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Display of Naval Feebleness

The Remainder of the Soviet Navy Was Marched Out into the Atlantic and the Mediterranean
Lately, the pro-Kremlin mass media has been talking a lot about restoring the Russian Navy to its former prowess. Undoubtedly, the recent march of our combat ships into the Atlantic and the Mediterranean was an important and a necessary endeavor, but it would be good to dot all the "i"s and separate the veneer of bravado of the news broadcasts from the real condition of the Russian Navy.

AMERICANS ARE NO AUTHORITY FOR US

First thing someone more or less familiar with the naval subject matter will immediately notice is the composition of the naval group that took part in the march. Let’s start with the heavy aircraft carrier “Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov” (“Admiral of the Soviet Navy Kuznetsov”). Despite being in-commission for over 15 years, its aircraft group is still not fully equipped with aircraft and, what’s even sadder, not fully staffed with experienced pilots able to take off and land on the deck of the “floating field.” What’s more, all the “Kuznetsov” Su-27Ê (aka Su-33) airplanes were released for the most part during the Soviet times, while the construction of the aircraft carrier itself was in progress, and, partially, during the Yeltsin era. Already in the mid-1990s, a need arose for a thorough modernization of these carrier-based fighters to expand their capabilities for engaging in an airborne missile fight and for hitting the ground and surface targets with guided missile weapons. Nevertheless, for all the years of "restoring the Navy to its former prowess”, the funds (or, more likely, the desire) necessary to carry out work on the 18 winged craft did not turn up.

It’s quite difficult to call the escort of the only Russian aircraft carrier, consisting of just two large anti-submarine ships, anything but scanty. The Americans (who, by the way, have 11 multi-purpose aircraft carriers, 10 of which are nuclear) include, as a rule, 1-2 cruisers and 3-4 fleet destroyers in their aircraft carrier strike group. Each of these ships is armed with cruising missiles “Tomahok” (among other things, used for destruction of large enemy surface ships), and equipped with a powerful anti-aircraft defense system "Idzhis", which includes modern radar systems, multi-missile launching and control facility, control and information exchange system, as well as 1-2 guided missile frigates. Escort ships protect the aircraft carrier from cruising missile and enemy submarine attacks, deck-based aircraft allows to dominate the airspace and carry out bombing-missile attacks on enemy objects (together with the SLCMs ("Tomahok"), carried on the ships).

But, evidently, in this situation our present-day “partner”, who possesses the greatest experience of aircraft carrier usage in the world, is no authority for us. At any rate, for a long time nothing has been mentioned in the televised coverage of the Northern Fleet combat ships about the heavy nuclear GM cruiser “Pyotr Velikij” (“Peter the Great”), which requires no open sea refueling and is equipped with our Navy’s most powerful anti-ship missile system “Granit” (“Granite”), a multi-missile launching and control facility “Fort” (marine adaptation of the famous C-300 air defense system), and state-of-the-art radar and sonar stations. Same goes for its “blood brother”, similar cruiser “Admiral Nahimov”, even though it’s the two of them, who, together with the heavy aircraft carrier, are supposed to make up the core of the domestic aircraft carrier groups. In this case the silence in the media is easily explained - these ships are listed as part of the effective combat strength of the Navy, but, in spite of their potential power, in reality do not possess it due to being in terrible technical condition as a result of the lack of technical maintenance necessary for such complex fighting units.

But one time a lot was told about a fleet destroyer, “Admiral Ushakov”. In 1996, it escorted “Kuznetsov” on its first Mediterranean march (not counting the carrier’s march from Sevastopol to Severomorsk). This time though, the destroyer did not go with the aircraft carrier, but stayed to protect our northern borders (probably because there are no more combat-capable ships available in the Northern fleet). What’s interesting about this story though is that 12 years ago, the destroyer was called… “Besstrashnyj” (“Fearless”). Then all of a sudden, a name quite traditional for this class of ships was replaced by a different, appropriate for much larger and more powerful fighting units.

