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A Troubled Fleet to Regain a Cruiser.
A brief news release on January 13 announced that the missile cruiser Marshal Ustinov had finished its sea trials in the Baltic Sea and was to depart yesterday for its home base in the Northern Fleet.
(RIA Novosti, January 13)
The Navy brass had reason to celebrate the event, as the service has been losing its major surface combatants at an alarming rate. The Marshal Ustinov was the second of four Slava-class cruisers built and was commissioned in 1986. A major overhaul of the ship, which at one time was the flagship of the Northern Fleet, began in St. Petersburg in 1994. The Navy has often not been able to find the money to complete such expensive repairs, however, sounding the death knell for the ships in question. Pessimists predicted that the Marshal Ustinov would face the same fate, but money for the repairs trickled in over the years and she is apparently once again ready for service.
Touted as the premier fleet in the Navy, the Northern Fleet has had more than its share of problems. One of its two aircraft carriers, the Admiral Gorshkov, has long been out of service and will likely end up as scrap unless India agrees to buy it. Of the three nuclear-powered Kirov-class cruisers in the fleet, the Peter the Great sits idly in port as the Navy tries to find the money to finish its acceptance tests, while the Admiral Ushakov has been laid up at Severomorsk since 1990 as the result of a propulsion accident. Last month, the fleet's chief of staff, Vice Admiral Vyacheslav Popov, admitted that the fleet was loosing some of its capabilities as older ships were decommissioned and others taken out of service because money could not be found to complete their repairs.
(Na strazhe zapolyarya, December 6, 1997)
Russian Navy Is Adrift in an Ocean of Problems
By ROBYN DIXON, Times Staff Writer
MOSCOW--In May, a group of officers from Russia's Northern Fleet participated in an exercise that they hoped never would be needed: a submarine rescue operation.
An old, decommissioned submarine was sunk on an even keel, and Russia's rescue submersibles went to work. Four attempts to dock with the submarine failed, but the official report on the exercise said that it had been a success.
The rescue operation for the sunken nuclear submarine Kursk this month was more demanding. The submarine was resting on the seabed at an angle, and the weather was bad. Like the exercise, the real rescue failed.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, Russians are searching for answers to why the accident happened and why the rescue failed. Was negligence, poor maintenance or funding cuts the cause of the catastrophe? Did 118 crew members die because Russia's rescue equipment and training were inadequate, despite the navy's insistence that its expertise was equal to that of the West?
The navy's poverty has implications far beyond Russia's borders: Starved of funds for a decade, it has dozens of nuclear reactors in its back pocket, each one a potential mini-Chernobyl. With no evidence as to what caused the Kursk accident, it's too early to say whether the financial crisis in the navy since the collapse of the Soviet Union was a factor. But President Vladimir V. Putin and Defense Minister Igor D. Sergeyev are convinced that it was, as are officers with the Northern Fleet.
The Kursk debacle has focused Putin's attention on the economic wreckage of the navy and what kind of fleet it can afford to maintain. At a time when even officers' families are going hungry, Putin's goal of reviving Russia's naval might seems distant, at best. After the disaster, Putin promised extra money for the military and announced a 20% pay increase for the armed forces and the creation of sea rescue centers. He said that Russia's submarine fleet might be cut from about 30 vessels to just 10 but that the crew of each would be properly supplied.
The navy's financial problems are dire.
Theft is common. On Jan. 13, four desperate sailors in Kamchatka, in eastern Russia, stole the radioactive fuel on their submarine to sell for some quick cash. They were caught and jailed. Russian naval officers are paid $150 a month, and sailors receive $50 to $90--far less than the average Russian's monthly earnings of $350. Many of the navy's top people have left.
Size of Fleet Has Dropped in Decade
The navy's fleet has shrunk from its bloated numbers in the Soviet days. One thousand vessels were scrapped in the last decade because the navy's funding for maintenance and repairs was 10% of what it needed, according to a navy report published in December. "There has been growing concern as to whether the navy's present decline has become irreversible," noted an analysis on the Russian navy in Jane's Sentinel, a security assessment journal. "Crews are increasingly losing their basic skills. Sea duty for submarines has been cut by a quarter since 1997, and for ships, by fully a third."
Russia's 11 Oscar-II class submarines have to rely on help from cities nationwide.
