There finally seems to be a somewhat reliable list of participating ships in Russia’s Naval Day parade on 28 July in Saint Petersburg. It has been an unusually quiet process this year. Last year we had a fairly good idea about the participants already in April, and the final list was announced in early July.
This year there has been much less information about the event. In January, the Navy announced that the parade will be one of the most beautiful cultural events for Saint Petersburg in 2019, and they hinted they might increase the number of ships compared to last year. Then in June they announced that the OPV Vasiliy Bykov had left the Black Sea to participate in the parade. It also came out that the new frigate Admiral Kasatonov will take part, although it hasn’t been commissioned yet. Admiral Kasatonov is the second ship of the Admiral Gorshkov class.
The next piece of news came from an unusual angle, namely the Danish Defense. The Slava class cruiser Marshall Ustinov, the Udaloy class destroyer Severomorsk, the tug SB-406, and the Oscar II class nuclear submarine Smolensk had passed the Danish straits. The Russian Ministry of Defense later confirmed that the ships will take part in the parade.
Now news have come that the Russian Navy will perform a practice run of the parade on 21 July. In this connection, it was also mentioned that the frigate Admiral Gorshkov will participate, along with the Steregushchiy-class corvette Stoikiy, the new Alexandrit-class minesweeper Ivan Antonov, the Nanuchka-class corvette Livien, and some small Grachonok-class boats. Another practice round already took place, and here was also participation of the Ropucha-class landing ship Minsk, the corvette Steregushchiy, and the Kilo-class submarine Vladikavkaz. If we add all these ships together, it seems likely that we have a comprehensive list of the participating ships in the parade. In addition to the Russian ships, there will also be participating units from China, India, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
The big news in this announcement clearly is the participation of Admiral Gorshkov, which is completing a longer voyage around the world. I have earlier speculated on Twitter that Admiral Gorshkov may be headed for the parade in Saint Petersburg, and it turned out to be true. It just made a lot of sense. The list of ships is impressive but frankly a bit boring. It is largely a repetition of the same ships as last year, so it would be nice for the Russian Navy to have a spectacular story to tell. The world trip of Admiral Gorshkov fits that bill.
This may also explain why the list of participating ships has not been published earlier: They didn’t want to reveal the participation of Admiral Gorshkov. First, the ship could have been delayed somewhere along the journey, and that would have turned the whole thing into a negative story about missed participation instead. And second, they probably didn’t want to spoil the force projection effect of sailing around in the Caribbean with a modern frigate. The American counterparts made a big deal out of the ship. Some of the official reactions were over dramatic, and in the news it was speculated that the Russian warship could have something to do with the situation in Venezuela. This was great branding value, and it would have been lost if it had had been known that Admiral Gorshkov was simply passing by on its way home. So from that perspective, it made sense not to publish a list of participants in the Naval Day Parade before Admiral Gorshkov was close to the Baltic Sea.
Overall, 43 ships and smaller vessels will take part in the parade along with 41 aircraft of different types and more than 4000 troops. That is roughly the same numbers of ships as last year, but a larger number of airplanes.