with full displacement 400 t, length 55.7 m, width 8.8 m and maximum speed 25 knots. Dearsan built 16 such ships for the Turkish Navy on its slipways. These were mostly designed to guard bases and ports. The armament includes a twin-barreled 40 mm gun mount Oto Melara, two stabilized 12,7 mm machine guns made by Aselsan, four-barreled depth-charge rocket launcher with sonar station Simrad SP92 Mk II. With a bit of a stretch these patrol ships can be categorized as small anti-submarine ships, though these, of course, are closer to the big anti-sabotage boats.

Dearsan also fulfilled an order for the supply of ten such ships for Turkmenistans Navy and Coastguard. Part of them (for the Coastguard) is practically similar to the basic version, but without anti-submarine armament. Besides the 40 mm gun mount, two 25 mm remotely controlled automatic cannons and two anti-aircraft systems SIMBAD-RC, multi-barrel depth-charge launcher Roketsan, these carry two two-pod launchers for anti-ship missiles Marte ER or Otomat Mk 2. Components for these ships were made in Turkey while the final assembly was made at the shipbuilding/ship repair enterprise in Turkmenbashi (former Krasnovodsk).

Obviously, Kazakhstan wanted to borrow the experience of Turkmenistan. For this reason the project of the missile and artillery ship based on the Tuzla patrol ship was selected.

Practically simultaneously with the memorandum on the purchase of the Turkish ship a similar document was signed with the German company Abeking & Rasmussen. «Naval Forces of Kazakhstan perform monitoring of modern ships with an anti-ship missile strike system», said Vice-Admiral Jandarbek Janzakov in this connection. «One of the German companies indicated willingness to organize the production of these ships in our territory. At this exhibition we are signing the protocol of intentions and the company will have grounds for further work on this project».

Abeking & Rasmussen based in 1907 is very well-known. Its shipyards built more than 6,500 vessels, mostly sailboats and yachts. For the navies it designed and built mine-sweepers only, for the coastguards patrol boats, one of which was built at the Baltic Yantar Shipyard. For the Latvian Navy small patrol ships of the Skrunda type with a small waterplane area were assembled in Riga from German components. This German enterprise never handled missile ships, but it is quite probable that it will be able to master their production as well. However, the Kazakh side was definitely attracted in the first place by the willingness of Abeking & Rasmussen to set up production of such ships in the territory of this Caspian country.

But these and a number of other memorandums, protocols of intentions and even preliminary contracts failed to gain momentum, like those related to the Katran boat.

Lunge of the Bars guard ships

In all likelihood, a national path of naval development was selected to avoid aggravation of contradictions among the elite. While negotiations with foreign partners on the purchase of ships and boats, building of enterprises in the territory of Kazakhstan to assemble them were underway at the KADEX exhibitions, Ural Plant «Zenit» had already been involved since 2003 in building  border guard ships of the second rank, as per the Kazakh classification, of project 0300 Bars with displacement 240 t, length 42 m and speed 25 knots based on a small support vessel of project 22180 developed by Severnoye Design Bureau. These were designed to protect the state territorial waters and continental shelf, to patrol and prevent illegal navigation, smuggling operations, piracy and illegal fishing, to fight underwater saboteurs. The afterbody of the Bars ships carries motor rigid-hull inflatable boats for boarding teams. Launching craft onto the water and hoisting them aboard is done by the hydraulically driven lifting gear. Armament of the border guard ship consists of a twin-barreled 25 mm gun mount 2M-3 or 30 mm six-barrel automatic gun AK-306. By now six border guard ships of project 0300 Bars had been commissioned.

Another seven entities built by «Zenit» belong to project 0200 Burkit a Kazakh version of the coast-guard motor boats of project 1400 Grif developed by the Central Marine Design Bureau «Almaz». With displacement 42 t and length 23.8 m these develop the maximum speed of 35 knots and are armed with 14.5 mm twin-barrel machine guns.

Now instead of the Burkit boats 70 t coastguard boats of project 0210 Aibar with high sea-going qualities are being built at the «Zenit» slipways. These are able to develop the speed of 40 knots. At the same location 28 t 50-knot boats of the FC-19 type are built.

