Russian Navy strength insufficient to promote SSBN combat sustainability - take 1

The Russian nuclear submarines with ballistic missiles (SSBN) regularly sail for combat duty to the open ocean. The range of modern ballistic missiles can reach any point of the globe from the naval base. However, at the base SSBN are clearly visible for satellites of potential adversaries and are vulnerable to a preventive strike. It is easier for them to hide in the World Ocean and deliver a guaranteed retaliation strike. Stealth characteristics are important, but they do not fully guarantee a complete SSBN invulnerability, the Military-Industrial Courier writes.

Russian Navy strength insufficient to promote SSBN combat sustainability take 1 925 001Marshal Ustinov missile cruiser (Picture source: TASS)

Blue-water frigates will comprise the backbone of the Russian Navy in the near future. It means the national leadership rejected the construction of an attack oceanic fleet and preferred warships to operate in brown and blue waters.

Some experts say the choice of corvettes and frigates damages the defence capability of the country and unbalances the Navy composition. Why is the focus on frigates and corvettes wrong? It is because SSBN deployment areas in the ocean remain unprotected without the necessary number of green-water warships. In other words, Russian SSBN may become easy prey for the antisubmarine forces of the adversary. They will be destroyed in case of conflict before they fire the missiles.

Can frigates and corvettes operate in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans? Yes, they can. The characteristics of project 22350 frigates say the displacement is 5400 tons and the range at 14 knots is 4500 miles or 8325 kilometres. A frigate can sail a major distance, but it also has to return. It halves the distance to 4163 km. It is not much for the World Ocean and the frigate needs an accompanying tanker which limits manoeuvrability and increases vulnerability.

The weather may also be a factor. The season of hurricanes lasts in the North Atlantic from June 1 to November 30. Bad weather peaks on September 10. The sea is rough every day in winter.

It means the high waves will rock the frigate. Negative air temperatures and rough sea will cover the deck and superstructure with ice. It will deny the possibility to engage the onboard helicopter and arms.

In the Soviet Union, big antisubmarine ships, helicopter carriers and green-water warships of major displacement and capable of operating in a rough sea ensured SSBN sustainability. They had to detect adversary submarines.

The Russian Navy currently has 11 SSBN with 180 SLBM. Six of them belong to project 667BDRM with 16 (96 in total) launchers with Sineva R-29RMU2 and Liner R-29RMU2.1 missiles. There is one submarine of project 667BDR with 16 R-29R, three new Borey-class submarines of project 955 with 16 Bulava R-30 SLBM each (48 in total). Besides, the Navy operates the Dmitry Donskoy SSBN of project 941UM which was upgraded to test-fire Bulava R-30 from 20 launchers.

The Northern fleet operates six SSBN of project 667BDRM, one sub of project 941UM and one of project 955. The Pacific fleet has one SSBN of project 667BDR and two of project 955.

Some experts said the combat sustainability of the SSBN forces demands the Northern fleet to have 20-25 nuclear subs, 30-35 diesel-electric subs, 20-25 surface green-water warships and 35-40 antisubmarine ships. The Pacific fleet needs 20-23 nuclear subs, 30-35 diesel-electric submarines, 20-25 warships and 55-60 antisubmarine ships.

At present, there is one operational cruiser of project 11442, two of project 1164, three destroyers of project 956, seven big antisubmarine ships of project 1155, one frigate of project 11540, six corvettes of project 20380, a frigate of project 22350, two patrol escorts of projects 1135 and 1135M, three frigates of project 11356. It makes a total of 26 warships.

Besides, the fleet operates two SSN of project 671RTMK, two Barracuda-class subs of project 945, two Kondor-class of project 945A, ten third-generation submarines of project 971, one upgraded SSN of project 971M, one Yasen-class SSGN of project 885. It makes a total of 18 multirole nuclear and 21 diesel-electric submarines.

It is clear that the available strength of warships and submarines is insufficient for SSBN combat sustainability.

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