"The Kursk got its name because the city of Kursk was taking care of the submarine, supplying it with food, televisions, videos," said Igor Kudrik, an expert on the Russian navy from the Norwegian environmental group Bellona. "We are talking about the submarine, which is one of the most important vessels in the Russian navy. And a nonstate initiative is supporting it. It shows the state is unable to run the fleet."
To navy families, the shrinking of that branch of the military has only underscored how little clout the admirals had in the struggle for funding. Many naval vessels cannot put out to sea because they need repairs, and crews are often paid late.
"Our navy is very poor today," said Nadezhda Tylik, who lost her son Sergei, 24, on the Kursk. "The Russian navy has been destroyed by numerous reorganizations, all of which resulted in the shrinking of the force. The best people had to quit. The people who knew how to use the submarines and vessels, and who could teach their crews to find a way out of extreme situations, all left. I am amazed that submarines are still capable of leaving their ports at all."
Nikolai Konyashkin, 43, senior sublieutenant at the Kursk's base in Vidyayevo, near Murmansk, said an officer's life has become a "fight for survival. There's no gas in our town. There are no hot-water supplies, and we get paid $150 a month for handling nuclear weapons." Vladimir Chaikin, also a senior sublieutenant at the Vidyayevo base, said officers' families sometimes go hungry.
"There have been times when I came home after a tour of duty and saw that my family didn't have anything to eat," he said. "My wife and I have to sit down every month and write down on a piece of paper how we're going to spend each kopeck. And we're officers. We're supposed to be the elite of the military."
He complained that the navy's limited funds were often misspent, despite numerous reorganizations to trim the fat. "There are still all sorts of freeloaders in the navy. You find these headquarters, command groups and all sorts of bureaucratic structures that devour a lot of money but produce zero result," he said. "As for combat officers who actually do the job, our opportunities are severely restricted."
Crews Often Assembled from Several Vessels
Russian submarine crews, while in port, are understaffed by about 20%, and when they take to sea, crew members are reassigned from other vessels to fill the gaps. Among the Kursk victims, at least 12 officers were from another vessel, the Voronezh. "It's the wrong thing to keep throwing people from one submarine to another and then back. But there's simply no other choice," Chaikin said. "Obviously, the practice creates tensions in the crew because a submarine crew should be a close-knit collective of people who think and act in exactly the same way."
Bellona's Kudrik says one possible cause of the disaster was the use of a new, cheaper type of torpedo using liquid fuel. According to an article in the official military newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda on Aug. 17, the navy had opposed the new torpedoes because they were difficult to store and dangerous to handle. Analysts say the navy's poverty compromised the rescue operation. The first time a Russian submersible managed to approach the submarine hatch, it was ordered to pull away because it had old batteries that were about to expire after a couple of hours' work.
One revelation during the Kursk rescue effort was the fact that Russia had no deep-sea divers capable of helping. In the 1980s, Soviet divers were trained in France to reach depths of more than 300 feet, in order to work on the exploration of energy reserves in the Barents Sea. One of the divers, Konstantin Argelade, said that high-tech diving equipment was bought overseas in the 1980s but that, in the early 1990s, it was dismantled and dispersed, and the divers lost the regular experience they needed to maintain their skills.
After the Kursk catastrophe, the navy faces a new problem: a collapse in morale not only among ordinary seamen but also among officers. "I don't want to serve in a submarine anymore," Chaikin said. "But I'm not given the opportunity to get a transfer to the shore. It's becoming impossible for me to continue in the service because the conditions are so disgraceful. And I can't quit because I have a family to feed."
For Russia's top naval commanders, Putin had seemed to offer salvation. At last, here was a president who grasped the need to reassert Russia's naval might in order for the nation to reclaim its place as a real global power. In January, navy commander Adm. Vladimir Kuroyedov said Russia would retain and repair four nuclear-powered Kirov-class battle cruisers, including the Admiral Ushakov, which had been out of action for a decade. A public charity campaign was initiated to raise money for its repair.
In late July, Kuroyedov announced "World Ocean," a plan to rebuild the Russian navy over 15 to 20 years and provide a counterbalance to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's naval power. He also said the navy would return to its old Soviet playground in the Mediterranean--temporarily, at least. The plan was for a flotilla of vessels, including the navy's sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, the Kirov-class battle cruiser Peter the Great, and the navy's newest destroyer, the Admiral Chabanenko, to steam triumphantly into the Mediterranean late this year in a brash display of Russia's naval might.
