On October 19, 2018 SouthFront released an analysis titled “Russia’s New Maritime Doctrine And Issues With The Surface Fleet“. It adressed the current issues with the Russian surface fleet and how they impact the country’s maritime doctrine. It seems that analysis and opinions of SouthFront experts are now being confirmed by Russian specialists. The issues with the surface fleet are now among the key topics discussed by Russian military experts.
Written by Captain 3rd Rank Maksim Klimov; Originally appeared on Vpk.name, translated by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront
1. Critical problems
– Coastal zone ships are worn out, obsolete, have lost their combat value;
– Oceanic-zone ships are obsolete, worn-out, expensive to operate, and are very few in numbers, thus a naval “collapse” is inevitable in the early 2020’s.
– New projects and modernization:
- Project 22350 frigates. Four have been ordered, a bigger design is needed (Project 22350M) but since an appropriate powerplant is lacking, the 22350 order should be enlarged to at least 6 ships—three for Northern Fleet, three for Pacific Fleet.
- Project 20386 corvette—a flawed concept, very weak armament, but worst of all several fundamental technical problems have not been resolved, starting with the assessment of the deformation of the phased-array radar mount which is larger than the width of the beam itself, thus making it impossible to say whether the beam can be stabilized!
- Project 11711 amphibious assault ship—in spite of all its problems, it’s the most effective project for the oceanic zone (and such ships are simply indispensable for the functioning of the Navy), therefore it’s utterly puzzling why only 2 ships have been ordered (the first for the Northern Fleet), the minimum should be 2 ships (modernized, with stronger armament!) for Black Sea Fleet and Pacific Fleet, in order to maintain a permanent presence of one vessel in the Indian Ocean.
- Project 22160 patrol ship—a scandal wrought by the St. Petersburg Design Bureau and several officials. The ships are too slow, and lack seagoing ability means they can’t use helicopters or boats while underway, but the worst problem is that it’s a flawed concept. New threats and situation require far stronger ships.
- Project 12700 minehunter—an obsolete concept, it’s effective until it hits the first modern mine that will destroy it or its sole submersible UUV, plus it has powerplant construction problems.
- Project 22800 small missile ship—the most successful contemporary ship but…the Navy did not actually needed it (because modernized Project 1234, carrying not Uran but Kalibr missiles would have been far better, given the critical need for coastal ASW ships), and it also has issues with powerplant.
- Project 1155 large ASW ships—lagging and limited modernization, due to the servicing of the wiring being postponed and high operating costs (original plans included Kalibr missiles, new Tor missiles, powerplant overhaul, new radars, Minotavr sonar…).
- Project 11442(M) heavy cruiser—extremely costly, with an unviable modernization concept (“new Yamato”), clearly modernizing other ships is too costly and unviable (Yamato showed in 1945 what such ships are worth against air attack).
A good option would have been a normal modernization of Pr. 20380 (Kalibr in slanted launchers, radar “tower” from 22800, etc.), but Almaz stubbornly defended Pr. 20386.
The coastal zone is currently “naked”, both when it comes to ASW and minehunting, and the oceanic zone is awaiting a collapse.
It’s obvious that the Navy needs large classes of effective ships for both the coastal and oceanic zone.
Out of available assets, here’s what can be done:
- Increase Pr. 22350 by 2 ships (3 for Northern and Pacific fleets each)
- Increase Pr. 11771 by 2 ships (Black Sea and Pacific)
- Do not start new Pr. 22160 ships, and use the existing ones and those under construction to ensure security for North Stream.
- Given the powerplant situation, cancel contracts for Pacific Pr. 22800 and complete laid down ships in the West using old diesels and those small quantities of diesels which can be provided by Zvezda—there are no other options.
- Modernize Pr. 1234 with Kalibr missiles from slanted launchers
- Modernize Pr. 12700 in the course of construction.
But, most importantly, new projects are needed:
- Multirole corvette
- Oceanic frigate
- New small minehunter
When ship construction is delayed, yards accuse contractors, but there are “components” which can be relied on to ensure rapid ships construction, to prevent the ship collapse in the early ‘20s. It’s clear that given the financial situation, the cost of new ships should be limited.
The hardest problem is the coastal ASW. Only Kolomna and Minotavr are reliable. A “small Gepard” (with Karakurt layout) could be quickly put together under the state order system. A realistic construction term is 3 years, as shown by Karakurt. Ships should be built in pairs, given the specifics of their employment in groups.
The same goes for the frigate. Diesel powerplant (Kolomna), 3 screws (3 DRA 12000 diesels). It’s important to incorporate the powerplant planned for Pr. 20386, to avoid discarding already existing R&D. Construction time of 4.5 years seems realistic.
The closest conceptual equivalent—the huge (over 50 hulls) series PRC Project 056 corvettes.
Pr. 12700 minehunter has three flaws:
- Obsolete concept
- Insufficient explosion resilience
- Inability to carry out multiple missions (even on Pr. 266M level).
What is more, there are problems with diesels, Zvezda can deliver one set a year. The ships are needed, but require modernization.
This requires immediate construction of several minehunters on the basis of Pr. 10750E (with suitable import substitution and improved performance), organized same as the Karakurt—state order from the yard.
What is more, one needs a new small minehunter design (500t), ensuring a new level of performance. But it doesn’t make sense to issue orders for new ships until we obtain experience with the latest systems which would gain from the modernized design.
The new ships would have to have strictly limited costs:
- Minehunters: 2.5 billion rubles
- Corvettes: 5 bilion rubles
- Frigates: 15-20 billion rubles.
3. Organizational matters
There is no alternative to used diesels to overcome Pr. 22800 problems, in spite of all official claims to the contrary. One option is to use diesels from small ASW ships (as they are replaced with corvettes), which would provide enough engines for the missile ships that have been built or are under construction, even when one considers Zvezda’s limited capacity.
Other systems should be reused as well, for example, artillery from small ASW and missile ships, which is in good condition so it can be reused on new ships, as other navies do. Given the situation and “legal restraints”, this solution could be adopted only by the Supreme Commander. It would also make sense to quickly prepare relevant reports and documents on these issues.
Author: Captain 3rd Rank Maksim Klimov
Russia’s New Maritime Doctrine And Issues With The Surface Fleet: