Surface Forces: February 29, 2004

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Russia will no longer build aircraft carriers or other large warships. With this announcement the expansionist dreams of the old Soviet Navy are finally laid to rest, replaced with a more realistic fleet for the new century. This force will consist of smaller ships (frigates and corvettes) to guard Russias territorial waters at the 500-mile limit.

The Navys sole aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, will remain in service for now. The 55,000-ton vessel, which entered service in 1989, remains in port, rarely going to sea. So far she is the countrys only fixed wing carrier, a part of a massive shipbuilding program in the 1980s to match Americas super carriers. A sister ship was reportedly sold to China for scrap. A near-cousin, the ex-helicopter carrier Admiral Ghorshkov, is being refitted for $1.6 billion to carry fixed wing fighters for the Indian Navy.

The Russian announcement comes at a time when other nations are going ahead with major carrier construction. Including India, China is reportedly building fixed wing vessels. France will add a second carrier to its fleet, which already includes the nuclear-powered Charles De Gaulle. Britain is building a class of 60,000-ton warships to replace V/STOL light carriers commissioned in the 1980s.

Other signs of the Navys stagnation appeared recently, when a submarine launched ballistic missile exploded prematurely after launch in front of the Russian president and other dignitaries. The incident supposedly happened in the Barents Sea, the sight of the Kursk submarine disaster of August 2000.

The Russian Navy has suffered many setbacks in its long history, only to be revived later and be counted among the worlds great fleets. In its current state, with its massive fleet of warships rusting at anchor, the only threat it poses is to the worlds environment. --Mike Burleson

 


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