'Blue-Water' Strategy Meant to Send Signal
Analysts said the aim was to send NATO a signal of Russia's intention to maintain a "blue-water" offensive naval strategy, which involves patrolling farther from one's own shores in an attempt to keep perceived or potential enemies as far away as possible. The report on Russia's navy in Jane's Sentinel noted "a pattern of increasing Russian naval activity that has seen attack submarines operate in the Cold War stamping grounds of the Mediterranean and Eastern Pacific, carrying out simulated attacks on U.S. naval forces." "According to senior U.S. intelligence analysts, the Russian navy is operating in a manner very similar to that of the Soviet fleet during the Cold War. Crucially, however, Russian naval strength has seriously declined, with only 20 first-class attack submarines in operating condition," the report said.
Just after NATO began its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia last year, the Northern Fleet readied the Kursk to go to the Mediterranean. According to one Russian naval officer who served on the Kursk at the time, the vessel was in the Mediterranean from August to October. His name cannot be used because of the risk of serious repercussions against him.
The Kursk disaster has cast doubt on the navy's recent attempts to revive Russia as a global naval power. "It's obvious that our presence in the Mediterranean Sea will never ever be what it was before. Certainly we can make a voyage, but it's only to show everyone that we are capable of doing it," said Vladimir Urban, a naval specialist at the AVN military news agency. Putin's comments after the Kursk tragedy have cast doubt not only on the plans for the Mediterranean exercise but on whether a "blue-water" strategy is right for Russia, given the state of its economy. Russia's Defense Ministry budget for 2000 is $4.5 billion, compared with about $268 billion for the United States. In an interview Thursday on the RTR state television network, Putin said the only way that Russia's navy can get out of its humiliating position is for the military to shrink. "Our armed forces should match our needs on one hand and the possibilities of the state on the other," he said, adding that the military must be "compact, modern and well paid."
"We have been talking about military reform for how long? At least eight years and perhaps a whole 10 years, but there has been little change in this area," he said. But for the families who lost loved ones on the Kursk, it's more important to reform the Soviet mentality of the admirals. Vice Adm. Yuri Kvyatkovsky, quoted in the Vlast journal two days after the Kursk sank, said the reason that crew members hadn't evacuated the sub was because they understood the need to preserve state secrets from foreign spies.
"The main thing to take care of is the preservation of state secrets. There are lots of different devices and communications systems on the submarine which can be considered state secrets," he said. "It's crucial not to lose the submarine." Later, when the entire crew was lost and officials were in desperate damage-control mode, Defense Minister Sergeyev took full responsibility--while insisting that the military made no fundamental errors in the failed rescue effort.
old mentality is pretty much alive," said Tylik, the grieving mother.
"Our government finds it easier to keep its mouth shut, to hush up the
problems rather than to do something about them."
News items compiled between May, 1995 and May, 1996.
Warship Construction Status
According to the annual International Navies issue of USNI Proceedings, the rate of ship construction has dropped off even more sharply, with the exception of a few high-priority projects. Several planned ship lines have ended early, including the Oscar II SSGNs, the Sovremennyy DDGs, and the new Neustrashimyy FFGs (which will end with the completion of the third unit). It appears as though the Russian Navy is committed to a future of nuclear submarines, with the only open-ended construction project being its new SSN. Recent increases in submarine operational activity (in the face of somewhat decreased surface activity) also point to a submarine force emphasis.
Submarines: The big project in the submarine program (and quite possibly in the whole Navy) is the Severodvinsk/Project 885 SSN. It appears that substantial resources are being committed to the completion of this class of vessels, the first of which will launch sometime in 1998 (according to existing schedules). The Severodvinsk will have at least two sisters. In the meantime, Akula II SSNs continue to be built, with two delivered in the previous year and one more set for this year.
This may mark the end of the Akulas as they are superseded by the next-generation Severodvinsks. In the meantime, production of Oscar II SSGNs has ended at eleven units; the two incomplete Oscars have been officially terminated and are reportedly available for conversion to "commercial uses." The diesel-submarine program appears to center around the export market, with a pair of Improved Kilo/Project 636 vessels being built for China at the moment.
