Russian Navy to focus on frigates, submarines - part 1

Russia has been discussing the construction of aircraft carriers for many years. However, the plans cannot be implemented because of a lack of finances and production capacities. Experts believe frigates and submarines should be an absolute priority for the Navy and the rest can wait, the Independent Military Review writes.

Russian Navy to focus on frigates submarines part 1Marshal Ustinov in 2018, after modernisation (Picture source: Russian MoD)

Right after World War Two, the Soviet leadership planned to build a big navy comparable to the US and British ones. However, it became clear the plan cannot be implemented, as the country faced other priorities. It was necessary to restore the country after the war, create nuclear weapons, develop the ground forces, air defense and air force. Therefore, the military staked on submarines and aviation. Under Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev priority went to missile arms, while big surface warships were not considered vital. The country continued to build them, but in limited numbers and by dubious concepts. Much attention was paid to antisubmarine warfare and the Soviet Navy got specific and unprecedented warships in the world: big and small antisubmarine warfare ships and even cruisers. As sonars were imperfect, the ships could not engage in all antisubmarine missions. The only effective antisubmarine weapon were Soviet submarines.

In 1962-1973, 20 big antisubmarine warfare ships of project 61 were commissioned. They were praised for perfect gas turbine engines, but the weapons left much to be desired. The Smetlivy ship was commissioned in 1966 and operated in the Black Sea fleet up to 2019 after a major upgrade by project 01090.

Antisubmarine cruisers were the first Soviet aircraft-carrying ships of project 1123 (the Moskva and the Leningrad carried only helicopters and could only conditionally engage in antisubmarine missions).

In 1970-1980s, Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Sergey Gorshkov tried to balance the green-water fleet. A big number of surface warships was built, but there was a lack of coastal infrastructure for them. In particular, new cruisers of project 1143 suffered (four were built, two for the Northern and Pacific fleets each). The Pacific fleet failed to build berths for the Minsk and the Novorossiisk. They were constantly anchored and exhausted the resource ahead of time. They were the first Soviet aircraft-carrying cruisers (in contrast to classic aircraft carriers they carried the whole range of missiles, including long-range Basalt P-500 antiship missiles). However, their vertical takeoff Yak-38 were unsuccessful and could not cope with antisubmarine missions.

As a result, the Kiev and the Minsk ships are now used as attractions in China. The Novorossiisk was sold as scrap to South Korea. The Admiral Gorshkov (previously the Baku) was upgraded into a normal aircraft carrier and sold to India as the Vikramaditya. It carries MiG-29K with horizontal takeoff and landing.

Aircraft-carrying cruisers of projects 11435 and 11437 with horizontal takeoff and landing had to be the successors. However, the first two had no catapults. There were bow sky jumps which limited the capabilities of seaborne aviation. The warships were armed with Granit missiles (range 700 km) which increased the attack capabilities, but limited the airpower and the possibility of its engagement.

Only one ship of project 11435 was built before the Soviet collapse. It is the Admiral Kuznetsov which is the only Russian aircraft carrier. It operates in the Northern fleet and is undergoing an overhaul at present. The unfinished Varyag of project 11436 remained in Ukraine and was sold to China. It is the Liaoning first Chinese aircraft carrier. The Ulyanovsk third ship of project 11437 had to be nuclear-powered with a catapult, but it was not built because of the Soviet collapse.

The construction of missile cruisers began in 1970s. The antisubmarine warfare was no longer their mission. They had to fight US aircraft carriers. They carried 16 Basalt antiship missiles (like project 1143) and 64 Fort antiaircraft missiles (seaborne S-300P option). Ten cruisers had to be built, but only the Slava (now the Moskva of the Black Sea fleet, currently under overhaul), the Marshal Ustinov (the Northern fleet) and the Chervona Ukraina (now the Varyag in the Pacific fleet) were constructed. The upgrade armed the three warships with Vulkan P-1000 missiles. The fourth warship remained in Ukraine as the Ukraina, but the Ukrainian Navy could not operate and maintain it. Russia suggested yet before the 2014 conflict to take it over for free, but Ukraine refused. Thus, the Ukraina is doomed for scrap and so far rusts at a berth of Nikolaev Shipyard.

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