Tag Archives: Soobrazitelnyy

Keep Close to Shore

“In essence, after many years of interruption, we are beginning a large shipbuilding program:  by 2020, 4.7 trillion rubles will be directed at reequipping Russia’s Navy.  The aim is clear — it is creating a modern fleet, capable of carrying out all missions — from nuclear deterrence to presence on the world’s oceans, to the security of our economic interests and Russia’s bioresources.”

That’s how Prime Minister Putin put it at Monday’s party conference in Cherepovets.  But Nezavisimaya gazeta and Vedomosti had sharp and pithy criticism for him and for the naval construction program.

NG concluded military voters might be cheered up, but the paper wants to know what the naval construction program is exactly.  Is it the one that’s buying Mistrals that may not be needed from France?  With what and how will the Navy be equipped?

Apparently not aircraft carriers.  And not other large warships either.  They’re built in Russia, but for sale to India and China.  NG continues:

“Our own fleet is being populated piecemeal.  And, as a rule, we’re talking about a mosquito fleet.  Which, of course, is not capable of completing missions ‘from nuclear deterrence to presence on the world’s oceans.'”

The editorial cites former Black Sea Fleet Commander Vladimir Komoyedov who complains about the retirement of the Kara-class CG Ochakov, and claims nothing new is being developed.  It quotes Aleksandr Pokrovskiy who says the Baltic Fleet’s new Steregushchiy and Soobrazitelnyy corvettes are not participating in exercises because they’re only 50 percent combat ready.

So, asks NG, what kind of modern fleet are we talking about?  About past shipbuilding programs, it says:

“They were concrete and understandable — how many and what types of ships must be built.  Today politicians prefer to talk not about this, but about large-scale financial investment in the future fleet.  And in the very distant future at that.  From the point of view of the 2011 and 2012 election campaigns, it could be, that this is correct.  But from the point of view of the country’s security — hardly.”

Vedomosti takes its turn:

“. . . the idea of turning Russia into a great naval power has agitated the minds of the leaders of the Russian state for more than 300 years already.  The question is how acute this mission is in the 21st century and how Putin’s new slogans correspond to programs already adopted.”
 
“But the thing is not just the quality of the state program [of armaments], but also its strategic aims, which the government’s leader lays out.  We’d like the prime minister to formulate precisely what level of Navy presence in the world’s oceans and what he has in mind for its participation in the defense of bioresources.  Security of mineral and biological resources is an affair for civilian services and maritime border guards . . . .”
The business daily goes on to say corvettes, frigates, and landing ships are capable of completing “understandable and necessary missions.”  Still, it
says:
 
“Many experts consider extravagant the purchase of the Mistrals (four ships cost 2.35 billion euros), intended to support amphibious operations at a great distance from native shores.  Some admirals and VPK directors called for development of aircraft carrier groups.  Similar projects, the cost of which stretches to tens of billions of euros, will cause curtailment of construction of ships needed for the fleet, overloading and technological breakdowns in Russian shipyards.  In any case, Russia’s main problems have to be resolved on land.”
Sound advice given that the procurement problems of the Ground Troops and Air Forces, not to mention the RVSN, are just as serious and urgent as the Navy’s (if not more so).
 
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Viktor Litovkin on BSF

Writing in Friday’s Nezavisimaya gazeta, Viktor Litovkin talked about the procurement of proyekt 20380 corvettes from Piter’s Northern Wharf.  The second unit Soobrazitelnyy was just launched, and three more have been laid down, but it’s not clear when they’ll enter of the order-of-battle.  A total of 20 are planned, but the specialists say everything depends on financing.

Then Litovkin turns to last week’s reports of imminent decommissioning for Ochakov, Kerch, etc.  He says this’ll leave the BSF with about 40 ships (12 of which are either in repair or a ‘conservation’ status).  He puts the average age of the remaining fleet units at 25-30 years, and the youngest are its proyekt 1239 small air cushion missile ships.

As far as capabilities go, the BSF is still stronger than Ukraine and Georgia (at least), but there is a question as to whether it can defend the country’s interests.  But maybe it doesn’t have to be so powerful when the country still has the RVSN, and the BSF wasn’t really challenged in the August 2008 war with Georgia, and it can still show the flag in the Mediterranean, defend the country’s economic zones, and participate in antipiracy operations off the Horn of Africa.  No one would take it into their head to compare it with the U.S. 6th Fleet.

But still Litovkin wants to answer why the BSF reached its current state.  Because the ‘Orange Revolution’ Ukrainians wouldn’t permit Moscow to renew the BSF’s potential in ships, aircraft, or personnel.  And Moscow was busy trying to modernize and preserve parts of the military other than surface ships.  He says:

“It built them for India, China, Vietnam.  Only now is it beginning to launch new corvettes and frigates for the Navy.  But by a drop (by one) per year.  And this is for all four fleets and a flotilla.”

“According to experts’ assertions, in the coming 10-15 years there are no possibilities for renewing the composition of the surface fleet.  Despite even the fact that today two frigates for the distant naval zone are laid down (proyekt 22350), five corvettes of proyekt 20380, three small gun ships of proyekt 21630, large landing ship of proyekt 11711… But even if the program of their construction is successful, they won’t under any circumstances compensate for the ships withdrawn due to age.”

“Even the Mistral won’t help here.”