Surface Vessels: There do not appear to be any particularly ambitious plans for the Russian surface fleet at the moment, with the focus of current efforts being on winding down several major vessel classes. The building schedule, therefore, consists of a serious of planned "lasts": the last Kirov BCGN, the Petr Velikiy, is undergoing sea trials for the Northern Fleet; the last Sovremenny (Alexandr Nevsky, formerly the Vedumchivyy) continues to be built; and the last Neustrashimyy (300 Let Rossikomy) is scheduled for a launch this year (hence her name, commemorating the 300th anniversary of the Russian Navy). In addition, the last Slava-class cruiser has been obtained from the Ukrainian Navy and will enter service as Admiral Lobov. There do not appear to be plans for a major new surface vessel, and the future of such new programs as the Gepard light frigate may be in doubt.
The End of the Pacific Kievs
Once considered to be at the speartip of a gradual Soviet push into the Pacific, the Kiev-class CVHGs Minsk and Novorossiysk were towed to their final resting places
in South Korea in late 1995/early 1996. Their end did not come without controversy. Initially they were to be bought by the Korean scrapping company, Young Enterprise, in serviceable condition. However, fears of their recommissioning into the South Korean Navy (and resultant destabilization of the regional military balance), caused all of their shipboard electronics and combat systems to be physically destroyed before leaving Russia. The wrangling over this issue delayed their arrival by a year.
The controversy did not end with the transformation of the ships into empty hulks. Upon their arrival in South Korea, they were turned away from port after port, mostly due to the efforts of environmental groups who claimed that their dismantling would mean ecological disaster (despite the fact that neither ship was nuclear-powered). Finally, the Minsk and Novorossiysk found home ports in Masan and Pohang, respectively. They await the scrapper's torch.
The company responsible, Young Enterprise, has virtually cornered the market on scrapping former Soviet vessels, and will take possession of over 200 former
Russian vessels in the next few years. The Kievs were obtained under an October 1994 contract signed with the Russian Defense Ministry, with each vessel going for just over $4 million. (The information on the Kievs appeared in a March article in the Korean Herald.)
The aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov departed from its Northern Fleet base in mid-December, bound for a three-month deployment in the Mediterranean, in support of the implementation force in Bosnia. Initially accompanying her were the new Sovremenny-class destroyer Besstrashny ("Fearless") and the Boris Chilikin-class replenishment ship Dnestr. On 31 January, the force rendezvoused off the southern tip of England with the Krivak I-class frigate Pilkii ("Ardent") and the Olekma-class replenishment tanker Olekma; the combined force then proceeded through the Straits of Gibraltar. This represents the first major Russian naval deployment to the Mediterranean since 1993. Correction: this rendezvous was made on 31 December 1995, not 31 January.
Izvestiya reported that Kuznetsov's air wing included 18 Su-33 Flanker-Ds, 16 Ka-27 Helix helos, and 18 MiG-29K Fulcrums, under the command of former test pilots Major General Timur Apakidze and Colonel Ivan Bohonko. The mention of MiG-29Ks was met with raised eyebrows and some skepticism by many, as the MiG-29K had long been passed over in favor of the Su-33 for the carrier role.
Kuznetsov's commander is Captain 1st Rank Alexander Chelpanov. Senior officer present afloat is Admiral Igor Kasatonov, First Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy. Although the Navy High Command was reluctant to release details of Kuznetsov's mission (beyond basic flight training and familiarization), reports have appeared in the international press that the Kuznetsov will cooperate with NATO multinational forces already in-theater for the NATO-led peace-implementation operation.
Official Warns Of A Carrier-Less Russian Navy
Gennady Voronin, deputy head of the State Committee for Defense Industries warned that unless major funding changes were made, the Russian Navy could "enter the twenty-first century without even a single aircraft carrier in service." What exactly is meant by this statement was not clear in the press release (as Admiral Kuznetsov is making her maiden deployment), but it could be a recognition of the precarious nature of the Russian "aviation cruiser" program. Russia currently has no facilities capable of carrier maintenance, with all carriers having been built at a yard now owned by the Ukraine. Admiral Kuznetsov will no doubt be needing maintenance soon; exactly how this will be handled will be interesting to see.
