Summary of Russian navy ship construction

Ilya Kramnik has put together a handy set of summary tables of Russian naval surface ship construction, including contracts signed. The Russian original is here, for those interested.

Total for the Russian Navy as of 17.11.2013: 41 contracted combat ships, incl. 2 universal amphibious assault ships, 2 large amphibious assault ships, 14 frigates, 15 corvettes, 8 small missile boats. Of these, 24 ships are under construction, incl. 2 universal amphibious assault ships, 2 large amphibious assault ships, 9 frigates, 5 corvettes, 6 small missile boats. Six of these ships have been launched, incl. 1 universal amphibious assault ship, 1 large amphibious assault ship, 1 frigate,  1 corvette, and 2 small missile boats.

Universal Amphibious Ships

Project # BPC-160 (Mistral)

Name Shipyard Laid down Launched Sea trials Commissioning Notes
Vladivostok STX Europe,  Saint-Nazare; Baltiiskii Zavod, St. Petersburg 01.02.2012 15.10.2013 Spring 2014 (planned) Nov 2014 (planned) Planned for Pacific Fleet. Crew being formed.
Sevastopol STX Europe,  Saint-Nazare; Baltiiskii Zavod, St. Petersburg 18.06.2013 Oct 2014 (planned) 2015 (planned) 2015 (planned) Planned for Pacific Fleet

Total: 2 contracted, 2 under construction, incl. 1 launched

Large Amphibious ships

Project # 11711 (Ivan Gren)

Name Shipyard Laid down Launched Sea trials Commissioning Notes
Ivan Gren Yantar, Kaliningrad 23.12.2004 18.05.2012 2014 (planned) 2014 (planned)
Yantar, Kaliningrad Keel laid, construction frozen. Continuation of the series is uncertain.

Total: 2 contracted, 2 under construction, incl. 1 launched

Frigates

Project # 22350 (Admiral Gorshkov)

Name Shipyard Laid down Launched Sea trials Commissioning Notes
Admiral Gorshkov Severnaia Verf, St. Petersburg 01.02.2006 29.10.2010 Spring 2014 (planned) Fall 2014 (planned) Commissioning delayed Commissioning delayed because AU A-192 artillery unit is not ready.  Planned for Northern Fleet.
Admiral Kasatonov Severnaia Verf, St. Petersburg 26.11.2009 Spring 2014 (planned) Spring 2015 (planned) 2015 (planned) Planned for Northern Fleet
Admiral Golovko Severnaia Verf, St. Petersburg 01.02.2012 2014 (planned) 2015 (planned) 2016 (planned) Planned for Northern Fleet
Admiral Isakov Severnaia Verf, St. Petersburg 14.11.2013 2015 (planned) 2016 (planned) 2016 (planned) Planned for Northern Fleet
Admiral Yumashev Severnaia Verf, St. Petersburg Spring 2014 (planned) 2016 (planned) 2017 (planned) 2017 (planned) Keel being laid
Severnaia Verf, St. Petersburg 2014 (planned) 2017 (planned) Keel being laid
Severnaia Verf, St. Petersburg 2015 (planned) 2018 (planned) Contract signed
Severnaia Verf, St. Petersburg 2015 (planned) 2018 (planned) Contract signed

Project 11356 (Admiral Grigorovich)

Name

Shipyard Laid down Launched Sea trials Commissioning

Notes

Admiral Grigorovich Yantar, Kaliningrad 18.12.2010 Fall 2013 (planned) Spring 2014 (planned) 2014 (planned) Planned for Black Sea Fleet
Admiral Essen Yantar, Kaliningrad 08.07.2011 Spring 2014 (planned) Summer 2014 (planned) 2014 (planned) Planned for Black Sea Fleet
Admiral Makarov Yantar, Kaliningrad 29.02.2012 Winter 2015 (planned) Spring 2015 (planned) 2015 (planned) Planned for Black Sea Fleet
Admiral Butakov Yantar, Kaliningrad 12.07.2013 2015 (planned) 2015 (planned) 2016 (planned)
Admiral Istomin Yantar, Kaliningrad 15.11.2013 2015 (planned) 2016 (planned) 2016 (planned)
Admiral Kornilov Yantar, Kaliningrad Winter 2014 (planned) 2016 (planned) Keel being laid

Total: 14 contracted, 9 under construction, incl. 1 launched

 

Corvettes

Project 20380 (Steregushchii)

Name

Shipyard Laid down Launched Sea trials Commissioning

Notes

Sovershennyi Amur Shipyard, Komsomolsk-na-Amure 30.06.2006 Fall 2013 (planned) Spring 2014 (planned) 2014 (planned) Construction delayed due to shipyard’s poor financial situation.