Seemingly a trifle - just some tradition of the Russian Navy that got violated, no big deal. But in reality, this meant that “Kirov”, the “older brother” of the “Pyotr Velikij” and the “Admiral Nahimov” and the lead of the cruisers design series 1144, later renamed to “Admiral Ushakov”, got removed from the Navy. By all appearances it must have been scrapped right there, next to the shipyard wall where it was moored for many years.

SHOULD WE BUILD SUBMARINES?

No less interesting is the situation with the Black Sea Fleet’s only combat ship that joined the Northern Fleet squadron. Literally - their only one. That’s because there are really no other combat-capable ocean-zone units in the Black Sea Fleet - back in the 1990s, a large anti-submarine ship “Azov” was removed from the Fleet, the large anti-submarine ship “Kerch”, having been repaired, still enters open sea with difficulty, and its brother “Ochakov” is in perpetual state of repairs.

The “Kerch”, as well as the other three escort ships still remaining in the Black Sea Fleet, is equipped with outdated anti-aircraft and anti-submarine weaponry. This anti-submarine ship’s capabilities for engaging surface and shore-based targets are, to say the least, nominal. Additionally to those listed, the Black Sea Fleet also contains one diesel-electric submarine and several landing ships, small-sized missile ships, and small-sized anti-submarine ships, as well as minesweepers and supply vessels. Other fleets tell a similar tale. With this “invincible armada” in mind, it’s not easy to comprehend the ex-Commander in Chief Masorin’s statement that our Fleet has no need for the GM cruiser “Admiral Lobov”, currently located in Nikovaev, Ukraine, and whose construction is 95% complete. And yet this ship, declared to be outdated, is of the same type with today’s flagship of the Black Sea Fleet – guards-cruiser “Moskva” (“Moscow”). “Lobov” is also equipped with anti-ship missile system “Vulkan” and multi-missile launching and control facility “Fort”, and is able to destroy any surface enemy, up to and including aircraft carriers. But since the “outdated” cruiser was built a few years later than “Slava” (original name given to the cruiser “Moskva”), it is equipped with a more modern radar system and simply is “younger” (“Slava” was commissioned in 1983).

Instead, once again another ship was declared to be “wonder-ship” – corvette “Stereguschij” (“Guarding”). It’s not clear though, why a TV commentary would mention an inshore zone ship in the context of an ocean march. But that’s just technicalities. As is the fact that the class “corvette” is not part of the national Navy, whereas a ship combining small-sized anti-submarine and small-sized missile ship capabilities is all of a sudden equaled to an escort ship, i.e. a ship one class higher. Most touching is the talk about its combat prowess, especially in the context of its AA defense system - quite a modest set of self-defense equipment, sufficient only for a small tonnage, is all of a sudden pronounced as a means of gaining airspace domination of the entire theater of military operations.

In short, “restoring of the former prowess to the Russian Navy” is impossible due to the lack of the latter - of the two heavy aircraft carriers of design 11434 and 11435 - only one remains in-commission, of the four heavy nuclear GM cruisers of design 1144 - only two remain active (and even those are questionable), of the three GM cruisers of design 1164 - three remain, of the 13 large anti-submarine ships of design 1155 and 1151 – about a half, of the 17 fleet destroyers of design 956 – a quarter, of the three universal assault landing ships of design 1174 – “nominally”, two. It’s also worth noting that these forces are not concentrated in one base but are scattered over four fleets, which makes operational communications between them in most cases impossible.

In effect, the Russian Navy, instead of being an Armed Force, today represents a scattered bunch of combat ships, survivors of the “reforms” of the dashing years, and several airplanes, separated by the Russian-style distances that measure thousands of kilometers.

Of course we should fight for every ship still in-commission, use every opportunity to develop the fleet staff. But do we really need to build a series of new submarines for a ballistic missile not yet tested, already having several divisions of submarines equipped with industry-standard missiles, while being almost completely out of the surface ships able to support deployment of nuclear submarines?

Source: nvo.ng.ru, author: Sergej Ivanovich Aleksandrov – Officer of the Russian Armed Forces