Tag Archives: Steregushchiy

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.
 
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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).
 

The Navy and State Armaments Program 2011-2020

One could make a study of nothing but forecasts about the Russian Navy’s future.  They vary pretty widely.  But Trud’s military correspondent, Mikhail Lukanin, published an interesting and realistic one on 24 November.

Lukanin claims the details of future Navy procurement plans have been revealed to Trud.  This assumes the Navy (or someone) actually knows what they are at this point . . . a debatable proposition.  At any rate, what he presents sounds pretty reasonable and achievable, whether or not it has any official sanction.

Lukanin breaks the news that the largest part of Russia’s military expenditures and arms procurement over the next 10 years will be for the Navy.  He cites Ruslan Pukhov:

“Of the 19 trillion rubles allocated in the budget for the purchase of new armaments until 2020, the fleet’s share comes to 5 trillion, that is significantly more than any other service of the Armed Forces.”

If this turns out to be true, it is a significant amount, 500 billion rubles (more than $16 billion) per annum over the coming decade, if the Defense Ministry gets its promised amount, and the Navy gets its.  Lukanin says the Navy, which got only four new ships in the last 20 years, will be the military’s priority for the very first time.  He says, according to ‘plans,’ the Navy will receive 36 submarines and 40 surface combatants.

Lukanin explains all this with a quote from former First Deputy CINC of the Navy, Fleet Admiral Ivan Kapitanets:

“Sharply reinforced attention to the fleet is explained by the fact that Russia’s military-political leadership, judging by everything, has come to the conclusion that the state’s naval power is more important than ground forces.”

He points to the rapid U.S. defeat of a strong Yugoslav Army in 1999 using only air power, much of which was carrier-launched.

But Lukanin also cites Anatoliy Tsyganok, who believes a continental power like Russia can never undervalue its land troops.

With all this said, Lukanin addresses what will come out of Russia’s new ‘naval concept’ in which the U.S. is no longer the enemy, and ships aren’t built for a single purpose like killing carriers.  He lists:

  • 8 SSBNs.
  • 22 SSNs and diesel-electric submarines (yes, this would be 30, not 36, as it said at the top, and at least two of the SSBNs are complete, well almost).
  • 12 frigates like the new Admiral Gorshkov frigate (proyekt 22350).
  • 20 Steregushchiy corvettes (proyekt 20380).
  • 10 amphibious landing ships, 4 Mistral type ships and 6 Ivan Gren-class LSTs (proyekt 11711).

Citing unnamed ‘analysts,’ Lukanin posits four missions that would be fulfilled exclusively by Russia’s naval forces:

  • Securing Russia’s oil and gas resources, facilities, and transport on the world’s oceans.
  • Protecting maritime trade links from piracy.
  • Providing a naval counterweight to China’s population and military manpower on Russia’s Far East borders.  Lukanin’s analysts contend the Chinese Navy is relatively weak, and the “Pacific Fleet even in its current, far from perfect condition is superior to the Chinese in combat potential by several times” (was the same thing said about the Japanese before Tsushima?).
  • Showing the flag in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Latin America to interest countries in closer ties and arms contracts with Russia.

Lastly, Lukanin looks at how the importance and roles of Russia’s individual fleets will change.  He calls this the turn to the Pacific.  He says the Pacific Fleet will get most of the Navy’s large surface ships, and half of its nuclear submarines.  It will get the first Mistral, and has the mission of deterring both China and Japan.  The Northern Fleet will retain its importance as home to many SSBNs, and because of Russia’s oil and gas claims in the Arctic.  But its surface force will decline.  The Black Sea Fleet will be a focus of renewal; it is looking at a Mistral, 12 new corvettes, and 6 new submarines.  Its focus is Georgia, and South Stream.  The Baltic Fleet will be reduced, losing ships to the Black Sea Fleet, though it will get 2-3 new corvettes.

So what it comes down to is, can the Navy get everything Lukanin listed?  ‘Back of the envelope’ math says yes.  What he listed might cost $30 billion, maybe $40 at the extreme.  There is also stuff the Navy’s discussed but he didn’t mention (carriers, refurbishing CGNs, restarting the WIG program, new naval aircraft).

What are the impediments to carrying off such a program?  Firstly, actually getting the promised amount of financing.  GPVs are easy to launch, but don’t get finished before they’re superceded by another one.  In short, over a ten-year period, it’s unlikely the Navy will get the planned amount.  Even if it does, how much will the corruption ‘tax’ eat away at the amount?  Short answer – a lot. 

Beyond financing, there’s another complex issue – can Russia’s naval industry produce this list in the coming decade?  How much productive capacity is available, what condition is the infrastructure in?  Is there sufficient skilled labor for what shipyards pay and where they’re located?  Recent experience says things aren’t good on this score.  Some yards are still pretty full with foreign orders, Sevmash seems full with Russian orders, and other yards are in poor shape.  In short, it seems it is taking longer than planned to get new ships and submarines in the water.

Perhaps the present author is just not an optimist.  Moscow can afford the ‘plan’ Lukanin describes, but actually completing it will be difficult for a lot of reasons.

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.