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One fleet is not enough

One fleet is not enough

As the result of the Soviet Union breakup some of the Russian fleets were split other remain homeless. Naval shipbuilding has degraded. The majority of vessels and crafts under construction stay unfinished and lay down of new ships almost ceased. Now we face dashing ageing of the Navy.

Since 2002 the new steps in order to change the situation were taken. The program of fleet building and re-equipment for the years of 2006-2015 was recently adopted with the main goal of construction of ships designed for short and medium range but not ocean going. General amount of expenditures allocated for new shipbuilding and procurement military equipment for the navy purposes has increased about 4 times for the last five years that allowed laying down the keels of type ships of several new projects. However these steps are yet incapable to break the continuing negative tendency.

Naval nuclear forces

Retaining and development of the naval nuclear forces (NNC) has been announced as the priority of the development of the Russian Navy, the sums being spent for the NNC amounts in two thirds of all the funds allocated for naval shipbuilding.

Under conditions of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks-2 (SALT-2) as of 1979 the USSR’s Navy was limited to 62 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (NPBMS). To date the Russian Navy possesses only 12 operational NPBMS’s of project 667BDRM Delfin (Dolphin) built in the eighties of the 20th century and armed with 16 liquid-propellant ballistic missiles (BM) R-29RM with four warheads each and six older submarines of project 667BDR Kalmar (Squid) with 16 R-29RM missiles with three warheads each. The Squids live their last years and the subs of 667BDRM project undergo repairs and refits that would allow extending their service life minimum up to 2020. The refit was started with the upgraded BM R-29RMU2 Sineva (Azure) capable to carry up to 10 warheads each. The first four serial Azures were delivered in 2006, with the order of other 12 for 2007.

The construction of the new fourth generation NPBMS of project 955 Borei (Boreas) was started simultaneously in Severodvinsk. The first of them Yuri Dolgorukiy was laid down yet in 1996 and launched in April 2007. It is supposed for her to start the performance trials in the end of 2007. The year of 2004 witnessed the laying of the second sub Alexander Nevskiy and 2006 the third Vladimir Monomakh. It is planned to complete five submarines till 2015 and have three in construction at that moment. Every NPBMS of project 955 will carry 16 new solid-propellant BM R-30 Bulava (Mace) with six warheads each. Starting from NPBMS Alexander Nevskiy the amount of missiles on the subs may be increased. Taking into account the continuation of financing problems the completion of the new missile carriers would delay inevitably. The last operational NPBMS of project 941 Typhoon Dmitriy Donskoi was rebuilt for the launching trials of Mace missiles.

Submarine forces

To date the Russian Navy is already outnumbered in nuclear-powered submarines (NPS) by the US Navy and their number shows a tendency for further descend.

The feature of the USSR Navy was the availability of special-purpose NPS’s equipped with anti-surface winged missiles and designed primarily against the American carrier groups. To date only 10 submarine cruisers of project 949A Antei (Antaeus) remain in service, every sub is armed with 24 supersonic winged missiles P-700 Granit (Granite). Yet when the financing priority is given to NNC the Navy faces the impotence to maintain duly the “anti-carrier submarine forces” almost as expensive that is why the condition of such subs is very poor and the construction of other submarine of this type (Belgorod) is ceased. Lost in 2000 Kursk was of the same type.

Only 21 multi-purpose NPS’s remain in the Navy lists which includes 13 subs of the third generation of project 971 Bars (Leopard), three subs of project 945 plus modifications, and five older NPS’s of the second generation of project 671RTMK (out of 26 built total). There is almost no construction of new nuclear submarines for the Russian navy except for NPL Nerpa (Seal) that is being built in Komsomolsk-on-Amur for the Indian Navy. Yet in 1993 Sevmashpredpriyatie started construction of the type nuclear submarine of project 885 Yasen (Ash Tree) named Severodvinsk but the building having being suspended several times is expected to be completed not earlier than 2010.

