Procurement: December 2, 2004

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While the Russian navy is getting more money now than it has in the last ten years, it is only getting about 14 percent of the defense budget. What its getting is not enough to build new ships to replace the current Cold War era fleet that is falling apart. The rapid decline of Russias nuclear submarine fleet was noticed only because Russia needed international help to safely decommission over a hundred nuclear subs. This effort has been going on for over four years. But there hasnt been enough money available to build replacements. In fact, Russia only has about ten SSBN (nuclear ballistic missile sub) boats in service, and not all of them have a full load of missiles. Some lack full crews, or have key systems in need of repair. Russia has only 14 modern Akula SSNs (nuclear attack subs) in service. These began building in the late 1980s and are roughly comparable to the American Los Angeles class. All of the earlier Russian SSNs are trash, and most have been decommissioned. Most of the ship building money has gone into new nuclear subs. Six Akulas have been completed since the end of the Cold War in 1991, but the first of a new generation of SSBNs, the Dolgoruky class has been delayed by technical problems, a new ballistic missile that wouldnt work, and lack of money. The first Dolgoruky class boat wont be ready for service until 2006 and will end up costing about two billion dollars.

The Russian surface fleet is in even worse shape. Much money has been spent keeping five cruisers in service. The admirals have finally concluded, as every other admiral on the planet already has, that these large ships are not worth the expense. But Russia only has ten destroyers in service. Two new destroyers are being built, slowly. Over a hundred smaller patrol and missile boats actually do most of the work patrolling Russians coasts. Even if Russia were to put together a respectable surface fleet, it would have to build new support ships to enable the warships to travel long distances. The existing support ship fleet is old even by Cold War standards, and some of them are considered dangerous to take out on the high seas. 

The Russian admirals made their big mistake in the early 1990s, when the dismantling of the Soviet Union left the second largest fleet in the world with only a fraction of its Cold War budget. Rather than immediately retire ninety percent of those ships, Russia tried to keep many of them operational. This consumed most of the navy budget, and didnt work. There were too many ships, not enough sailors and not enough money for maintenance or training at sea. The mighty Soviet fleet is mostly scrap now, or rusting hulks tied up at crumbling, out-of-the way naval bases. Building a new fleet really cant begin until Russia lets go of most of its aging SSBNs and cruisers, and basically starts from scratch. The new fleet will be a bit larger than Britain's, because that's all Russia can afford. 

 


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