Another Northern Fleet Submarine Blockade
An unspecified "nuclear-powered submarine" was blockaded for three days by shipyard workers at Polyarnyy after having undergone repairs, media sources reported on 21 December. Making the increasingly familiar claim that they had not been paid in months, workers prevented the submarine from leaving. Northern Fleet authorities threatened to bring criminal charges against the workers, then to shut off the heat to the town of Polyarnyy, but the workers only ended their protest after they were promised their wages within four days.
Two ship visits were mentioned in December's Morskoi Sbornik:
Kiel Week '95
Germany's annual "Kiel Week" saw the participation of thirty vessels from fifteen nations. The Russian Baltic Fleet put in an appearance with Neustrashimyy, under Captain 2nd Rank I. Ryzhkov; embarked flag officer was Rear Admiral V. Kudryavtsev. Victory Parade, 50th Anniversary of the Great Patriotic War, St. Petersburg The Krivak-I frigate Ladnyy departed from Sevastopol to participate in the St. Petersburg celebration. Embarked was CinC-Black Sea Fleet, Admiral E. Baltin.
Akulas Off The American Coast
US Navy sources announced that an unusual number of Russian submarines were tracked off the American coastline in the last year. These included Oscar and Oscar II-class SSGNs, and Akula class SSNs, in the vicinity of such major US naval facilities such as Kings Bay, Georgia.
Recommissioning of Admiral Kuznetsov Delayed
The Russian Navy's "first priority" surface vessel, the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, was about to be recommissioned into the fleet after extensive flight trials through 1994 on 15 Sep, when striking shipyard workers delayed her re-entry once again. The workers claim that the Northern Fleet, which takes responsibility for repair and upkeep done on Admiral Kuznetsov, has not paid them any wages all summer. This continues the general state of crisis in back wages from which the entire Defense Ministry appears to be suffering.
The Admiral Kuznetsov is reportedly nearing operational status, after a prolonged trials period during which her air wing underwent certification. Jane's Fighting Ships, 1995-96 indicates that her peacetime air wing composition may be 20 Su-33 Flanker-D; 4 Su-25UTG Frogfoot; 15 Ka-27 Helix; and 2 Ka-29RLD AEW Helix. Up to sixty aircraft may be carried under wartime circumstances, however.
Akula IIs best 688Is?
ADM Jeremy Boorda, USN, current Chief of Naval Operations, has announced that for the first time, Russian submarines at sea are significantly quieter than their American equivalents. The revelation indicates a steep drop in broadband acoustic noise profiles for Russian submarines which may be continued by the still-to-be-built Severodvinsk class SSNs. The vessels at sea now include the "improved Akula"/Akula II SSNs, which are reportedly quieter than the improved-688 boats that form the heart of the US fast-attack submarine force. Reported Russian design innovations include three separate anechoic coatings on the hull, active noise cancellation, and increased attention to hydrodynamic flow noise.
Critics contend that this latest news has been released with an eye to further Seawolf procurement. The SSN-21 "Seawolf" class of submarines will reportedly regain the American quieting edge, although some observers (notably Norman Polmar) have suggested that even Seawolf may be outclassed by the forthcoming Severodvinsk if
Ships on the Export Market
Asian Defence Journal details various ships that have been put on the export market by the Russian shipbuilding industry. The reported vessel classes include Udaloy IIs (Project 1155.1), Neustrashimmys (Project 1154), Sovremennys (Project 956), Gepards (Project 1166.1), and Dergach's (Project 1239). In addition, the new Project 1075.0 minesweepers and a number of hovercraft are also reportedly being offered.
The Last of the Kirovs Puts to Sea
The Russian Defense Ministry announced on 14 Sep 95 that the last of the Admiral Ushakov class BCGNs (once known as the Kirov-class battlecruisers) was undergoing preparations for builder's trials. Named Petr Velikiy, the 28,000 ton cruiser was laid down at the Baltic Shipyard (in St. Petersburg) on 24 Apr 1986, as the Yuri Andropov. The completion of this big surface combatant has been high on the Russian Navy's list of priorities.
Blackouts at Naval Weapons Depots, Fleet Facilities
The regional administrations where various naval facilities are located have threatened, and in some cases actually proceeded, to cut off electricity to the bases unless the Defense Ministry pays its outstanding debts. On 7 Sep, power actually was cut to several Northern Fleet naval ordnance facilities near Arkhangelsk. A city-induced blackout was also threatened at the Black Sea Fleet headquarters at Sevastopol, for the same reasons. Elements of the Baltic Fleet found themselves in the dark on 11 Sep as well, for the same reasons -- the air traffic control radar at Kaliningrad military airport was shut down, as well as some air defense sites and communications relays.
