Tag Archives: Slava-class

Moskva Decision

Undated photo of Moskva in drydock

Undated photo of Moskva in drydock

An Interfaks-AVN source has told the news agency the fate of Black Sea Fleet flagship Moskva is undecided. For now, the cruiser remains at Sevastopol’s 13th Ship Repair Plant (13 SRZ) with a caretaker crew. And the Navy Main Command faces a complex choice.

Option 1 is a “deep modernization” costing perhaps 40-50 billion rubles the navy lacks. It would be “deeper” than Marshal Ustinov’s (which was really a protracted overhaul). The Northern Fleet’s Ustinov was laid up at Zvezdochka from 2011 until late 2016. But with Moskva, the superstructure would reportedly be modified to accommodate a VLS for the Kalibr-NK to replace the ship’s aged SS-N-12 / Sandbox ASCMs. But Moskva itself is already 35 years old.

Option 2 is scrapping Moskva. AVN’s source says this would be a blow to Russian and navy prestige, but he claims two new Gorshkov-class frigates (project 22350) could be built with funds not spent on Moskva.

In 2018, Moskva was expected to begin a three-year repair at Sevastopol’s Sevmorzavod — a Zvezdochka affiliate.

That three-year repair is actually Option 3, a middle point between “deep modernization” and scrapping. And it’s usually the choice settled upon.

Not mentioned by AVN is the 40-50 billion rubles for “deep modernization” is just a little less than what the navy planned to spend to return its Kuznetsov carrier to service (before PD-50 sank damaging the flight deck in the process).

Moskva was active in the Med supporting Russian operations in Syria from 2014 through early 2016, but has been virtually inactive since.

At some point, the navy will also have to decide what to do about the third and final Slava-class CG, the Pacific Fleet’s Varyag. It has 28 years of service and many miles under its keel.

Meanwhile, we wait for word on Moskva.

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Russia Not Likely to Buy Ukraina

Slava-class CG Ukraina

Will Russia buy the aging, semi-finished Slava-class CG Ukraina?  Probably not, unless the price is really right, i.e. basically zero.  It’s unlikely Russia will pay Ukraine to complete the cruiser because Russian shipyards have suggested towing it to Russia, refurbishing, and updating there. 

The questions are compelling only because of a recent video, varying reports about the ship and a possible deal, and what this all says about Moscow’s military procurement.

Military parity highlighted Podrobnosti.ua’s video.  Like the photo above, the video shows a major combatant in declining condition.

Nevertheless, according to recent ITAR-TASS, Ukraine’s Defense Minister is optimistic Kyiv and Moscow will finish Ukraina together.  And he claims the ship is 95 percent complete.

By way of review, Ukraina is a 1970s- or 1980s-vintage design being constructed as Fleet Admiral Lobov at Nikolayev’s [Mykolayiv’s] 61 Communards Shipbuilding Plant when the USSR collapsed.  Kyiv failed to find a foreign buyer for the ship, and reportedly spends $1 million every year maintaining it.  So that doesn’t mean a plethora of options or a very strong negotiating position for the Ukrainian side.

Talk of Russia buying Ukraina peaked last year in the wake of the base agreement extension between Moscow and Kyiv.  News outlets noted that the acting chief of the Russian Navy’s Technical Directorate inspected the cruiser and declared it 50 percent ready.  He said Ukraina would need 15 billion rubles for repairs and 35 billion for modernization — $1.7 billion in all.  The Navy’s 50 percent sounds a lot more like the 70 or 75 percent we’ve been hearing for many years than the Ukrainian Defense Minister’s 95 percent.

Reported pricetags for Ukraina, in its current shape, start at $70 or $80 million and run to ridiculous numbers.  In January, Argumenti.ru reported the Russian Defense Ministry would not pay scrap metal prices for Ukraina, but commented that Moscow would accept the ship as a gift.

Then there’s also the issue of whether the Russian Navy really needs it.  It’s an issue often forgotten in procurement debates.  Granted Ukraina is a something of a special case.  But it should also be a pretty easy decision.

Novyy region quoted a couple opinions last May.  Former Black Sea Fleet Commander Vladimir Komoyedov said:

“The ship hasn’t aged 15-20 years yet according to its capabilities.  However, it needs, of course, to be deployed in the ocean, in open theaters, and not in the Black Sea, not in the Baltic — there just isn’t sufficient space for it there.  The ships [Slava-class] are very good, not at all badly designed.  It can’t be said this cruiser belongs just to Ukraine alone.  Ukraine’s share of it, as far as I remember, is 17, a maximum of 20 percent.  Therefore the question’s about the purchase not of a full ship, but of a share — all the rest belongs to Russia.  The purchase issue has stood for a long time, and it needs to be resolved once and for all.  If such a decision is made, it’ll be the right one.  It’s better than the tin can Mistral by a factor of two.”

