Surface Forces: Russia Builds For Home Security First

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January 20, 2017: In late 2016 the Russian navy received two more Grachanok class harbor protection boats. This was very important for Russia. These are 139 ton 31 meter (101 foot) ships armed with special sonar equipment for spotting underwater swimmers and small submersible craft that enemies might use to inspect or damage ships in naval bases. Russia has always been very concerned with security and this type of vessel is a good example of it. The Grachanoks have a top speed of 41 kilometers an hour and max endurance of five days with just the crew of eight sailors. There is room on the ships for about half a dozen other personnel.

The Grachanoks are armed with a 14.5mm machine-gun for any surface threats and a DP-65A ten barrel grenade launcher for underwater ones. Using data from the ship anti-personnel sonar used to detect swimmers nearby the DP-65A fires 55mm grenades out to 500 meters. The grenades similar to those found on RPGs but have a flare at the end so that sailors on shore can see where it lands and know where the swimmer might be. The 55mm grenade has a fuze which sets off the warhead when the grenade reaches a preset depth. When the grenade explodes it will kill or injure any swimmer within 16 meters. In addition each Grachanok carries four SA-18 shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles and several DP-64 hand held grenade launchers. The 10 kg (22 pound) DP-64 looks like an over and under shotgun. It fires special 45mm, .65 kg (23 ounce) grenades out to 400 meters. The grenades are designed to incapacitate or kill divers and are, in effect, miniature depth charges. The grenades can be set to detonate at depths up to 40 meters (130 feet) and then the grenade detonates underwater is can kill or injure divers within 14 meters (45 feet) of the explosion. There are two other grenade types; one that relies solely on concussion and another that ignites a flare the burns on the surface to mark a location.

After the Cold War ended there was little money for replacing or updating harbor security craft. That changed iIn 2009 when Russian admirals were told to forget about plans to build six aircraft carriers by 2020. Instead the navy was ordered to concentrate on smaller ships for the Black and Baltic Seas and replacements for aging coastal patrol and harbor protection ships. In effect the navy was told take care of business closer to home. Corvettes and patrol boats were needed, and all Russia could afford, not carriers. Since 2010 twelve Grachanoks have entered service. The latest two were assigned to the Northern Fleet while the others have been sent to the Black Sea, Baltic and Pacific fleets. One was sent to the Caspian Sea.

The Black Sea fleet received five Grachanoks because that fleet was most in need of new ships. The Black Sea has been continually declining since the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. That decline is the result of new countries (like Ukraine and Georgia) inheriting old Soviet ships and bases. That was the dissolution deal. Whatever Soviet weapons or bases were normally were, belonged to one of the 14 new nations. Most of Russia’s high seas ships were based in northern Russia (the Northern fleet, based next to Finland and Norway) or the Far East (the Pacific fleet, based north of China and North Korea). But the Baltic and Black Sea fleets were largely based in ports that were now part of a foreign nation and these fleets suffered heavy losses because of the dissolution agreement.

For over a century, Russia had four fleets (Northern, Pacific, Baltic and Black Sea). The latter two were virtually destroyed by the dissolution terms. But by 2008 Russia was having political problems (largely caused by Russia) with Georgia and Ukraine, and could really use some additional (and modern) naval power. To a lesser extent, the same situation applies in the Baltic, where Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania harbored, and often built, many of the Soviet ships of the Baltic fleet. Poland, while not part of the Soviet Union, was a major naval ally, as was East Germany. Thus the Baltic fleet is a fraction of what it once was, and needs rebuilding.

The Russian navy still has a lot of Cold War era ships and aircraft in need of replacement or upgrades. The most urgently needed new ships are nuclear subs and coastal and harbor patrol craft. These are being delivered in greater numbers but the need remains urgent. Many coastal areas and naval bases are poorly guarded because of the shortage of modern (or just functioning) patrol ships.

 

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