Tag Archives: Proyekt 11356

Russia Reinforcing Mediterranean Formation

The Russian Navy is beefing up its Mediterranean presence. Recently, it announced its intent to increase the contingent from 10 to 15 ships.  This greater Med activity is both cause and effect of the navy’s effort to revivify its Black Sea Fleet (BSF), virtually moribund just a few years ago.

On June 1, TASS reported the current Russian naval force in the Med includes Proyekt 11356 frigates Admiral Grigorovich and Admiral Essen, Kashin-class destroyer Smetlivyy, tank landing ships Tsezar KunikovNikolay Filchenkov, and Azov, Proyekt 636.3 diesel-electric submarine Krasnodar, unspecified minesweepers, “anti-sabotage” boats, a tanker, and other support vessels.  So it’s unclear just how many Russian ships are in the Med right now.

Ancient Smetlivyy returned to Sevastopol on June 3.  The venerable ship has served in the BSF since 1969.

Essen fires Kalibr LACM

Admiral Essen fires Kalibr on May 31

Admiral Essen and Krasnodar each fired two Kalibr (SS-N-30) land-attack cruise missiles at Islamic State positions near Palmyra on May 31.

Other BSF units — Admiral Grigorovich, Proyekt 21631 Buyan-class missile corvettes Zelenyy Dol and Serpukhov, and submarine Rostov-na-Donu — fired Kalibr missiles at targets in Syria from the eastern Med in 2015 and 2016.  Prior to this, the Russian Navy lacked a land-attack capability in the Med, and used surface combatants from its Caspian Flotilla to launch Kalibr missiles.  However, those weapons had to overfly Iranian and Iraqi territory to reach Syria.

On June 6, Interfaks-AVN reported that the Russian Navy will not cut the cruise missile strike capabilities of its “permanent operational formation” in the Mediterranean, according to a source “familiar with the situation.”  So there is apparently no plan for Admiral Grigorovich, Admiral Essen, or Krasnodar to return to Sevastopol soon.  They joined the Russian Med formation in early and late April and mid-May respectively.

Not a Large Formation

Russia’s current Mediterranean force is mistakenly called a squadron (эскадра) like its Soviet-era 5th Eskadra predecessor.  However, the Russian Navy says its Med presence is a formation (соединение), not a large formation (объединение).  A formation is typically naval ship division (дивизия) of 5-10 major and minor combatants with an O-6 in command.

A large formation, by contrast, is a major fleet component — a flotilla or eskadra, and it is commanded by an O-7.  Such a command typically is a stepping stone to fleet commander.

In contrast to today’s formation, the 5th Eskadra normally had 40-50 ships in the Med every day at the height of the Cold War in the 1970s and 1980s.  That’s probably more than the entire BSF today.

After the U.S. Tomahawk strike on Syria’s Shayrat air base on April 7, Vladimir Pavlov wrote disparagingly of Russia’s declining capabilities in the Med.  Pavlov concluded that the brief and ill-fated deployment of Admiral Kuznetsov to the eastern Med this winter left those waters empty for the U.S. (as if the Russian carrier would have prevented American action).

Pavlov noted that the navy had to rely on “1st and 2nd rank” ships from other fleets, the Baltic in particular, to maintain its Med formation.

Things look a bit better now with two Proyekt 11356 frigates in the BSF.  The third, Admiral Makarov, is now supposed to join the fleet before the end of this year.  The fleet has its full complement of six new Proyekt 636.3 submarines.  Missile corvettes Zelenyy Dol and Serpukhov entered the order-of-battle in late 2015.  More of them might follow.

The second Proyekt 18280 Yuriy Ivanov-class intelligence ship Ivan Khurs will reportedly go to replace Liman, which sank near Istanbul after colliding with a Turkish freighter on April 27.

The rest of the BSF surface fleet, however, is old.  Flagship Proyekt 1164 Slava-class CG Moskva will be due soon for overhaul and modernization.  Its other combatants, small missile ships, and amphibs are largely from the 1970s and 1980s.  These older ships patrol the Med, but to return to port for maintenance often after brief sorties.

Russian BDK-151 Azov in the Straits

Russian BDK-151 Azov in the Straits

The Russians originally formulated plans to renew a continuous naval presence in the Mediterranean during 2011-2012, primarily out of their concern with the Syrian civil war and thinking that they might intervene eventually.

The Russian Med patrols began in early 2013, and all four fleets provided ships under the Operational Command of the Distant Ocean Zone (Оперативное командование в дальней морской зоне or ОК ДМЗ).

At the time, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu acknowledged that overdue repairs and slow ship construction were hindering the navy and the new naval presence in the Med.  But five years hence, these problems have been overcome to a large extent.

Yasnitskiy on the wing bridge

Yasnitskiy on the wing bridge

TASS reported that Captain First Rank Pavel Yasnitskiy commands the Russian Mediterranean formation.