Defense analyst Aleksandr Khramchikhin, on the other hand, said:

“It’s very hard to understand who needs this ship now.  Undoubtedly, for our fleet which is shrinking into nothing, now such a cruiser has already become pointless.  We have to begin, so to speak, from below, and not from above, not with cruisers, but with frigates at least.  Moreover, these cruisers have a very narrow anti-aircraft carrier mission.  They were built exclusively for war with American carrier battle groups.  It doesn’t seem to me that this mission is all that acute for us now.  Therefore, it’s hard for me to comprehend why we need this ship, and where to put it if it is finished.”

All that said, the Russians might buy Ukraina anyway.  If they do, it’ll indicate a new State Program of Armaments gone awry in its first year.

Incredible Disappearing Fleet

Kara-class CG Kerch (713)

The Black Sea Fleet’s predicament is hardly a news story.  The press in recent months has featured stories claiming that the BSF will receive new ships to replace its aging order-of-battle.

But Gzt.ru maintains the BSF is just about rusted through, and its ships will be unable to go to sea by 2015.  A Navy Main Staff source says the average age of BSF ships exceeds 30 years—the practical limit for naval vessels.  He claims the fleet’s sailors keep their ships in good condition, but, since metal has its limits, their hulls are reaching a point where “no one will risk going to sea in such ships.”

The source says the oldest BSF ships—whose service lives have expired and don’t warrant further investment—will be written off.  They include the Kara-class CG Ochakov (707), Tango-class SS Saint Prince Georgiy (B-380), probably Kara-class CG Kerch (713), and various transport and auxiliary ships.  Ochakov is 37 years old, and spent the past 18 years in the repair yard.  The disappearance of the Ochakov and Kerch will leave the BSF with only two major surface combatants—Slava-class CG Moskva (121) and Kashin-class DDG Smetlivyy (810).  And there is apparently a rumor that the Moskva will remain in the Pacific after participating in Vostok-2010 this summer.  The BSF will also be down to a lone submarine, Kilo-class Alrosa (B-871), which reportedly awaits repair after an engineering casualty during a recent training cruise. 

The final decision to write off some ships is driven by a 30 percent cut in the fleet’s maintenance budget [recall Defense Minister Serdyukov saying the repair budget has been cut by 28-30 percent, supposedly in favor of new procurement].  Since February, personnel at the 13th and 91st ship repair plants have been reduced by 2 times, according to Newsru.com.  And the repair plants have practically no work this year.

So they’re not fixing old ships, but neither are new ones in sight . . . the press noted that the BSF didn’t get new units in the 2000s, will get no new ships this year, and the introduction of new ones isn’t planned.

A BSF staff representative told Gzt.ru that several new corvettes of the Steregushchiy type (proyekt 20380) would restore the BSF’s combat potential. The Steregushchiy is in the Baltic Fleet, and a second unit of the class was just launched on 31 March.  This seems too slow to help the BSF, even if any of these ships were destined for Sevastopol.

 A source tells Gzt.ru the basic problem is the lack of production capacity:

“All shipbuilding plants are overflowing with foreign orders for several years ahead, and even if there is money it’s very complicated to arrange additional production for the Russian Navy’s needs since there isn’t the right quantity of milling machinists, lathe operators, and welders.  There’s great productive potential in Ukraine, and we consider that the warming in Russian-Ukrainian relations could lead to realizing a number of projects on Ukrainian building ways, which never worked for the USSR’s Black Sea Fleet.”

Gazeta.ru provided the opinion of Vladimir Yevseyev, who believes, until the BSF gets a new main base, it won’t get any new ships.  He says all the fleet’s problems are connected with its basing.  Most Ukrainian politicians oppose extending Russia’s presence in Sevastopol beyond 2017.  And Moscow has allocated a billion rubles to build a new base at Novorossiysk, but billions of dollars are required to create modern infrastructure there.  Yevseyev doesn’t like Novorossiysk, or Ochamchira:

“But we need to choose, otherwise the fleet could simply be liquidated.  Russia is just simply marking time.”

Svpressa.ru seconds this line of thought, concluding that malicious people say the fleet’s fate has been decided, and Russia’s Crimean base is folding up, and, in order to avoid a furor, its order-of-battle will be liquidated by taking units out of service.