Planned for Pacific Fleet

Stoikii Severnaia Verf, St. Petersburg 10.11.2006 30.05.2012 Spring 2014 (planned) 2014 (planned) Construction delayed due to problems with artillery unit AU A-190. Planned for Baltic Fleet.
Gromkii Amur Shipyard, Komsomolsk-na-Amure 20.04.2012 2014 (planned) 2014 (planned) 2015 (planned) Planned for Pacific Fleet
Rezvyi Amur Shipyard, Komsomolsk-na-Amure 2014 (planned) 2017 (planned) Contract signed

Planned for Pacific Fleet

Strogii (likely) Amur Shipyard, Komsomolsk-na-Amure 2014 (planned) 2017 (planned) Contract signed, Planned for Pacific Fleet

Project 20385 (Gremiashchii)

Name

Shipyard Laid down Launched Sea trials Commissioning

Notes

Gremiashchii Severnaia Verf, St. Petersburg 01.02.2012 2015 (planned) 2015 (planned) 2016 (planned)
Provornyi Severnaia Verf, St. Petersburg 25.07.2013 2016 (planned) 2016 (planned) 2016 (planned)
Sposobnyi (likely) Severnaia Verf, St. Petersburg 2013 (planned) 2016 (planned) 2017 (planned) Keel being laid
Severnaia Verf, St. Petersburg 2014 (planned) 2017 (planned) Keel being laid
Severnaia Verf, St. Petersburg 2014 (planned) 2017 (planned) Keel being laid
Severnaia Verf, St. Petersburg 2018 (planned) Contract signed
Severnaia Verf, St. Petersburg 2018 (planned) Contract signed
Severnaia Verf, St. Petersburg 2018 (planned) Contract signed
Severnaia Verf, St. Petersburg 2019 (planned) Contract signed
Severnaia Verf, St. Petersburg 2019 (planned) Contract signed
Total: 15 contracted, 5 under construction, incl. 1 launched. In 2008-2013 the navy received three project 20380 corvettes. The number of contracted corvettes may be reduced in favor of a new littoral combat ship-style corvette.

Small Missile Boats

(often considered corvettes by Western analysts)

Project 21631 (Buyan)

Name

Shipyard Laid down Launched Sea trials Commissioning

Notes

Grad Sviazhsk Zelenodolsk shipyard 27.08.2010 09.03.2013 08.2013 2013 (planned) Planned for Caspian Flotilla
Uglich Zelenodolsk shipyard 22.07.2011 10.04.2013 08.2013 2013 (planned) Planned for Caspian Flotilla
Velikii Ustiug Zelenodolsk shipyard 27.08.2011 2013 (planned) 2014 (planned) 2014 (planned) Planned for Caspian Flotilla
Zelenyi Dol Zelenodolsk shipyard 29.08.2012 2014 (planned) 2014 (planned) Planned for Caspian Flotilla
Serpukhov Zelenodolsk shipyard 25.01.2013 2014 (planned) 2015 (planned) Likely for Black Sea Fleet
Vyshnii Volochek Zelenodolsk shipyard 25.08.2013 2015 (planned) 2015 (planned) Likely for Black Sea Fleet
Orekhovo-Zuyevo Zelenodolsk shipyard 2014 (planned) 2016 (planned) Contract signed. Likely for Black Sea Fleet
Zelenodolsk shipyard 2014 (planned) 2016 (planned) Contract signed. Likely for Black Sea Fleet
Total: 8 contracted, 6 under construction, incl. 2 launched.

MVMS-2013 naval salon prompts more reflections on the future of the Russian navy

There have been a number of interesting articles written on the future of the Russian Navy in conjunction with the naval salon in St. Petersburg earlier this month. I’ll try to summarize the interesting points without repeating material found in my earlier articles on this topic.