He is a 47-year-old third generation officer born in Severomorsk — the Northern Fleet headquarters, according to Ruinformer.com.  After commissioning, he served on a Black Sea Fleet destroyer before becoming executive officer, then commander of Baltic Fleet frigate Neustrashimyy.  He was to command the first Improved Sovremennyy-class destroyer Vnushitelnyy, but it was never finished. Instead, he served as chief of staff for a ship brigade.

Yasnitskiy then returned to the BSF as chief of staff for a formation.  He served as deputy chief of staff, chief of staff, and commander of Operational Command of the Distant Ocean Zone.

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Difficult Course to a Grand Fleet

Konstantin Bogdanov sees reason for pessimism when looking at the course ahead for rebuilding Russia’s fleet.  Writing in Friday’s Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye, he says, despite an intention to spend 4.7 trillion rubles of the ten-year GPV on the Navy, there are technical challenges, clearly impractical schemes, and failures in what he calls the “organization-financial plan” ahead. 

Bogdanov provides us a handy review of the state of Russian shipbuilding.

He points first to OSK’s insistence on seeing new aircraft carriers (with nuclear-powered destroyers in their battle groups) on the Russian Navy’s horizon.  But Defense Minister Serdyukov has only a cold rebuff for the idea.  Early R&D into what a new carrier might look like is as far as he’s being willing to go.  It was made pretty clear that a carrier isn’t part of this GPV.

Bogdanov says OSK may be looking for work for the New-Admiralty Wharves it sees on Kotlin Island in the future.  The 30- to 60-billion-ruble shipyard could be ready in 2016.  An aircraft carrier project would help launch this idea.

Then Bogdanov turns to the Navy’s more immediate needs — frigates and corvettes.  

Proyekt 22350 frigates are needed by tens, if not 30, or even 40, of them.  But Northern Wharf is having trouble building them.  Lead unit Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov was five years in construction, and its underway testing isn’t complete.  Fleet Admiral Kasatonov was laid down just about two years ago.  Its SAM system, Poliment-Redut with 9M96 missiles isn’t ready, and will have to be fitted right to finished frigates.  But Bogdanov sees the frigates’ VLS — the Multipurpose Ship Fire System (UKSK or УКСК) as a positive step.  It could fire antiship, antisubmarine, land-attack cruise missiles, torpedoes, and possibly SAMs.

When proyekt 22350 didn’t come along quickly, Bogdanov says, the Navy went for its own proyekt 11356M frigates like those being built for India.  But, he notes, Baltic Shipbuilding Plant “Yantar” in Kaliningrad isn’t having an easy time constructing them for its Indian and Russian customers.  There are delays in the Indian units, but Admiral Grigorovich and Admiral Essen have been laid down for Russia, and Admiral Makarov should join them soon.  The contract for a second batch of three was just signed.  They’re supposed to be “localized,” but may actually be more like the Indian versions.  They’re slightly cheaper than the proyekt 22350 at 10 billion vs. 16 billion rubles per ship.

Northern Wharf has the order for nine proyekt 20380 Steregushchiy-class corvettes (with the proyekt 22350 frigates this comes to more than 220 billion rubles).  Soobrazitelnyy (proyekt 20381) began sea trials this year, Boykiy was launched, Stoykiy is under construction, and Provornyy (proyekt 20385) was laid down.  Sovershennyy (proyekt 20380) remains under construction at Komsomolsk-na-Amure.  Bogdanov says the proyekt 20385 ships will have an eight-cell UKSK.

Bogdanov notes, however, that Northern Wharf’s production won’t be steady until its ownership issue is finally resolved.  If OSK takes over, this could have a good or bad effect on fulfilling defense orders, but the current financial questions around Northern Wharf are even worse.

Turning to submarines, Bogdanov believes the situation is more transparent, but there are still questions.

The SSBN picture is pretty clear.  Proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBNs finally have a missile that looks like it works.  Yuriy Dolgorukiy has fired it, and Aleksandr Nevskiy might this year.  Vladimir Monomakh is under construction, and they’re preparing production materials for Saint Nikolay.

The problem, he notes, is units 1 and 2 used sections and components of proyekt 971 and 949A submarines never built.  Units 3 and 4 will be built from scratch, and it’s too early to say how this will be reflected in their cost.  Bogdanov concludes another battle over inflated prices awaits, and there is, of course, still no 2011 contract with Sevmash.

It’s less clear with the multipurpose proyekt 885, Yasen-class, of which the Navy wants ten by 2020.  But these boats have been the focus of the Defense Ministry’s familiar complaint about unjustified price increases.  Unit 1 Severodvinsk was built from materials and resources on hand, and its rising price was frozen at 47 billion rubles in 2005.  The Defense Ministry says Sevmash wants 112 billion for unit 2 Kazan

Bogdanov thinks it’s hard to tell who’s justified here.  There is structural industrial inflation, and a higher costs could be the result of the frozen handover price on Severodvinsk.

