Are the new Tallinn anti-ship missiles capable of creating critical problems for the Russian Baltic Fleet?
Although practical deliveries have not yet started and the parties have only signed a contract and started to implement calculations in accordance with it, nevertheless, the fact of Estonia’s purchase of a batch of Blue Spear anti-ship missiles is already being actively discussed in the media and has caused a number of statements to be made by the command of the Estonian army. As usual, they are extremely loud.
The Estonian Armed Forces are purchasing anti-ship cruise missiles with a range of about 320 km. This will allow Tallinn to become a source of very serious problems for Russia. In particular, Estonia will be able to block Russian shipping in the Baltic, sever the logistics link between St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad, and in general, if necessary, strike directly at the Russian “Northern Capital” and its surroundings. Including the bases of the Baltic Fleet of the Russian Federation.
The statement sounds frightening, but, as it often happens with limitrophes, if to put it mildly, does not completely correspond to reality.
We should start by the fact that under the name Blue Spear, in reality, there is an Israeli Gabriel 5 anti-ship missile manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries. It is indeed new, even the newest one to date in the line of anti-ship missiles of this type. However, it did not succeed to enter into service of the Israeli fleet, which is why the manufacturer is now actively trying to promote it for export. Including agreeing to numerous upgrades, not excluding the simplification of the design for the sake of its cheapening.
The fact of the participation in the contract of the Singapore company ST Engineering Land Systems directly indicates a significant refinement of the complex to a certain land undercarriage, which is one of the key activities of STELS.
We are talking about an Israeli anti-ship missile, the only advantage of which is the new electronics. According to the developer, it is “much less sensitive to the effects of EW factors”, and has increased selectivity in relation to targets, which allows it to be used for targets in areas of active navigation, raids and waters of large ports with a large volume of ship traffic.
It is still difficult to say how much the promises correspond to the real state of affairs. To some extent, they probably coincide, since there is information about the purchase of Blue Spear (export name Gabriel 5) by the Finnish Armed Forces. However, there we are talking about installing anti-ship missiles on watercraft, while the Estonian command immediately mentions “ground complexes”, theoretically, in functionality comparable to the Russian “Bal” or “Bastion” systems.
But only theoretically, because Bastion fires P-800 “Oniks” anti-ship missiles that reach a speed of 884 m/s (Mach 2.6) and reach targets at a range of up to 600 km, while the Gabriel 5 rocket is subsonic (Mach 0.85) and its flight range is only 200 km. In a word, “a simple standard target for the ‘Pantsir’”.
So the Estonian command slightly exaggerated the figures in their statements, and this causes a smile. But the obvious demonstration of our neighbour’s aggressiveness should be taken seriously.
Describing the military-strategic prospects that are opening up thanks to the “Blue Spear”, Tallinn openly declares its desire, of course, “only if necessary”, to strike Russia first. In any case, Estonia is not able to implement the “outstanding tactical and technical characteristics” of Blue Spear in any other way.
As was shown by the repeated military simulations and practical command and staff exercises of NATO troops, in the event of a Russian military invasion, the entire Baltic states “becomes Soviet” in a maximum of three days. Specifically Estonia – in 8-10 hours. That is, there is no question of any long-term blockade of the Baltic Fleet, even in theory. The ultimate maximum for them is to try to have time to shoot back across St. Petersburg in the hope of causing at least some “prestige damage” there.
Estonia can achieve the stated goals of breaking the logistical link with Kaliningrad only in the event of a long and strictly positional war of the entire North Atlantic Alliance against the Russian Federation, when the actions of the Estonian troops will be covered and provided with all the military power of NATO. But in this case, it is precisely NATO that should act as aggressor.
And this moment in the Estonian geopolitical position does require a fitting Russian response.