The most recent bit of news is that the Russian navy is planning to order an additional three Talwar class (project 11356) frigates, on top of the six already in the works. The idea is that these are relatively capable ships that can be built and outfitted very quickly (at a rate of one per year for the construction). Three are currently under construction and according to the most recent reports, two more are to be laid down this year. These are well armed ships, comparable to the Sovremennyi class destroyers in armament, though more versatile. Whereas the original plan had been to deploy all six to the Black Sea Fleet, the current plan is to station the first three there while the next three would go to the Baltic Fleet. As Prokhor Tebin points out, this makes absolutely no sense. The Baltic Fleet should be the Russian Navy’s lowest priority, focused primarily on testing new ships and training. Both the BSF and the Pacific Fleet are in much greater need of new ships of this type. But that sort of thing can be changed once the ships are actually ready for commissioning. The truly significant news is that three more such ships will be built in the near future and, unlike the more complicated Admiral Gorshkov class frigates, are likely to be put to use quite quickly.

Ilya Kramnik had an interesting summary of plans for the future that adds some information and analysis to what I’ve already discussed.  He mentions plans for a new attack submarine that is expected to become the mainstay of the fleet for the next several decades. This will be a smaller and cheaper submarine than the Yasen class. It will combine the usual missions of protecting Russian and tracking foreign SSBNs. In other words, if we thinking of the Yasen as the Russian Seawolf, then this new class will be the Virginia. Plans call for 20 such submarines to be built by the end of the 2020s, with construction of the first sub to start in the next 5-7 years.

So if all the submarine plans are carried out, by 2030 the Russian Navy will get a total of 35-36 new nuclear submarines, including 8 Boreis, 7-8 Yasens, and up to 20 of the new class. The total cost would be 1.5 trillion rubles at current prices, not including expenses for modernizing existing submarines. Personally, I think this is overly ambitious. Even if we assume that the design process will proceed without delays and construction and construction does start in 2018 or thereabouts, I highly doubt that the Russian shipbuilding industry is capable of building 20 new submarines in 10-12 years. I realize that the submarine-building sector is the healthiest part of the industry, but there is just no record even in the industry’s Soviet history of building two nuclear submarines of the same type per year. Even one would be ambitious, given recent history.  I suppose it would be possible if the Amur shipyard was pressed into service, though my understanding is that it is not building submarines any more. Even if it were, it would take a lot to get that shipyard up to speed.

In addition to the new destroyer that we discussed last week, new plans for surface ships include a littoral combat ship. The design of the LCS has not been finalized and fairly non-traditional options such as a catamaran or trimaran are supposedly on the table.  Industry representatives want to build 1-2 ships of the two best designs to test their capabilities and then select one for serial production. 35-40 such ships could be built for all four fleets, at a total cost of 250-280 billion rubles. Such pace of construction would be made possible by using multiple shipyards, including those in St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Komsomolsk-na-Amure, Zelenodolsk and possible Krasnoe Sormovo.

Discussions are still under way about the design of a potential new aircraft carrier.  Photos of a model that represents current thinking show a classical design, equipped with a ski jump and a catapult, and with an estimated length of 320 meters and 80,000 tons displacement. While discussions continue, the Admiral Kuznetsov will remain in service. Its modernization, originally scheduled to begin in 2012 will be postponed until the second half of this decade.

The main problem with all these plans is the continued weakness of the shipbuilding sector. In a separate article, Kramnik mentions the complexity of new equipment, including radars, control systems, hydroacoustics, and weapons.  He notes that this has led to delays in construction of the Admiral Gorshkov class frigates and the Yasen class submarines, among others. (I would also add the Lada class diesel submarines to this list.) There are also complications resulting from the merger of many disparate plants, in varying condition and with different ways of doing business, into the United Shipbuilding Corporation. This has resulted in various problems with finances and personnel that presently can only be resolved through “manual control.”

Igor Zakharov, the vice president of United Shipbuilding Corporation, argues that the way to solve the sector’s problems is to give the chief designer of any major shipbuilding project both personal responsibility before the client and the right to ensure that sub-contractors fulfill their obligations on time. He doesn’t spell out what mechanisms would be used to ensure the latter, but he does call for the introduction of arbitration mechanisms to resolve conflicts between industry and the MOD over issues such as pricing.

