• Three Slava-class cruisers are operating in and around the Aegean Sea
  • Black Sea Fleet lead ship RTS Moskva is positioned in the Black Sea
  • RFS Varyag and RTS Marshal Ustinov entered the Mediterranean earlier this month 

As Russian troops pour into Ukraine's breakaway region, reports emerge that Kremlin has lined up guided-missile cruisers across the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea to counter three NATO carrier strike groups.

Three Slava-class cruisers are operating in and around the Aegean Sea, an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea between Europe and Asia, reported USNI News, quoting a U.S. defense official.

While RTS Moskva is in the Black Sea, RFS Varyag is in the south of Italy and RTS Marshal Ustinov is positioned off the coast of Syria, near Russia’s naval base in Tartus.

Moskva, the lead ship of the Project 1164 Atlant class of guided missile cruisers in the Russian Navy, belongs to the Black Sea Fleet itself. However, Marshal Ustinov is from Russia's Northern Fleet, Varyag is from the Pacific Fleet. Both the vessels entered the Mediterranean from opposite ends earlier this month, the report added.

The Slava-class cruisers can carry launchers that can hold 16 SS-N-12 Sandbox anti-ship cruise missiles that can take on U.S. and NATO aircraft carriers.

Besides, the vessels are also armed with twin-mounted AK-130 dual-purpose guns that are positioned forward. There are also six AK-630 close-in weapons systems, two of which are located ahead atop the superstructure and four its side.

These vessels and their positioning are now a matter of concern for NATO vessels, including the U.S., Italian and French carrier strike groups.

At present, the U.S. Navy operates the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group in the Meditteranean. Besides, Italian Navy aircraft carrier ITS Cavour and French carrier FS Charles de Gaulle also operate in the waters.

In the light of the huge Russian buildup, the U.S. has also deployed additional guided-missile cruisers and destroyers to U.S. 6th Fleet. The report added that the U.S. has over a dozen guided-missile warships operating in the region as of Tuesday.

That said, the US warships outmatch the Russians in strength too. The US cruisers and destroyers are equipped with advanced missile defense systems that can beat the Russian missiles. The only risk is if they end up running out of interceptors after being overwhelmed by the Russian fire, the USNI report added.

The U.S. Navy is confident and prepared to take on the Russians too. According to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, these ships operate in and around the Russians and the Chinese all the time.

"Given this current situation, the chance for miscalculation is greater. That’s why we train to a very high standard so that when we find our ships in situations like this the [commanders] that we act in a way that’s not provocative and that we communicate very clearly that we’re not cowboys out there. Our intentions are to be responsible professionals out there," Gilday told reporters when asked about Russian cruisers.

Russian ships in the Baltic Sea
Representation. Russian navy warships seen in Baltic Sea. Reuters/Maxim Shemetov