Coastal navigation patrol boats of project 110 Sapsan, as well as those of project 100 Sunkar based on project 14081 Saigak developed by Central Design Bureau «Redan» are also operational in Kazakhstans Coastguard.

The second enterprise engaged in assembling boats for Kazakhstans Coastguard is the Research Institute «Gidropribor» from Uralsk. The latter built about twenty boats of project 110 Sapsan and of the Shagal type. These are intended for use both on the rivers and lakes and in the coastal waters of the Caspian Sea.

In December 2018 in the port of Bautino (Mangystau region) a ceremony was held to commission two air cushion boats built by Ural Plant «Zenit» for the Border Service of Kazakhstans National Security Committee. These were named to honor the leaders of the anti-Russian Adayev (Mangyshlak) uprising of 1870 Isa Tlenbayula and Dosan Tajiula Isa Batyr and Dosan batyr. The boats have displacement 10 t, load carrying capacity up to 1,500 kg and accommodate four crew members and eight members of the landing party.

We dwelled on the ship composition of Kazakhstans Coastguard in so much detail because the republics Naval Forces were organized for the second time exactly on the Coastguard basis. Even now they cooperate closely and complement each other. Combat ships for Kazakhstans Naval Forces were based on the projects of border guard ships.

In 2012 on the eve of the KADEX exhibition Ural Plant «Zenit» launched a missile and artillery ship Kazakhstan of project 0250 Bars-MO. She became a further development of the border guard ship Bars of project 0300. With characteristics being close the Bars-MO version is different from the prototype in composition of armament and electronics. The artillery and missile ships themselves are also different (all in all four were built). While the Kazakhstan ship carries two twin-barrel 23 mm automatic gun mounts and 40-barrel MLRS Grad and is designed to extend fire support to the landing party and to neutralize enemy gun emplacements ashore, subsequent ships of the series have different missions and other armament.

Thus, the missile and artillery ship Oral that followed after the Kazakhstan with displacement 250 t, speed 30 knots and crew of 23 men carries the Barrier-VK system with four laser-guided anti-tank guided missiles RK-2V, Ukraine-made ring mount launcher Arbalet-K with four Igla portable air defense missiles and with the 30 mm six-barrel automatic gun AK-306 in the ships forebody. Electronic equipment includes weapon control system Kaskad-250, two-coordinate radar Delta-250, optical-electronic artillery fire control system Sens-2, as well as a sonar to detect combat divers.

Conversion of project 0300 into project 0250 was made by Ukraines State Research and Design Shipbuilding Center in Nikolayev (former branch of the Severnoye Design Bureau») for 8 million dollars. Then another 400,000 dollars was paid for updating the design in order to accommodate Ukraine-made weapons systems on the missile and artillery ship.

However, what turned out are quasi-missile ships. These are able to destroy small targets above the water at a range not more than four miles and only in fair weather, too.

In the light of todays events related to the special military operation the choice of Ukrainian partners proved to be imprudent. Shipbuilding enterprises in Nikolayev are destroyed like the Kiev «Luch» Design Bureau, developer of the Barrier-VK and Arbalet-K systems.

Ural Plant «Zenit» also built a special purpose boat Lashyn with displacement 12 t and speed 25 knots for the Naval Forces of Kazakhstan. She is designed to provide operations conducted by special forces in order to counter underwater sabotage assets, including patrolling and protection of installations in the port zone and the facilities of maritime economic activities from underwater sabotage threats.

The most advanced ship of Kazakhstans Navy is the harbor mine-sweeper Alatau of project 10750E developed by the Central Marine Design Bureau «Almaz» and commissioned in June 2017. This is a small mine countermeasures ship built by Sredne-Nevsky Shipbuilding Plant that meets all modern requirements. With displacement 140 t, length 31.4 m, width 6.5 m and speed 11 knots this ship with the crew of 14 men carries various anti-mine weapons, including the latest mine detection sonar Sea Bat with a range up to 500 m, autonomous underwater vehicle Alister 9 for initial search for mine-like objects, remotely controlled unmanned underwater vehicles K-Ster Inspector for classifying objects detected and K-Ster Mine Killer to dispose of the mines. The harbor mine-sweeper can also use traditional countermine equipment: contact and influence sweepers.

