Russia Plans To Add 20 Ships To The Black Sea Fleet, As It Turns 230

Today is the 230th anniversary of the establishment of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

During a speech, Fleet Commander Vice-Admiral Alexander Fedotenkov, told that Russia plans to add 20 ships to its Black Sea Fleet

The Russian Black Sea Fleet will be updated and improved to ensure the country’s national security. Up to 20 new ships, submarines and boats will join it in the near future, Fleet Commander Vice-Admiral Alexander Fedotenkov said in connection with the 230th anniversary of the fleet to be marked on May 13. . . .

The latest guard ship Admiral Grigorovich of Project 11356 is expected to be launched in 2013 and placed in service in 2014. It will be the first in the series of six guard ships of the project with the Kalibr high-accuracy long-range missile system. The ships are named Admiral Essen, Admiral Makarov, Admiral Butakov, Admiral Istomin and Admiral Kornilov, the commander said.

The navy also expects to receive six new submarines of Project 636, the Varshavyanka class. The first three will be named Novorossiisk, Rostov-on-Don and Stary Oskol, the vice-admiral said, adding that seven more various-purpose naval boats and other ships would join the fleet.

I am going straight to the point: I am very suspicious about the recent news and announcement on the Russian naval rearmament.

The Russians talk the talk but when it comes to deliver, there is nothing much to see.

Back in January, when the newest Russian  intercontinental ballistic  missile carrying nuclear powered submarine Yury Dolgoruky, was commissioned Russian President Mr. Putin said that the commissioning of the new submarines is part of an ambitious arms modernization program that envisages spending more than 20 trillion rubles ($657 billion) on new weapons through 2020. Mr Putin also said that 4 trillion rubles ($132 billion) of that money will be spent on commissioning the new submarines and other navy ships.

The plans have become more specific in March. How we have a more detailed plan and a list of the future projects.

Russia will get 78 warships in total by the end of 2020, said Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu as reported by RIA Novosty. According to Sergey Shoigu, military technology delivery is specified in the State Armaments Program of the Russian Federation. Within the frame of the Program the Russian Navy will receive 8 strategic nuclear-powered submarines, 16 general purpose-built submarines and 54 surface warships of varied classes.

As reported in the beginning of January 2013, the Russian Navy will receive 24 warships by 2016: 6 nuclear-powered submarines and 18 surface ships.

Currently Russian shipyards are building Yasen-class nuclear multipurpose attack submarines, Borei-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, Lada and Varshavyanka classes of diesel-electric submarines, Project 1135.6 frigates, Project 20380 corvettes, Project 21631 missile-equipped ships, Mistral class amphibious assault ships.

In February 2011 Vladimir Popovkin, who held a post of First Deputy Minister of Defence, told journalists, that by 2020 military department had to buy 100 surface ships and submarines: 20 submarines, 35 corvettes and 15 frigates in particular.

I must admit that the number are very very impressive. 78 warships of various classes worth of 4 trillion rubles ($132 billion). This is very ambitious.

Mr. Galrahn, of the famous naval blog Information Dissemination, estimates that until 2020 Russia will spend as much as US Navy spends for new ship construction.

That means Russia will supposedly spend $16.5 billion US on shipbuilding for the rest of the decade through 2020. They plan on building lots of smaller warships, submarines, and all types of auxiliary vessels – and sometimes they suggest they will build capital ships, but I’ll believe that when I see it.

But the key point is that Russia continues to publicly state they will spend $16.5 billion US annual average through 2020 for naval shipbuilding. According to Eric Labs at CBO, the US Navy plans to spend an average of $11.8 billion on naval shipbuilding from 2013-2017 and an average of $18.5 billion on naval shipbuilding from 2018-2022, resulting in a 10 year average for naval shipbuilding of $16.8 billion from 2013-2022.

While I don’t have the specific numbers that Eric Labs does, by my estimates it looks to me like that if Russia really is spending $16.5 billion US from 2013-2020 on shipbuilding, they will spend more money on average through 2020 on naval shipbuilding this decade than the US Navy will.

