Tag Archives: Admiral Kuznetsov

The Anti-Navy Navy

The inauspicious performance of Admiral Kuznetsov begs questions about the prospects for a new Russian carrier.

Belching black smoke, Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov reached the Med and began ops against Syrian targets about a month ago.

admiral-kuznetsov-photo-ria-novosti

Admiral Kuznetsov (photo: RIA Novosti)

But after losing two fighters to arresting gear problems in less than a month, Kuznetsov’s air wing could be ashore at Khmeimim airfield for quite a while.

Even without the accidents, this might have been inevitable since its fighters can’t carry much fuel or ordnance and still ski jump off the carrier’s deck.

Nevertheless, on December 1, Military-Industrial Commission member Vladimir Pospelov told Interfaks-AVN that aircraft carriers have a place in future naval development planning:

“In the programs we are formulating for the future, ships of this class are present. The tasks and missions the Russian Navy is performing, I’m sure, in the future will be performed by ships of this class.”

As head of the VPK’s shipbuilding council, Pospelov emphasized that “several variants [of carriers] are always being reviewed.”  He didn’t place special importance on the proyekt 23000 Shtorm model, and he intimated that no decision for nuclear propulsion has been reached.

proyekt-23000-shtorm

Proyekt 23000 Shtorm

More significantly, Pospelov stated that:

“. . . the decisions taken on the final variant will be optimal both in the effectiveness of accomplishing combat missions, and, of course, in the effectiveness and cost of the work.”

“And, of course, the possibilities of the economy are being weighed since naval aircraft-carrying systems are a very expensive pleasure. Particularly accounting for the fact that part of their missions can be resolved by other effective naval means.”

Interfaks-AVN interjected that what Pospelov has in mind are the Russian Navy’s new missile ships.  The news agency likely means small missile ships like Serpukhov and Zelenyy Dol that fired Kalibr cruise missiles at Syrian targets in August.

small-missile-ship-serpukhov

Small Missile Ship Serpukhov

Regarding those “other effective naval means,” Pospelov concluded that:

“A sharp increase in the effectiveness of shipborne systems, the development of radioelectronic weapons, the effectiveness of missile systems, and the reduction of their dimensions is going on.  And in the completion of missions, their effectiveness is always increasing from the point of view of accuracy, range, and targeting.”

Still, in a final nod to carriers, he said:

“It goes without saying that development in the direction of an aircraft carrier is also principally important.  On the whole not just for the Russian Navy, but for our country as a naval power.”

But Interfaks-AVN closed by reminding readers of Deputy Defense Minister Borisov’s statement that a new carrier might be built after 2025.

The Navy can’t be pleased by any of this.  

Not only has Kuznetsov been an embarrassment when it’s supposed to demonstrate Russia’s world-class naval power.  But now Pospelov — an influential bureaucrat — has hinted publicly that Moscow should consider whether investing in its “mosquito fleet” is a better bet than a high-cost, high-risk strategy of designing, developing, and building a new aircraft carrier for the twenty-first century.

A carrier won’t be in the next arms program, but rather, possibly, the one after next. With less defense funding likely in the outyears, delay in an expensive weapons system like this is almost the same thing as death.

The Navy, some in Moscow, and perhaps even President Vladimir Putin himself might really like the idea of building (or rebuilding) a major surface fleet to make Russia’s presence known on the world’s oceans.  But things aren’t going well in Russia’s shipyards.  If the Navy has to wait fifteen or twenty years to replace Kuznetsov, where will it be when that first, and perhaps only, new carrier arrives? Much, much further behind than today in its experience of operating a carrier battle group, let alone several of them.  

In short, the U.S. Navy is unique in the world.  Russia isn’t going to compete with its strengths and will have to think about meeting them asymmetrically.

This is why the idea of building numerous small combatants with lethal missiles to defeat or deny access to hostile forces in the closed seas surrounding the Russian Federation is appealing.  It would allow Moscow to leverage its ground, air, and air defense forces against naval threats in a combined arms approach.  

If China is doing it with its much larger economy, why not Russia?

With a future carrier put off to a distant time, perhaps Moscow has decided de facto for an anti-navy navy.  As stated above, delay is about the same as death.