All this sophisticated equipment is controlled by an automated mine countermeasures system Diez-10750E. The ship also carries a 30 mm gun mount AK-306, 12.7 mm machine gun Kord, and the Igla portable antiaircraft missile system. If necessary, she can be used as an anti-sabotage boat. The mine-sweeper of project 10750E is suitable for operations in the shallow waters of the North and North-East of the Caspian Sea in the best way possible. She fully meets the requirements for the ships of this class. There was an option for the second hull, but this was not implemented.

A hydrographic survey vessel Jayik built for Kazakhstans Navy at the Astrakhan shipyard is a rather modern one. She has the length of more than 31 m, width 7 m. The crew has eight seamen. The vessel is designed to study seabed relief and currents of the Caspian Sea. Owing to this vessel the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea provides secure navigation not only for the naval, but also for commercial ships. The Jayik vessel is fitted with a hydrologic laboratory and other modern equipment, a hoisting crane and has satellite radio communications.

To provide a bold rebuff

In terms of combat capabilities Kazakhstans Navy is No.5 among the Caspian bordering countries. Nevertheless, combat readiness in the Navy is maintained on a sufficiently high level which was confirmed by participation of the Naval Forces in the complex inter-departmental command and staff exercise «Batyl Toytarys 2022» («Bold rebuff 2022»). Within the framework of the exercises servicemen of the assault combat battalion of Kazakhstans Naval Forces in cooperation with the units of the Border Service drilled in protecting strategically important installations and anti-sabotage security of a sea port. Servicemen of the Naval Forces jointly with the border guards exercised access control regulations, performed searches of the transport coming to the territory of the sea port. Seamen drilled in training and combat missions related to anti-sabotage defense of ships, disposal of sea mines and search of vessels. At the final stage of the maneuvers in the Caspian sea area the naval command organized combat drills.

However, it should be stated that Kazakhstans Naval Forces in conjunction with the Coastguard are able to accomplish only police, checkup and rescue missions. Defense from external threats at sea is still vested in Russia and other countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. It will be recalled that it is these countries exactly that came to help Astana when the republic was hit by a wave of disturbances in January 2022.

However, it looks like that Astana does not abandon hope for the resurrection of the full-fledged navy. It is quite easy to understand by looking up a section of promising projects of Ural Plant «Zenit». Among them is an amphibious assault ship (boat) with displacement 300 t. Judging by the picture given in the plants booklet she is a copy or modification of the Russian air cavity landing boat of project 21820 Dugon developed by Alekseevs Hydrofoil Design Bureau able to deploy  two main battle tanks or four AFV/APC onto an unimproved shore at a speed of 35 knots. Kazakhstan really needs such landing ships since the Naval Forces have marine infantry, but do not have means of delivery.

An advanced 70 t anti-sabotage boat is a further improvement of the 40-knot border guard boats of project 0210 Aibar. Unlike the Lashyn, she can operate in any point of the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea having large displacement and high sea-going qualities. The boat will be armed with a remotely controlled machine gun or a small caliber artillery cannon.

Finally, the booklet of «Zenit» contains a picture and some characteristics of an advanced border guard ship of the second rank with displacement 550 t. Her length is 62 m, width is 11 m, maximum speed is 30 knots, operational range is 2300 miles, endurance is 10 days. The crew is expected to include 36 men. Architecturally this ship is a mix of the Russian small-size missile ship Tornado and a lesser version of Damens corvette. In the forebody there is a 76 mm multipurpose gun Oto Melara, behind the pilot house are two twin-barrel launchers of the Exocet anti-ship missiles, aft is a small hangar and a small helipad. It is said that this border guard ship will be able to receive either a light helicopter or a couple of UAVs. But a light helicopter seems to be able to land on a pad, but will not fit into the hangar.

However, these are just projects and it is hard to say how things will work out practically. Today Kazakhstans leadership faces many challenging tasks and development of the Navy does not seem to be a priority.