Russian Navy to focus on frigates, submarines - Part 3

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 3Petr Veliky destroyer and Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier sailing toward Syria (Picture source: Russian MoD)

The latest USS Gerald Ford nuclear aircraft carrier costs 12.7 billion dollars. An Arleigh Burke-class destroyer of the latest modification costs 1.8 billion dollars. It means seven destroyers can be procured for the price of one aircraft carrier. The Gerald Ford has a crew of 2,500 men and the same strength of the airpower personnel. The Arleigh Burke has 380 men. It means seven destroyer crews can be formed from one aircraft carrier crew. The attack destroyer usually carries 60 Tomahawk missiles and each one costs over 1.5 Mn dollars. It means seven destroyers will have 420 Tomahawks for 650 million dollars. In case of engagement, the missiles will be fired from a safe zone due to the long range of the Tomahawks. It minimizes the risks for pilots.

The standard airpower of an aircraft carrier comprises 48 combat aircraft and the same number of auxiliary airplanes and helicopters. A Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet costs 70.5 Mn dollars and the whole airpower - 3.4 Bn dollars. It is sufficient to procure over 2,000 Tomahawks. If the airpower comprises the latest Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II, the price increases to 4.8 Bn dollars. However, an F-35C carries a smaller payload than an F/A-18E/F.

An aircraft has to fire missiles or/and smart bombs. Their range is shorter than the Tomahawk’s one, and prices range from 100,000 to 800,000 dollars depending on specific modification.

The stronger is the potential adversary, the less sense is in aircraft carriers and more sense in Tomahawk carriers. There is no need in costly aircraft carriers against much weaker adversaries.

Naval aviation offers more effective air defense than antiaircraft missiles. Aircraft can carry more air-to-air missiles than a destroyer can. The firing range is bigger than antiaircraft missiles have. On the other hand, a destroyer does not have to enter an enemy air defense zone due to the long range of its cruise missiles. A destroyer can defend itself with artillery and antiaircraft missiles and therefore can operate solo. An aircraft carrier cannot defend itself and has to operate along with several nuclear submarines, cruisers and destroyers. Its airpower depends on the weather, in contrast to cruise missiles.

Why do the Americans continue to build aircraft carriers? Firstly, they continue to prepare for past wars. The inertia of mentality is very strong. Secondly, the US military have to absorb budget appropriations.

Russia should learn the mistakes rather than repeat them. Russia does not have shipyards to build aircraft carriers. It lacks professional personnel and money. It is unable to catch up with the USA and China in the number of aircraft carriers.

The fire on the Admiral Kuznetsov last year offered a good pretext to get rid of the warship. The Russian Navy does not need aircraft carriers that only swallow huge money from the Defense budget. As an aircraft carrier cannot defend itself, it is necessary to build cruisers, destroyers and frigates to protect it. It is completely unfeasible and impossible from the financial and production points of view, even in a distant future.

Destroyers can be built in small numbers or the military can focus on frigates. If a destroyer is five times more expensive than a frigate, it is better to build five frigates. It is easier for the adversary to sink one destroyer than five frigates. One destroyer can be in one place and five frigates in five places. Only such big ships as the Admiral Nakhimov and the Petr Veliky are likely to remain in the Russian Navy.

Submarines are important for Russia. Their construction should be an absolute priority. The remainder can wait, the Independent Military Review said.

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