Surface Forces: A Russian Success Story

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November 9, 2018: In October 2018 the Russian Navy received the last two of the original order of 14 Raptor (Project 03160) patrol boats. Three more are under construction in the St Petersburg shipyard where all have been built since the prototype was completed and tested successfully in 2013. Patrol boats like this have turned out to be the only successful post-Cold War Russian warship construction projects.

Raptor is a 23 ton, 17 meter (54 foot) long, fast (up to 90 kilometers an hour) patrol boat that is manned by a crew of three (or just two in an emergency) and can carry up to twenty passengers. These passengers could be a boarding party, commandos or people rescued at sea. Raptor is armed with a remotely controlled 14.5mm machine-gun with a range of 2,000 meters and an optical fire control system with a max range of 3,000 meters. There are fittings for two more manually operated 7.62mm machine-gun (max range 1,500 meters). Additional weapons, like shoulder-fired anti-vehicle or anti-aircraft missiles can be brought on board as needed. Raptors have bulletproof ballistic panels around personnel areas as well as bulletproof glass already installed in the bridge and the passenger cabin.

Navigation systems (including radar and satellite positioning) allow for day and night operation. With internal fuel, a Raptor can stay at sea for up to 24 hours and operate up to 200 kilometers from base. More are expected to be ordered because Raptor has proven reliable and useful. Eight Raptors were delivered by 2015 so they have been observed over time in all seasonal weather conditions. Most of the 17 Raptors built or on order were sent to the Black Sea, to replace the many Cold War era patrol boats there. Some Raptors have been sent to the Caspian and Baltic Seas as well.

Most of the older Cold War era patrol boats date back 30-40 years and are inoperable. At the end of the Cold War, Russia had over 400 coastal patrol boats, most of them armed with anti-ship missiles or torpedoes. Nearly all of these are gone and being replaced by less heavily armed patrol boats that can also do search and rescue. Money shortages have meant that many of the Cold War era patrol boats have not been replaced and often patrol/search and rescue duties have been carried out by whatever civilian boats local governments could obtain. The Raptors are being used primarily to protect high-value locations like naval bases or major ports.

Export customers are hard to find because Raptor is very similar to the 21 ton Swedish CB90 patrol boat which has been in production since 1989. The CB90 has been a very popular export item and nearly 300 have been exported or built abroad under license. The Swedish Navy bought about 150 so these boats have been a common sight in the Baltic since the 1990s. The CB90s are also equipped to carry and use a few depth charges or naval mines.

 


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