Bogdanov mentions the thought given to cheaper attack boats like the Victor III or Akula, or proyekt 957 Kedr which never left the design phase.  The Yasen is intended to replace Soviet-era SSNs and SSGNs, but Bogdanov thinks it’s too complex and expensive to be built in the numbers Russia may need.  Twenty years ago the Russian Navy was planning for not less than 30 [sized of course against the U.S. fleet], and currently it has not more than 30 SSNs and SSGNs, and this is considered insufficient. 

Despite the uncertainty above, Bogdanov says one still hears talk about the need to develop a fifth generation submarine, but it’s unknown if there will be any development work on one.
 

GOZ War Winding Down?

Vedomosti’s Aleksey Nikolskiy sees a possible end to the conflict between the Defense Ministry and industry over the production of strategic nuclear systems.  His OSK source claims a multiyear Defense Ministry contract with Sevmash for proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBNs will be concluded in the coming week.  This would reportedly leave OSK with just one contract remaining to be completed.

Conclusion of a 40-billion-ruble contract for three proyekt 11356M frigates was announced Wednesday.

Vedomosti’s source said the Defense Ministry and OSK also finished a deal for proyekt 885 Yasen-class SSNs several days ago.  The paper once again cites Konstantin Makiyenko’s 500 billion ruble price tag for the new SSBNs and SSNs.

An industry source tells Vedomosti that all MIT’s ballistic missile contracts are complete.

While deals for renovating Russia’s strategic forces are apparently done at last, not all contracts for conventional armaments are finished, particularly those involving Rostekhnologii and its enterprises, according to the director of one of them.

What’s this mean?

The conclusion of submarine / SLBM / ICBM production contracts would be a relief to both sides since their absence has been the biggest GOZ news story.  If all this is done, or almost done, one would expect a major government or Defense Ministry press announcement soon.

If the submarine deals are worth 500 billion rubles, that is, once again, apparently closer to Defense Minister Serdyukov’s price than to OSK’s.

The proyekt 11356M frigates are updated Krivaks (or Talwars for India), and they aren’t exactly cheap.

The issue of incomplete contracts with Rostekhnologii’s enterprises is significant given the size and breadth of their work on weapons and military equipment.  People will ask which enterprises and systems are in question.  It also contradicts Serdyukov’s recent claims that only OSK deals needed to be inked, and implies there are lingering problems and issues in areas other than shipbuilding.

Popovkin Details the GPV

Yesterday First Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin gave RIA Novosti more details on Russia’s procurement plans under the State Program of Armaments (GPV), 2011-2020.  He said 78-80 percent of the 19-trillion-ruble Armed Forces portion of the GPV will go to procurement.   

Popovkin said Russia plans to develop a new liquid-fueled heavy ICBM to carry up to ten warheads, and having a service life of up to 35 years.  Former RVSN Commander General-Lieutenant Andrey Shvaychenko talked about a new liquid heavy as far back as late 2009, and the issue’s been debated in the Russian military press since. 

Popovkin said the Defense Ministry plans to accept the Bulava SLBM and the first two Borey-class SSBNs this year.  There will be 4-5 Bulava launches this year.  Recall to date only 7 of 14 Bulava tests have been successful.  Addressing the missile’s past failures, Popovkin said there were many deviations from the design documentation during production.  He also said Russia plans to build eight SSBNs to carry Bulava by 2020.  He was unclear if this includes the first two Borey-class boats.

Popovkin said work on a new strategic bomber is ongoing, and he claimed a technical design will be complete in 2015.  He said this work isn’t being rushed.

Popovkin told RIA Novosti  the Air Forces will receive more than 600 new aircraft and 1,000 new helicopters by 2020.  In 2011, Su-27SM, Su-30M2, Su-35S, Yak-130, and Su-34 aircraft are to be procured.  More than 100 helicopters, including Mi-26 transports and Mi-28N and Ka-52 combat helicopters will be acquired this year, according to Popovkin. 

Popovkin said a contract for the first ten experimental PAK FA (T-50) aircraft will be signed in 2013, with serial production of 60 aircraft beginning in 2016.

The GPV includes the purchase of ten S-500 air defense systems.  Popovkin said this system will begin testing in 2015, initially with missiles from the S-400.  Fifty-six S-400 units will also be purchased by 2020.  This sounds like seven 8-launcher battalions.   

Popovkin said the GPV will buy 100 ships – including 20 submarines, 35 corvettes, and 15 frigates – for the Navy.  He didn’t specify types for the other 30 ships, and it’s unclear if new SSBNs are included in these numbers.  Popovkin reconfirmed Russia’s plan to buy two and build two Mistral amphibious ships.  Recall also the Black Sea Fleet alone is supposed to get 18 new ships including proyekt 636 diesel-electric submarines, proyekt 11356 and 22350 frigates, and proyekt 11711 LSTs.

Popovkin also mentioned plans to buy a limited number of French FELIN soldier systems, with the intent of Russia producing its own version by 2020.  He looks for it to equal the advertised capabilities of U.S. and German equivalents.