Black Sea Fleet Negotiations Continue
As part of the ongoing negotiations between Russia and Ukraine over the fate of the shared Black Sea Fleet, it was announced on 12 Sep that Ukraine would take possession of the base at Donuzlav, part of the sprawling Sevastopol naval base complex. Donuzlav is notable for its hovercraft and air support facilities.
Angry Shipyard Workers Hold Akula Hostage
A Russian newspaper reported on 6 Sep 95 that the workers at a Vladivostok shipyard responsible for the construction of Akula-class SSNs recently disrupted WWII victory celebrations by refusing to allow a new nuclear attack submarine to be launched. The Dragon was to have taken part in a naval review as part of the festivities, but workers blockaded the new vessel in protest of not having received their wages for the last four months. The Russian Defense Ministry owes the shipyard roughly 57 billion rubles; the submarine was finally released to the Navy after defense officials promised to remedy the financial problem.
China To Get Another Kilo
The second Kilo-class submarine to be delivered to the Chinese Navy was about to be handed over to her new owners on 4 Sep 95. The cost of the small diesel boat is rumored to have cost the Chinese $250 million.
New SLBM Undergoes Test-Launch
Moscow television announced on 25 Aug that a ballistic missile was successfully test-fired from a launch area near the North Pole. The following week's Jane's Defence Weekly noted that it was a trial ballistic missile, possibly a follow-on to the SS-N-20, which rained ten RVs upon the target range near Arkhangelsk. The claimed CEP was on the order of 500 meters.
Central Logistics Commander Upset Over Fuel Shortages
A Krasnaya Zvezda interview with LGEN Pavel Gorupay, chief of the Central Missile Fuel and Fuel Directorate, reconfirmed the serious fuel situation in the Russian armed services. Gorupay noted that the August Cooperation-From-The-Sea exercise (which saw the deployment of the Udaloy-class DDG Admiral Panteleyev, a Ropucha class amphibious vessel, and the tanker Vladimir Kolechitsky to Pearl Harbor for joint exercises with USN vessels) meant that "three weeks' supply of fuel for the whole Pacific Fleet has set sail for the distant shores of Hawaii." He went on to state that less than one-third of necessary fuel deliveries have been made to the fleet, and that half of this year's emergency fuel supplies have been used -- leaving no reserves for any more major deployments. This supplements reports that pilots in the Russian Air Force (VVS) are getting dangerously few flight hours because of similar shortages.
The Return of Admiral Lobov?
Press reports on 21 Aug 95 indicated that the Russian Navy had "secured ownership" of the fourth and last vessel of the Slava-class of cruisers. Named Admiral Lobov prior to the collapse, the nearly complete ship had since been renamed Vilna Ukraina and had been earmarked as the flagship for the new Ukrainian Navy. The arrangement involves Russia covering construction costs since the fall of the Soviet Union, and funding the completion of the cruiser. The deal has not yet been officially approved by the governments in question, but appears to be very near conclusion.
"Shkval" Underwater Missile
This weapon has received a considerable amount of attention lately, when Jane's Information Group published details of an unguided "underwater missile" that could make over two-hundred knots. Apparently fired from standard 533mm torpedo tubes, Shkval has a range of about 7,500 yards. According to details published in the Naval Institute Proceedings, the weapon clears the tube at fifty knots, upon which its rocket fires. By creating a local "envelope" of supercavitating bubbles, the weapon can achieve its spectacular speed. Called a possible "revenge weapon" by Jane's, the Shkval may be the follow-on to the BGT class of evasion torpedoes, which are designed to be fired up the bearing of an incoming torpedo in order to force a submarine attacker to evade (and hopefully snap the guidance wires).
Interestingly, Russian naval commentators have reacted to all the excitement by pointing out that this weapon has been in service for years, that it really is not news to the Western naval community, and that it is only receiving attention at this time because of threatened Western defense budgets, which come under review about now.
"Severodvinsk" Fourth-Generation SSN
See "Submarine Development Programs" for details on this next-generation Russian nuclear attack submarine.