He also notes that Russian shipbuilding needs to adapt to the modern world, where hulls can last 50 years or more while electronics and armaments become outdated much more quickly. This requires ships to be built in a way that allows for easy modernization and replacement of weapons and equipment. Soviet ships, by contrast, did not consider the possibility of such updates, making their modernization in the new environment very costly and time consuming. New capital ships will be built in small series. Furthermore, rapid advances in electronics will require that even these series be divided into sub-series that will maintain unity of ship design while updating electronics and weaponry. Some systems and weapons can be used across ship classes. We are already seeing elements of these ideas in systems such as the multipurpose shipboard firing system (УКСК) and in the modular construction of the latest classes of Russian corvettes and frigates.

These are good ideas. The problem is the extent to which they are stymied by the conglomerate nature of United Shipbuilding and by the difficulty its personnel and business structures face in adapting to the new way of doing business. Over time, I imagine the shipbuilding industry will improve. But time is needed, while the navy is providing the industry with somewhat unrealistic timetables for the construction of new ships. The result will be more delays, though probably not as bad as in the recent past.

Alternative designs for the new Russian destroyer

Just a quick note today. My friend and colleague Ilya Kramnik plots out four alternative designs for the new Russian destroyer currently in the works.

1) 7500-9000 tons, ~160 meters long, gas turbine CODAG propulsion, top speed of >30 knots

Equipped with 1x1x130mm gun, 2 CIWS complexes, 32 universal shipboard firing complexes (Kalibr/Oniks) and 64 Redut shipboard missiles, 2 Paket-NK anti-submarine torpedo systems, 2 helicopters

2) 9500-11500 tons, ~190 meters long, gas turbine CODAG propulsion, top speed of approximately 30 knots

Equipped with 1x2x130mm guns, 4 CIWS complexes, 48 universal shipboard firing complexes (Kalibr/Oniks) and 80 Redut shipboard missiles, 2 Paket-NK anti-submarine torpedo systems, 2 helicopters

3) 12,500-14,700 tons, ~200 meters long, either gas turbine CODAG or nuclear propulsion, top speed of approximately 30 knots

Equipped with 2x2x152mm guns, 4 CIWS complexes, 64 universal shipboard firing complexes (Kalibr/Oniks) and 80 Redut shipboard missiles, 2 Paket-NK anti-submarine torpedo systems, 2 helicopters

4) 13,000-15,200 tons, ~210 meters long, either gas turbine CODAG or nuclear propulsion, top speed of approximately 30 knots

Equipped with 1x2x152mm guns, 4 CIWS complexes, 16 universal shipboard firing complexes (Kalibr/Oniks) and 48 Redut shipboard missiles, 2 Paket-NK anti-submarine torpedo systems, 5 helicopters

All four versions would have the Sigma-E combat management system and Poliment active phased array radar. The largest of these options is pretty close to a cruiser, I suppose.

No more imports?

It seems that the new leadership team at the MOD has decided to stop using the threat of importing armaments from abroad to get Russian defense industry to improve the quality of its products. For a couple of years, this seemed to be a favorite tool for former Defense Minister Serdyukov, especially in his bid to improve the quality of Russian tanks and armored vehicles. I covered the topic on several occasions, in particular here and here. A recent report to the Military Industrial Commission’s Public Chamber also took up the question.

But just in the last week, there have been two indications that the MOD has turned away from imports and will return to the autarkic model of military procurement that has been more traditional for the country’s armed services. First, the commander of Russia’s Ground Forces announced that there will be no further orders of the Italian IVECO LMV65 armored vehicle, known in Russia as the Lynx. Under the previous regime at the MOD, an Oboronservis-owned plant in Voronezh was to produce these vehicles under license while undertaking an effort to use as many Russian components as possible. Just last July, the ministry had asked the government for permission to increase the order from 727 to 3000 vehicles. Now it appears that while existing contracts will be fulfilled, no more orders will be forthcoming and the ground forces will instead be equipped with the Russian-made Tigr vehicle, which is better armed but less well armored than the Lynx.

