Sunday, July 31, 2011

Russia’s Maritime Power Of 2nd Grade

June 17 in St. Petersburg was signed an agreement, as a result of which the Russian Navy a few years later supplemented with four amphibious assault ship of the "Mistral". Two of them will be built in France, the rest - in Russian shipyards. This event led me to some reflections.

The author does not intend to enter into polemics with those who support the signed agreement or rejects it.

Clear indicator

Earlier this year, national media spread the message that the state program of armament are not provided for the construction of aircraft carriers, at least until the end of the decade. This news has not caused a wide resonance in our country. Yes, of course, as argued, and continue to argue by experts, politicians, current and retired military (in the first place, of course, the sailors), employees of defense, figuring out whether Russia needed "floating airfields" whether there is scope for designing and creating . But the "narrow circle" of people in the 140 millionth of the Russian Federation, and therefore was not, and there is no similarity of national debate. What we must say frankly, very symptomatic. To some extent, this fact indicates the degree of unity of interests of different sectors of our modern society.

But let's look at the explanatory memorandum to the Law on the Imperial Russian Navy, adopted exactly one hundred years ago. That's what it said in part: "The development of the fleet is the question before the whole world, because the development of a formidable naval forces of our political neighbors, not only for the results is questionable in the case of direct conflict with them, but for the most opportunity to save neutrality, dignity and honor during a fight between two other powers.”

All attempts to substitute the free marine force, based on the technical means to fight, to this day are not successful - despite the difference of interests, and international geographic location, by creating, for the purposes of naval warfare, a combat battle fleet, which can only be regarded as the real weapon. Only a strong battle fleet that could come into the open sea to find the enemy and give him a successful battle can satisfy the requirements of the immunity of the State as against its political interests, and in the sense of territorial security ...

“Any other protection will be reduced to create more or less easy driving obstacles (for the powerful opponent) that can never be decisive, until they are be located in connection with the battle fleet and depend on its support”.

The ideas presented in only a few paragraphs of this document does not become obsolete in the XXI century. Just replace the words: instead of a "strong line" put "a strong-carrier."

The question of the need to revive the Russian navy, badly deteriorated in the "dashing 90" and in the early 2000s, no one has shot from the agenda. For now (as well as earlier) in front of the Fleet has two main objectives - protection of long coastal borders of the state and the creation of so-called free naval force intended to defend Russia's interests anywhere in the world. That is our fleet should be able to power projection in the most remote corners of the globe. The second problem (and to a large extent the first) will not be able to decide if a part of the Russian Navy aircraft carriers will not appear. Without them, a squadron of warships and troops on the world's oceans will be very easy prey for any potential enemy.

Thus, the lack of first-class aircraft carrier fleet is vital for Russian Federation, and not an imaginary problem. But if our country has all those, without which the "floating airfields" will not be able to get?

The beginning of XX century in the light of contemporary realities, it is, I think, today could read as follows: aircraft carriers, is measured not only as a naval power of the state, they are a kind of testament to its strength in general. The aircraft carrier has become the new political currency. Diplomats make their combination and go to the talks, focusing only on the number of squadrons, batteries, and divisions. To a much greater extent taken into account the presence of aircraft carriers. These leviathans - the personification of the power of power, its prestige and weight in the international arena, the financial well-being, economic prosperity, the highest level of science, technology and industry.

Among other things, the issue of accelerated development of our fleet in a number of other branches of the Armed Forces becomes truly paramount given the projected increase in Moscow GDP [Gross Domestic Product]


Golden era…

Meanwhile, the creation of aircraft carrier fleet includes a wide range of major components, each of which requires the application of a truly great effort. As a kind of "ultimate weapon system" nuclear aircraft carrier strike group  turned into a kind of department very dependent on a variety of political, financial, economic, technical, tactical, and countless other conditions and causes. Only advanced countries can have the luxury to bear such expensive giants.

If we be turn ourselves to the historical retrospective, then the catastrophe of 1917 wrote off the plans developed not long before the First World War (by the way, more than real) to derive Russia into the number of leading sea powers. That there was not the first attempt. For example, into the reign of Alexander III into the composition of Russian fleet entered 114 new ships, including 17Battleships, and it was occupied the 3rd place in the world after English and French on the total displacement (300 thousand tons).

Leadership of the Soviet Union in the mid 30s and set out to transform the country into one of the "mistress of the seas", in addition - one jerk, for 10 years. In this case the initiative came not from the command RKKF, but only by Stalin himself.