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No Rest for the Weary

Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov (TAKR 063) will be more of a fixture in the Mediterranean than anyone outside the Russian MOD and Navy Main Staff supposed.

admiral-kuznetsov-photo-ria-novosti

Admiral Kuznetsov (photo: RIA Novosti)

The ship will not enter Zvezdochka shipyard for a “repair with modernization” until 2018, according to RIA Novosti.  The news agency cited state-owned conglomerate OSK’s vice-president for naval shipbuilding.

Until yesterday, it was widely assumed that Kuznetsov would operate in the Mediterranean until spring 2017 at the latest, then return to Northern Fleet waters to begin a much-needed upkeep and upgrade period.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military have decided instead to have Kuznetsov as part of their Syrian operations for at least one extra year.  The ship will likely return to its homeport at some point in mid-2017 for crew leave, swapping out fighters, and minor repairs.  At least, the Russian Navy hopes only minor repairs will be needed.

Then the cycle will start again…Kuznetsov will deploy to the Med in the fall, and return home in the first half of 2018 when an overhaul might begin.  Once that starts though, the carrier won’t be available for two years minimum, and probably much longer. Hence, the reluctance to begin the process when the MOD wants additional firepower on Syrian targets.

But Russia’s Syrian intervention is really just as much (possibly more) about the opportunity to test its men and weapons in live combat as it is about propping up its friend Assad, fighting “terrorists,” or making itself a Middle East power broker and superpower again. 

Dyachkov’s Interview

Andrey Dyachkov (photo: RIA Novosti / Sergey Safronov)

As General Director of both Sevmash and TsKB MT Rubin, Andrey Dyachkov’s a pretty significant individual when it comes to submarines.  What follows are highlights from his RIA Novosti interview last Friday.

Some blurbs have been published, but one frankly hasn’t had time to see if they captured the importance of what Dyachkov said.  Hence this summary.  It has less elegance (or perhaps fluff) than you may be accustomed to reading on these pages.

Dyachkov said the following:

  • Sevmash and the Defense Ministry signed a contract for the modernized Yasen, or Yasen-M this year.  It will be five units; Severodvinsk plus five.  Severodvinsk will be delivered next year; there were problems with some components obtained from suppliers and the Kalibr missile system needs to complete state testing.  About six months are needed for all this.
  • This year’s huge contract problems were a result of a changed Defense Ministry approach toward price formation Sevmash wasn’t ready for.  But times have changed, and Sevmash recognizes money has to be used more effectively, and ways have to be found to cut production expenditures.
  • Rubin has a contract to design the modernized proyekt 955, Borey, the Borey-A.  The contract should be signed by early 2012.  The lay-down of the first improved Borey will happen next year, and Saint Nikolay is still the working name for the first unit.  No word from the Sevmash chief on the final number of boats until after the contract is signed.  They’ve started laying down Saint Nikolay, but the official ceremony’s still to come.
  • Seventy percent of sub costs are reportedly to pay suppliers.  The main thing is getting them to reduce the cost of their products.  The Defense Ministry might even consider foreign component suppliers for some SSBN components.
  • Sevmash will take on construction of two diesel-electric proyekt 636 from Admiralty Wharves.  This will lighten the workload of the latter, and use excess capacity at the former.
  • Severnoye PKB has a contract to figure out how to modernize Kirov-class CGN Admiral Nakhimov (proyekt 1164, Orlan).  First and foremost, it needs new missiles (Kalibr and Oniks) to replace its Granit.  They are talking only about Nakhimov at this point.
  • Sevmash won’t be repairing CV Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012.  The shipyard is prepared to build a future carrier.
  • Modified Typhoon-class SSBN Dmitriy Donskoy will be kept active at the White Sea Naval Base for sub-on-sub trials of new boats.  Northern Fleet subs won’t be diverted for this task.
  • KB Malakhit has developed repair and modernization plans for the Akula-class (Proyekt 971, Bars).  Money’s been allocated and Zvezdochka will do the work. 
  • Russia may offer up the Amur-1650 diesel sub in next year’s Indian tender.  It could have air-independent propulsion, but Russia doesn’t seem really high on the idea.
  • They want to test Proyekt 677 Lada and its sonar in deeper waters next year.

Perhaps the Borey and Yasen mods reflect the problems of restarting construction that had been dormant (or at least very slow) for a long time and of using newly-made components rather than older ones.