Just yesterday, Military-Industrial Commission Deputy Head Ivan Kharchenko called the Mistral deal absurd and argued that it has caused significant damage to the state and the Russian shipbuilding industry. Last month, the MOD announced that it is deferring plans to build the third and fourth Mistral ships in Russia, while continuing on with construction of the first two hulls in France. It seems that the only reason Russia has not canceled the contract altogether is that it would then be required to pay huge financial penalties to the French contractor.

All of this indicates that domestic defense industry has won its battle with the MOD over procurement policy. The conflict all along was between the real needs of the military for new equipment and the desire of defense industry to keep the money coming in regardless of whether or not it was able to provide the military with the equipment it needed in a timely manner. Instead, we may be returning to the old ways where the military is given little choice but to buy the equipment that the defense industry is producing, regardless of whether it fits the military’s needs. In some sectors, defense industry is well-positioned to fulfill the military’s needs. In others, imports seem to be the only solution, at least in the short to medium term. In a recent conversation, my colleague Ilya Kramnik noted that the An-26 light transport aircraft is soon to be retired, with no domestic replacements yet available. Neither the An-140T or the Il-112V are currently available, nor are they likely to be ready for serial production by 2016-17. In that case, Kramnik argues that the only possible replacements would be foreign planes such as the Alenia C-27J Spartan or the EADS CASA C-295. So the Russian military will have to consider the question of imports soon enough.

In the meantime, however, the defense industry’s defeat of Serdyukov reduces the likelihood that the military will get the equipment it needs. It will take time for the MOD to amass the political capital to fight back against the industry and its allies. The result will be that the industry will get its money, while the military will be promised new equipment that in many cases will not arrive on schedule. In a few years, the military’s situation will get even worse, while the MOD will have rebuilt some of its lost political capital. At that point the fight over imports versus domestic manufacture will resume  – but that won’t come for 3-4 years.

 

Reviving the Russian Air Force

The Russian Air Force appears to have turned a corner on procurement, having received 40 new airplanes and 127 new helicopters in the last year. For the first time, the entire aviation procurement plan appears to have been fulfilled. The winged aircraft include 10 Su-34s, 6 Su-35s, 2 Su-30SMs, and over 20 Yak-130s. There’s no detailed breakdown of helicopters, though the bulk are probably Mi-28N and Ka-52s. This is an improvement on 2011, when 31 fixed-wing aircraft and over 50 helicopters were procured. Given that in 2010, the numbers were 23 and 37, respectively, we are seeing a positive trend in procurement of military aviation. It will probably still be tricky for the aircraft industry to reach the stated State Armament Program goal of delivering 1,120 helicopters and 600 fixed-wing aircraft by 2020, but reaching 70 percent of that target by 2020 seems quite doable, with the rest arriving by 2025 at the latest.

Ilya Kramnik has recently analyzed what the recent success in procurement means for the Russian air force. He notes that with the new aircraft, the Russian air force will have greater range, both because of the characteristics of the aircraft themselves and because they will all have the capacity for in-flight refueling. The new aircraft will also increase the air force’s ability to attack targets on the ground, as they will all be capable of using high precision weapons against ground targets. This capability will be augmented by an increase in the procurement of precision-guided munitions in coming years. Kramnik also notes the modernization of education and training for air force pilots, including the acquisition of modern flight simulators and an increase in average flight time to 100 hours per year.

Kramnik notes some remaining problems, including the need to improve infrastructure at air bases and the modernization of critical capabilities for supporting combat aircraft, including refueling, reconnaissance, AWACS, and electronic warfare aircraft. Without such aircraft, even the most modern combat aircraft cannot function effectively. In conclusion, Kramnik advocates the conversion of existing commercial aircraft (such as Il-62 and Il-86 jets currently in storage) into tankers, a process that could be done more quickly than building a sufficient number of new refueling aircraft and could give the air force 30-40 additional tankers by the end of the current decade. He argues that without this type of conversion program, this quantity of tankers could only be reached by the late 2020s, and even then only at the expense of a number of transport and AWACS aircraft. Such a program would allow each air base to have its own detachment of tankers.

