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Analysis: Russian Navy starts production of amphibious assault ships Project 23900 - Part 2


Zaliv Shipyard in Kerch will lay down two new universal landing ships (UDK) of project 23900. These warships will join the Russian Navy by the end of 2027 and are the most expected ships in the past fifty years.
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Analyses Russian Navy starts production of amphibious assault ships Project 23900 Part 2 925 001Priboy LHD scale model showcased by Krylov during Army 2016 exhibition (Picture source: Navy Recognition)


The USSR attentively studied the US experience and produced a universal landing ship of project 1174. It had a bigger size and carried a small airpower, but was designed for classical landing ashore. However, in late 1980s the Soviet Navy offered its own universal landing ship of project 11780. It was designed by Nevsky Bureau and had to be built by Nikolaev Shipyard in Ukraine. However, the Soviet collapse ruined the project.

The concept of amphibious assault continued to be revised. As the support to the ground forces in Europe was no longer vital, the fleet began considering expeditionary operations in distant waters. The capability was envisaged by the naval strategy based on geographic security zone concept discussed at the threshold of 1999-2000. It called for a universal expeditionary force capable of combined operations at sea, in the air and on the ground. It had to be armed with a universal landing ship for the purpose.

The design proceeded according to foreign experience. Various conflicts ranging from the 1991 Gulf War to 2003 intrusion into Iraq were thoroughly studied, including the engagement of amphibious assault.

The own experience of expeditionary/amphibious operations in the period boiled down to the engagement of the fleet and marines in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict. The Black Sea fleet evacuated civilians, delivered humanitarian aid, protected commercial navigation. It also urgently evacuated the logistical base from Nokra Island in Dahlak Archipelago in the Red Sea in the winter of 1991.

Russia returned to the idea of expeditionary forces in the second half of 2000s due to a long anti-piracy operation in the Horn of Africa. As there were no nearby bases, the fleet had to engage warships which were not properly fit for the mission. They were mostly antisubmarine and escort ships. Pacific, Northern, Baltic fleet warships were mostly engaged. The operation of the Black Sea fleet was limited because of a lack of modern warships.


Analyses Russian Navy starts production of amphibious assault ships Project 23900 Part 2 925 002Priboy LHD scale model showcased by Krylov during Army 2016 exhibition (Picture source: Navy Recognition)


The absence of naval bases made the Russian military leadership negotiate with France a possibility to deploy Il-38 aircraft in Djibouti. However, the talks yielded no result. An aircraft or helicopter carrier could replace a naval base, but Russia did not have it.

The five-day 2008 war against Georgia gave the main impulse to a new attempt to revive amphibious assault. The participation of Black Sea fleet marines was limited by raids in seaports to destroy Georgian warships. It would be difficult to expect something more like a stronghold seizure and advance into the country even if a political decision was made. A complete lack of air support would make any large-scale amphibious assault extremely risky, as Georgia had its own Air Force.

The US-style universal landing ships, including project 11780, were not fit because of a high cost and the absence of a serial vertical takeoff airplane. However, in 2000s, the construction of amphibious assault ships on the basis of civilian technologies which decreased the construction cost boomed in the world.

Russian Navy Commander-in-Chief V. Vysotsky said at Euronaval in Paris in 2008 there were plans to buy foreign landing ships. The Dutch Rotterdam Landing Platform Dock, the Spanish Juan Carlos I, and the South Korean Dokdo were considered. However, in July 2009, it was reported that Russia was negotiating the construction of four Mistral-class warships. It was initially reported that France would build one and Russia three ships due to localization. Later a 2+2 scheme emerged. A contract was signed in the autumn of 2010 to build two ships in France and another two in Russia by a license.


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