So there is the political will and backing from most politically powerful rulers of Russia and apparently there is money. But will the political backing and money sufficient to realize these grandiose dreams plans? Under normal circumstances money and political will should be enough. But this right this point is where my suspicion kicks in.

Because since the end of the Cold War the Russian naval shipbuilding failed again and again to deliver a modern warship that can compete in today’s naval engagement scenarios and fulfills the expectations of the end-user: The Russian Navy.

The construction of Yuri Dolgoruky, the first submarine of the Borei class started in 1995 but was slowed down by a post-Soviet economic meltdown, and it wasn’t until 2009 that it finally entered sea trials. The submarine’s commissioning was delayed further by problems with the new Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile intended to arm it. It took Russian military industrial complex 18 years to solve the problems of the new submarine and its main weapon.

It has been reported that, 3 Project 636 Varshavyanka (NATO code name Kilo) class submarines are being constructed for the Russian Black Sea Fleet instead of the newer Project 677 Lada class. The Kilo class submarines were designed before the collapse of the Soviet Union. They have been update ever since but they are not new. If the Russian Navy prefers a 20 year old design over the newer Lada submarines we can assume that the newer design is not satisfactory.

Two promising warships projects started after the Cold War and produced actual ships in commission are facing important difficulties  The Project 20380 Steregushchiy was terminated after 2 ships have been commissioned and 4 ships have been ordered. The Project 20380 corvettes have also been criticized by some experts because of their little arms and the weakness of their propulsion system. These criticisms are based on the experience gained through the first unit, Stereguschy. Its follow up Project 20385 is also a disappointment for the Russian Navy as finds the uselessness rather limited and the cost too high. The corvette Gremyaschy will probably remain as the sole copy of Project 20385. The Staff of the Russian Navy has decided to stop the continuation of the construction of these stealth corvettes, because of the high cost (unit cost between 14 billion (€ 350 million) and 18 billion (€ 450 million) rubles). The Staff of the Russian Navy also believes these ships are not sufficiently armed to fulfill their assigned missions.

The Russian Navy ordered, 3 units of Project 11356 class frigates to be commissioned in the Black Sea Fleet. The Project 11356 better know as the Talwar class of Indian Navy are based on the 34 years old Krivak class frigates. The Talwar class was designed and constructed by Russian shipyards solely for the Indian Navy. The success of this class must have convinced the Russian Navy to order it. It is remarkable that Russian Navy chose an old but proven design that was developed for export to a foreign country than a new design made purely for them.

Another problem of the Russian naval shipbuilding complex is timely delivery of the ships.

Russian shipyards are testing the patience of the Navy: admission to active duty units in new naval forces last year fall short of targets set for 2012.

 Russian shipyards are struggling to fulfill orders from the Ministry of Defence in a timely manner, while for export, the timing seems more strict, except for the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya (former Gorshkov Soviet PA) where notion of calendar seems long since faded.

 In 2012, the Russian Navy would have to admit at least 6 new units to active duty: 3 submarines and surface vessels 3. This is the K-535 SSBN Yury Dolgoruky (Project 955 Borei), the K-550 SSBN Alexander Nevsky (Project Borei 0955) and K-329 SSGNSeverodvinsk (Project 885 Yasen). For surface ships, it is multi-purpose frigate Admiral Gorshkov (Project 22350), and corvettes and Boïki Stoïki (Project 20380). However, during the year 2012, the Russian Navy has only received SSBN K-535   Yury Dolgoruky .Even if the delivery is a major event, it is the first SSBN be commissioned in the Russian Navy for almost 20 years, it should not be forgotten as the difficulties faced by the industrial Russian naval.

The other five units must be delivered and in 2013 the late Admiral Gorshkov frigate the was announced in November 2013, while the K-329 Severodvinsk launched in June 2010, will resume testing to the sea as soon as weather conditions permit. As for the K-550Alexander Nevsky (launched in December 2010), it should do a shot of the new strategic ballistic missile Bulava in the month of July. Some source announced its delivery delayed to 2014.

We just have to wait and see how much of the grandiose dreams of naval rearmament will become reality.

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