Russia Expands its Naval Base at Tartus

The heavy cruiser Pyotr Veliky at Tartus (file image)

By MarEx 2017-01-21 16:18:42

On Wednesday, Russia and Syria finalized an agreement that would expand the territory of the Russian naval base at Tartus. In return, Russia will help Syria refurbish its naval vessels. 

Tartus was the southern terminus of Russia's "Syrian Express" supply convoy during the Syrian civil war. It has been in Russia's possession in one form or another since 1971, and the treaty gives Russia a new 49-year lease with automatic renewal every 25 years thereafter. It provides for berthing for up to 11 Russian ships at a time, including nuclear-powered vessels, and gives Russia the right to permanently store any type of munitions.

Notably, the base will be outside of Damascus' jurisdiction, and Syria has agreed not to object to any military activities related to its operations.

Viktor Ozerov, head of the Russian Federation Council's defense committee, told RIA Novosti that Russia would quickly build out the base's facilities to accommodate aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines. The existing base has four relatively small mooring jetties and a small dry dock, but the adjacent civilian cargo terminals are up to 2,000 feet long with depths alongside of up to 42 feet. (Russia's largest naval vessel, the Admiral Kuznetsov, is 1,000 feet long with a draft of 33 feet.)

Russia will have responsibility for sea and air defense of the installation. Adm. Viktor Kravchenko told RIA Novosti that protecting Tartus from attack would require an anti-ship missile system like the Bal or the Bastion. 

The agreement also formalizes the indefinite deployment of Russian air force assets at Hmeymim air field, free of charge.