All in all, Russia’s military aviation  industry is in pretty good shape. Russian strike aircraft are already of fairly high quality, with the main problems revolving around the age of the air frames rather than their capabilities. Sukhoi and Irkut have already shown themselves capable of producing new aircraft in a relatively timely manner. There are some questions concerning the feasibility of the development timelines for the T-50 fifth-generation fighter plane and the extent to which the plane will be equipped with true fifth-generation components, but every country that has sought to develop a fifth-generation fighter plane has run into delays. The essential point that the Russian military will have a fifth-generation strike fighter in serial production sometime in the next decade is beyond doubt. There are, however, questions about the future of MiG, which did not provide any new planes for the Russian air force last year or the year before.

As Kramnik highlights, what’s most needed is the revitalization of less glamorous parts of the aviation industry, especially transport and refueling aircraft. These are areas in which the air force has struggled to maintain capabilities in the post-Soviet period. The construction of new production lines for these types of aircraft will go a long way toward the MOD’s stated goals of making the Russian military more mobile and extending the range of its attack aircraft through aerial refueling. The MOD seems to be cognizant of this need and is going forward with projects to build these types of support aircraft.

 

Russian warships head off on exercise, not to prop up Assad

The Russian Navy recently announced that it is sending a number of warships to conduct exercises in the Mediterranean. What’s more, these ships are expected to stop in Tartus, the Russian refueling facility in Syria, and several of the ships are carrying naval infantry. This deployment has obviously raised concern in the West, much as a previous (false) report of Russian marines being sent to Syria did. The New York Times and Forbes.com’s Mark Adomanis both provide a lot of useful information without excessive hype, but I’m not sure either has the whole context. So let me spell out exactly what the deployment involves and provide some of that context.

This is far from the first time in recent years that Russia has sent ships to the Med. What’s more, when Russian ships go to the Med, either for exercises or in transit, they virtually always stop at Tartus. So there’s no cause for alarm there. The Times is right in noting that this current deployment is much larger than previous ones, but (as Ilya Kramnik notes) the West is just going to have to get used to the return of Russian naval presence in the Med and elsewhere.

So what exactly is included in this deployment? From the Northern Fleet, we have the Udaloy class destroyer Admiral Chabanenko and three Ropucha class large amphibious ships (Kondopoga, Georgii Pobedonosets and Aleksandr Otrakovskii). From the Baltic Fleet, there is the Neustrashimyy-class frigate Yaroslav Mudry. Once they reach the Med, they will be joined by several ships from the Black Sea Fleet, including the ancient but eminently seaworthy Kashin-class destroyer Smetlivyi and two more LSTs: the Alligator-class Nikolai Filchenkov and the Ropucha-class Tsezar Kunikov. These ships are being supported by a total of three tugboats and two oilers. Furthermore, they may be joined for part of the journey by the Black Sea Fleet’s Neustrashimyy frigate, on its way to participate in the regular counterpiracy operation in the Gulf of Aden.

(One note — Mark Adomanis argues that the ships will not arrive in Tartus for several months. This is clearly an error, as the Russian reporting on the deployment indicates that the ships will return to their home ports by early October. I would guess that it will take a couple of weeks for the ships from the Northern Fleet to get to the Med, with the exact timing depending on whether they do any exercises along the way or head directly for Tartus. Smetlivy is supposed to be in Tartus by early next week.)

So that’s a total of eight warships, which more or less matches some of the past big exercises Russia has done in the Med in recent years. The main difference is that this set of exercises seems to be aimed at amphibious landings, given the large number of LSTs and the lack of the really big combat ships such as the Moskva or Peter the Great cruisers that often go on these exercises. This is undoubtedly a signal to various parties that Russia continues to view the region as a strategic priority and will continue to seek to play a role in the Med regardless of its specific position on supporting Bashar al-Assad at any particular moment.

But at the same time, we should keep in mind that although there is a political aspect to this, it is primarily a regular large-scale naval exercise, of the type that Russia has conducted just about every year since 2007 or so. So there’s no reason to read more into this than there is there. These troops will not be used to prop up the Assad regime. They could be used to protect Tartus if necessary, but I think that is highly unlikely, in part because Tartus does not have the facilities to house them for any length of time. Furthermore, as Mark Katz recently pointed out, their presence at Tartus would make the base a more inviting target for anti-regime forces in Syria. They definitely could be used to help evacuate Russian citizens from Syria, should that become necessary. And having LSTs around may be helpful in an evacuation even beyond the troops, as the evacuees could be housed temporarily on the ships.