"Kilo" diesel attack submarine exports
Kilo (Project 877) SSKs continue to be a popular naval export item. Iran currently operates a pair of Project 877EKMs in the Persian Gulf and expects to take possession of a third sometime this year. Some complaints about the performance of Kilos in the Gulf may have prompted the offering of a new modified Kilo, dubbed Project 636, which incorporates changes for warm-water operation.
China ordered four Kilos in the middle of last year, the first of which departed for her new home in December (and made the cover of the March 1995 International Navies edition of USNI Proceedings.) Consistent with most of China's other military modernization plans, the Chinese Navy may soon have a license to build Kilos indigenously.
India may have considered a package deal of ten Kilos, but it seems likely now that this fell through along with the failed Admiral Gorshkov carrier transaction.
In addition to these new purchasers, two Kilos are operated by Algeria (delivered 1987-88), eight by India (1986-1990), one by Poland (1986), one by Romania (1986), and possibly one by Syria.
A scientific mission set out from St. Petersburg on 24 Jun 95, with the objective of sealing off the damaged hull of Komsomolets, the only example of the Mike-class SSN that sank off Norway in April, 1989. Environmental concerns had arisen when it was revealed that an internal explosion had torn open the hull and damaged two nuclear torpedoes; in a few years, the damaged casings could corrode through and plutonium could be vented to the sea. After a campaign was launched to "safeguard the Komsomolets" (which included the submarine's designer as an active participant), the project was approved.
At the end of July, the successful conclusion of this operation was announced. The hull of Komsomolets is said to be safe from hazardous radiation leakage for "20 to
Cash-Strapped Russia To Scrap One-Fifth Of Its Navy
Pacific Rim Bureau Chief
Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - Eighteen months after proposing that Russia once again become a sea power to be reckoned with, the country's senior Navy officer has announced that one-fifth of its ships will instead have to be scrapped.Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov told the Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) newspaper that the navy had for the past six years received only 12 percent of its required budget and could no longer afford to keep the fleet afloat."The majority of
those ships will never sail again, even if funding were to be boosted," he said in an interview, published early this week.
"We are catastrophically short of money."One-fifth of the current number of ships would have to go, he said, without giving specific figures.Decommissioning dozens of vessels supposedly would free up funds for existing ships that were in better shape, and also pay for new submarines and surface ships expected in the next few years."We must preserve the ships which are still 'alive' and use their potential to survive until better times," Kuroyedov said.In 2001, according to the Jane's defense publication group, the once-impressive Soviet Navy had dwindled to a force of 17 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, 26 nuclear-powered attack submarines, 17 large surface ships, 50 frigate-sized vessels and around 70 smaller ships.Many are understood by Western experts not to be combat-ready.
In July of that year, President Vladimir Putin approved an ambitious new doctrine proposed by the Kuroyedov and his colleagues, aimed at restoring Russia's naval might through a 10-20 year shipbuilding program.The doctrine said Russia's maritime policy was designed to "strengthen its
position amongst the world's leading powers."At the time - the document was unveiled on Russia's Navy Day - the plan was seen mostly as an attempt by Putin to restore the morale of a navy still devastated by the loss a year earlier of a modern nuclear submarine, the Kursk , which sunk with all hands - 118 men - during maneuvers in the Barents Sea.Independent defense analyst Pavel Fengenhauer, writing in the Moscow Times, cited "well-informed sources" as saying the navy's plan back then had envisaged eventually building a fleet with up to 15 aircraft carriers, to challenge the U.S. Navy on the open seas.
In the months that followed, however, a number of reports referred to cutbacks and setbacks for the navy.In May of last year, officials said 8,600 personnel would be cut from the Baltic fleet, one of its four fleets (the others are the Black Sea, Pacific and North Atlantic or Northern fleets).In October, the head of Russia's shipbuilding agency told the Itar-Tass agency that the Admiral Ushakov nuclear missile cruiser, moored in a shipyard for several years awaiting repairs, was
instead likely to be decommissioned.Under its former name, Admiral Kirov , the cruiser built in 1980 was once the flagship of the Northern fleet.That same month, decommissioning of some 100 laid-up Northern fleet nuclear submarines began.Many of Russia's laid-up submarines remain afloat in docks with nuclear fuel still in their reactors, prompting concerns about the
risk of radiation leaks.The U.S. has over the past eight years funded a program to dismantle submarines decommissioned under previous bilateral disarmament treaties.