The Russian fleet of diesel-electric submarines (DES) consists of 18 subs of project 877 (other six already decommissioned) and one old sub of project 641B. In 1997 the Admiralty Shipyards commenced construction of DES Saint Petersburg of new project 677 Lada. The sub was launched three years ago but due to the numerous deficiencies she is still in the process of performance trials. Anyway two other subs of this type were laid for the last couple of years namely Kronstadt and Sevastopol. It is planned to have at least four of such DES’s up to 2015.

NOTE

The present day Navy of Russia consists of: 12 NPBMS, 31 NPS, 19 DES, 1 HACC, 5 heavy guided-missile cruisers, 9 destroyers (three in-commission), 10 large submarine-hunting ships (nine in-commission), up to 35 small submarine-hunting ships, 24 major amphibious ships (MAS), 8 patrol crafts, 1 small gun ship, up to 16 rocket-armed ships, 2 air cushion vehicle (ACV), about 30 guided missile boats and some mine sweepers.


Surface forces

In February 2004 then Navy Commander-In-Chief Vladimir Kuroedov said that after 2010 we can expect mass nonrenewable decommissioning of fighting ships that would result in less than 50 operational ships by 2020 incapable to meet the challenges on protection of the national security even in the close-in waters.

The financing of the surface forces of the Northern Fleet and at a lesser extent of the Pacific Fleet is yet enough to provide for combat stability of NPBMS in the coastal areas. The Baltic and Black Sea Fleets in recent years literally turned into flotillas and lost combat value. They are capable to dispatch only minor battle tasks.

The sole aircraft carrying ship of the Russian Navy is the first and last built in the USSR heavy aircraft carrying cruiser with the ski-ramp and horizontal landing deck Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov of project 11435. Her technical condition is much to be desired and she can not be considered as battle worthy unit. What aggravates the state of affairs are the difficulties of training pilots, the core of the carrier’s air group of the 279th separate ship-borne fighters’ wing that includes 19 SU-33 aircrafts. With regard to building of new carriers then in spite of new engineering projects in this field it is crystal clear the economics makes it a far future case.

Among the capital ships of the Navy remaining in commission there are two heavy guided-missile cruisers of project 1144 Peter Velikiy and Admiral Nakhimov (former Kalinin), equipped with Granit winged missiles (two other ships were decommissioned) as well as three gas turbine guided-missile cruisers of project 1164 Moskva (former Slava), Marshal Ustinov, and Varyag (former Chervona Ukraina) armed with Vulkan (Volcanoo) missiles.

The tangled situation is observed with regard to escort crafts. The main problem of steam-turbine destroyers of project 956 Sovremenniy (Modern) are unreliable supercharged steam generators that require highly expensive and highly experienced maintenance and the latter appeared to be an overcommitment for the Navy. So out 17 built we have only 9 crafts of this type in commission with only three fully operational. Out of 12 gas turbine large submarine-hunting ships of project 1155 Udaloi (Dashing) only nine remain in service. Besides the completed in 1999 large submarine-hunting ship Admiral Chabanenko of the modified project 11551 did not become a type ship. The Black Sea Fleet includes also the large submarine-hunting ship Kerch of project 1134B that lives her last years and her sister ship Ochakov that is under “eternal refit”.

The ocean going class of ships in the Navy construction schedule is represented by a frigate of project 22350, the type ship Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Sergei Gorshkov was laid down at the Severnaya Verf in 2006 but from all appearances the commissioning of the ship is to be waited for a long time let alone serial construction.

Out of 32 patrol ships of project 1135 the Navy has only five, one old ship of project 61 plus one patrol ship Neustrashimiy (Dauntless) commissioned in 1992 of the new project 11540. The building of her sister ship Yaroslav Mudriy (former Nepristupniy (Impregnable) has beaten all records in construction having lasted for 20 years when the series is already stopped. The fate of the new generation patrol ship Novik of project 12441 is sad, she was laid down in Kaliningrad in 1997 but due to the expensiveness and complicacy it was decided to convert her into a training ship with the minimum armament installed. The ship was renamed in Borodino.

