Murphy's Law: Russia's Phantom Fleet Buildup


June 1,2008: The Russian Navy's shipbuilding plans are still mostly plans. For the last seventeen years, most of their construction effort went into finishing a few subs, and building for export. Currently building are three SSBNs (the new Borei class, for which the missile is not quite ready yet), one new SSN (attack sub, that has been building for 15 years now), and one new Amur conventional sub, with two more building. There is a new class of 4,500 ton frigates (the Gorshkov class), but only one is under construction and won't be finished for another two years. The Gorshkov's have a 130mm gun, plus anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles. The navy wants at least a dozen of these 4,500 ton ships, but the money has not been provided yet.

There is one Stereguschyy class corvette in service, with three more building. These are small ships (2,100 tons displacement), costing about $125 million each. These "Project 20380" ships have impressive armament (two 30mm anti-missile cannon, one 100mm cannon, eight anti-ship missiles, six anti-submarine missiles, two eight cell anti-missile missile launchers). There is a helicopter platform, but the ship is not designed to carry one regularly. Crew size, of one hundred officers and sailors, is achieved by a large degree of automation. The ship also carries air search and navigation radars. It can cruise 6,500 kilometers on one load of fuel. Normally, the ship would stay out 7-10 days at a time, unless it received replenishment at sea. Like the American LCS, the Russian ship is meant for coastal operations. The navy wants at least fifty of them.

There is also an amphibious ship under construction, and lots of talk about aircraft carriers. But until money is allocated, and construction starts, it's all just talk.

Meanwhile, the fleet is a collection of aging Cold War ships. This includes about a dozen SSBNs, two dozen SSN. (nuclear attack subs) and about fifty diesel-electric boats. There's one aircraft carrier, five cruisers, 17 destroyers, eleven frigates and about fifty corvettes. There are about twenty amphibious ships still in service. All these Cold War era ships suffered from years of neglect during the 1990s, and many are not in the best of shape.


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