Decision to build multiple battleships and heavy cruisers were due not so much the needs of the country's defense against potential aggressors, as general policy considerations. "The mighty Soviet power must be appropriate to its interests, worthy of our great cause of the marine and ocean-going fleet" - declared the Chairman of People's Commissars of the USSR, Vyacheslav Molotov, at the XVIII Congress of the CPSU (b).

Owning a powerful battle fleet at that time, historians emphasize the Fleet, was considered as a mandatory attribute for the state, striving to be on the first roles in the international arena, as nuclear weapons after World War II. Not surprisingly, Stalin gave the battleships top priority in the prewar shipbuilding, requiring designers to create the strongest ships on this planet. Designers quickly and hastily laid in 1938-1940, battleships of the "Soviet Union", almost consistent with the dreams of the leader. And in 1939, projects were developed for domestic carriers - 71a and 71b. Roughly those were equal to the American "Independence". However, the German attack on the Soviet Union prevented the implementation of the plans.

In the spring of 1945 was prepared a 10-year development program of the Soviet Navy. It was planned to build 15 aircraft carriers. However, they were later excluded from the final document. First of all, was supposed to get a big-gun ships - heavy and light. Only in 1953 again began designing aircraft carrier Project 85.

But Stalin died and Nikita Khrushchev gave "floating airfields" a very negative attitude. In the more recent times, an opponent of aircraft carriers was a very influential member of the Politburo Dmitri Ustinov. The Soviet party elite generally believed that they were "a means of imperialist aggression." Proponents of aircraft carriers (in their classical form) was Marshal Andrei Grechko, the shipbuilding industry and the Minister Boris Bout. Ultimately, domestic industry gave the Soviet Navy and Russian so-called heavy aircraft carriers - "Kiev", "Minsk", "Novorossiysk", "Baku" (later "Admiral Gorshkov") and "Admiral Kuznetsov". In the ranks today, only the last of them. "Varyag" was in China. "Ulyanovsk" chop up the metal in 1992.

In fact, none of these ships (even the "Kuznetsov") can not be considered complete aircraft carriers.Why? Because there were none AEW & AWAC planes. And, as far as we know, these machines weren’t developed in any Russian aircraft industry and none mentioned in the projects. And without them (Electronic warfare) an aircraft carrier can not be considered a successful fighting unit.


Serious Error

There is one (and seemingly compelling) reason for this historic failure to build ocean-going aircraft carrier fleet. For our country, with its huge expanses of land, which in case of major military conflict became an arena of primary application of all forces, following the general idea of ​​the steady creation of world-class Navy as a whole is not justified by national priority task. It was characteristic, for example, Britain or the U.S. but not Russia. But we should not exclude the possibility that the outcome of a hypothetical global armed confrontation in the XXI century can be defined in the oceans.

Nevertheless, there is no verdict to build aircraft carriers in the coming years.

However, for 9-10 years our potential competitors in the seas and oceans will be able to fill scientific and technological gap that in the presence of very strong political will seems probable. Hence, it is possible that the failure to create aircraft carriers for the Russian Navy will be final and irrevocable damage – this will drive Russia in a naval stalemate ...

In conclusion: the construction of the Stalin ships (especially in the case of a purely technical merits of works on super-dreadnoughts), despite being incomplete, left a deep mark on the domestic military shipbuilding, it proved very instructive and useful to its stage, gave a powerful impetus to the development potential of not only the building industry but also to ensure its industries have reaped the fruits appearing already in the postwar period. A kind of golden decade of our ship-building in 70 years - to a certain extent is the result of previous efforts.

In addition, an attempt to give Navy battleships and heavy cruisers not only seriously expanded technological advancement of building industry, it not only served as a solid foundation, but turned industry in an excellent school, training experienced staff of scientists, designers, manufacturers and managers. Not accidentally, many participants took the creation of these ships in the postwar years, various prominent positions in our shipbuilding industry.

That's why we can not assume that a decision on postponement, on design and construction of aircraft carriers - a strategic mistake with a very, very far-reaching disastrous consequences for the country's defense.

Finally, the main thing - to enforce a costly and intensive program of naval construction are essential unity of will of the ruling class and the support of such measures by the masses. Today, in modern Russia is not entirely clear who is the ruling class (and even more what his will). Folk stay the same weight, the unanimous assessment of political scientists, in a state of complete apathy. In such circumstances, unfortunately, the implementation of major naval programs (including the construction of nuclear-powered attack aircraft carrier) is hardly possible.

Michael Khodarenok


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