Russian Navy to focus on frigates, submarines - part 2

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 2 Russian destroyer RFS Admiral Chabanenko (Picture source: US Navy)

In the 1980s, the construction of nuclear missile cruisers of project 1144 began. Four were built, but differed in arms and electronic means. The main weapons were 20 Granit antiship missiles and Fort antiaircraft complex with 96 guided missiles. They were all accommodated in vertical launchers, but in contrast to US Mk41 they were not universal and each had to fire a specific type of missiles. The missiles were kept in revolving launchers which demanded complicated maintenance and operation.

The main problem of Soviet cruisers was their big size and cost with a narrow anti-aircraft carrier specialization. It mostly concerned project 1144 cruisers. The lead warship of the series (the Kirov and later the Admiral Ushakov) and the second Admiral Lazarev are awaiting utilization. The third Admiral Nakhimov is being upgraded in Severodvinsk. Twenty Granit missiles will be replaced by 80 Kalibr, Onix and Tsirkon missiles, while S-300 °F air defense is likely to be replaced by an upgraded option. The cruiser will develop into a universal warship and will no longer target only aircraft carriers. The fourth Petr Veliky cruiser of project 1144 is likely to undergo the same upgrade. It was accepted into service in 1998 and is operating in the Northern fleet.

The Admiral Kuznetsov and the Petr Veliky biggest ships of the Russian Navy sailed together outside Russian territorial waters before the overhaul. In late 2016, they arrived in the Mediterranean Sea and the airpower of the Kuznetsov was for the first time engaged in real combat in Syria. The result of Su-33 and MiG-29 fighter jets engagement was modest because of their limited number and the absence of bomber capabilities. Two aircraft (one Su-33 and one MiG-29K) were lost because of deck crew errors and faulty landing equipment. Others mostly took off from Humaymim airbase rather that the aircraft carrier. The sortie had to demonstrate that Russia has an aircraft carrier, but in reality it demonstrated that it has none.

The Admiral Kuznetsov and the Petr Veliky are compelled to operate together today. In Soviet times, the joint actions of project 956 destroyers and project 1155 antisubmarine warfare ships were reasonable in 1980s.

Project 956 destroyers carried powerful arms — eight supersonic Moskit antiship missiles and two coaxial 130mm AK-130 artillery guns. They had no equals in a warship-warship duel and destroyed any warship hundred percent. However, such a duel is impossible in a modern sea warfare. Project 956 air defense was weak and missile defense was next to nothing. Besides, the boiler-turbine power plant was unreliable and insufficient for a long sortie. As a result, only two out of 17 warships of the type remained in the Russian Navy — the Admiral Ushakov in the Northern fleet and the Bystry in the Pacific fleet. The Nastoichivy of the Baltic fleet is being overhauled and has all chances to become operational again.

The Soviet concept viewed project 1155 big antisubmarine warfare ships as partners of project 1155 destroyers. They had a more powerful short-range Kinzhal air defense and a much more powerful Rastrub 85RU antisubmarine defense. Thus, projects 956 and 1155 complemented each other.

Project 1155 warships were more reliable than destroyers. Eight out of 12 are still operational, four in the Northern fleet and four in the Pacific fleet. At present, five of them are operational (the Severomorsk, the Vice Admiral Kulakov in the Northern fleet and the Admiral Tributs, the Admiral Panteleev and the Admiral Vinogradov in the Pacific fleet. Three are in overhaul (the Admiral Levchenko, the Admiral Kharlamov in the Northern fleet and the Marshal Shaposhnikov in the Pacific fleet). The fate of the Admiral Kharlamov is unclear. It may be utilized or upgraded with Onix and Kalibr.

In mid-1980s, an idea originated to merge the destroyers and antisubmarine ships into one type and take the best of each of them — Moskit and AK-130 of project 956 and Kinzhal, Ka-27 helicopters and engines of project 1155. Thus, project 11551 originated. Only the Admiral Chabanenko was produced because of the Soviet collapse. It became operational in the Northern fleet in 1999 and is undergoing an overhaul.

The Russian Navy currently operates ten major surface warships — three cruisers (including one nuclear-powered), five big antisubmarine warfare ships and two destroyers. Another eight warships (the aircraft carrier, two cruisers (one nuclear), a destroyer and four antisubmarine ships) are undergoing an overhaul or upgrade. The fate of one antisubmarine ship is unclear. It is not a major force even if all the warships gather in one place. The exchange of warships between fleets in case of a war is ruled out. It makes the Russian green-water fleet symbolic. Only four warships (the Petr Veliky, the Admiral Chabanenko, the Admiral Ushakov and the Nastoichivy) were commissioned in 1990s and the rest in Soviet times. In the XXI century, the Russian Navy has not received a single surface warship with a displacement over 5000 tons. The available ones are morally and physically outdated and their number will only decrease. They intensively operated in the past 5-6 years and quickly exhaust the remaining resource.

Russia has been discussing the construction of an aircraft carrier for many years. There is also the project of the Leader destroyer with a displacement of 18-20 thousand tons. It would be appropriate to look at the main sea power, the United States to comprehend whether Russia needs aircraft carriers and destroyers of such a displacement.

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