The alternative was found in 2001 when construction of smaller, simpler and less expensive corvettes of project 20380 was launched. The first of them undergoes performance trials since last year. To date the Severnaya Verf has laid down other three ships of the same project yet another corvette is on the slipways in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. It is planned to equip these ships with heavier armament. But financial and technical obstacles cause delays in construction and already laid ships are not to be launched till 2011 although the Navy plans to obtain up to 20 frigates of project 22350 and 40 corvettes of project 20380 altogether.

The Caspian Flotilla was planned to be reinforces with the completion of laid down back in 1992 for export of small patrol ships of project 11661 that never found a customer. The first of them was commissioned in the Navy in 2002 under the name Tatarstan, fitting-out of the second Dagestan is underway. For the purposes of Caspian Flotilla some years ago the construction of small gun ships of project 21630 was commenced. The type ship Astrakhan was delivered to the Navy in 2006 with the other two (Kaspiisk, Makhachkala) under different stages of completion. The total amount is planned to be brought to seven.

The Navy keeps up to 35 small submarine-hunting ships of projects 1124M and 1331M and up to 16 small rocket-armed ships of project 12341, their quantity however is dwindling all the time without any replacement. The newest attack ships of the Black Sea Fleet for the coastal area are two skeg guided weapon ACV’s Bora and Samum (Sandstorm) of project 1239 equipped with anti-ship missiles (ASM) Moskit (Mosquito).

Mosquito fleet

The amount of mosquito forces of the Navy has decreased dramatically and today comprises only three tens of guided missile boats of projects 12411 Molniya (Lightning) and 206MR equipped with ASM Moskit and Termit (Termite). There is almost no replenishment of the coastal forces. In 2001 in Rybinsk a missile gunboat of new project 12300 Skorpion (Scorpio) was laid down but it is still on the stocks since.

The development of mine-sweeping forces witnessed almost a complete stop after 1991 and the Navy was increased by some old type mine-sweepers only. The main disadvantage of the Russian mine-sweeping forces remains the lack of modern automated countermine operations control systems as well as the number of anti-mine systems of the last generation basically aimed on the mines search and destruction ahead the ship’s course. An ocean minesweeper Vice-admiral Zakharin is under completion and her commissioning will give the opportunity for practicing mentioned type of warfare. An up-to-date project of a coastal minesweeper has been developed as well.

The fleet of the naval landing forces comprises 24 MAS, including 20 landing ships of Polish origin of project 775 of different modifications and 4 old Soviet project 1171 crafts. Out of three “ocean going” amphibious ships of the first rank equipped with the helicopter hangar and docking chamber, the type ship Ivan Rogov has been decommissioned and the remaining two Alexander Nikolaev and Mitrofan Moskalenko are moored to the piers in their bases. The heavy duty usage of the MAS’s for transportation purposes and the necessity to replace the ships of the Polish built due to the problems with spares forces the Navy Command to consider the task of MAS’s building as the priority. The keel of the new generation ship Ivan Gren of project 11711 was laid down in Kaliningrad in 2004. It was expected to become a type ship a series of five crafts but her construction is very slow.

In 2006 at a yard in Nizhniy Novgorod the construction of a high-speed small air cushion ship of project 21820 Dugon’ (Dugong) was started. Since 2004 there is a communication and reconnaissance ship on the stocks of the Severnaya Verf with another similar order pending.

The condition of Navy’s auxiliary fleet is quite unsatisfactory. Its crafts deteriorate quickly and the replacements are rather unimpressive – hydrographic and general service launches, diving tenders, small transports, and water carriers. Only in 2005 in Saint Petersburg there was laid a rather large submarine rescue ship Igor Belousov of project 23100. It is planned to have one of such vessel at every fleet.

Source: Rambler. Author: Mikhail Barabanov, science editor of Eksport Vooruzheniy magazine. The article is courtesy of Smysl magazine.
Text translated by: RusNavy