Modernization of the Admiral Nakhimov
One of the largest shipbuilding programs of the modern Navy of Russia is the modernization of the Admiral Nakhimov heavy nuclear missile cruiser. As a result of this modernization, an already elderly cruiser should not only gain a second life, but also become a real floating fortress and become the most powerful ship of the Russian fleet. However, since the start of the program, disputes regarding the feasibility of costly modernization of Admiral Nakhimov have not ceased. Consider the arguments for and against the reincarnation of the old cruiser and try to figure out whether it is worth the money?
The Admiral Nakhimov is the third of four Project 1144 Orlan heavy nuclear missile cruisers built. The cruisers of this project became the most powerful ships built in the USSR, and are still the largest non-aircraft carriers in the world. In the West, these ships are even singled out as “battle cruisers”. The Eagles have a huge arsenal of weapons on board, impressive even today - 20 heavy Granit supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles (ASMs), two long-range S-300F Fort anti-aircraft missile systems (SAM), with a total of 12 launchers with eight missiles in each, Osa-MA or Dagger short-range air defense systems, six Kortik anti-aircraft gun and missile systems, Vodopad anti-submarine missile system, three Ka-27 anti-submarine helicopters.
The ship’s radio-technical and sonar armament is also impressive - from survey and multi-purpose radar stations to specialized radars for detecting low-flying targets. Project 1144 cruisers are able to successfully solve the whole range of tasks facing large warships — striking enemy ships, providing air defense and anti-submarine defense for connecting ships.
Before the collapse of the USSR, three cruisers of this project were put into operation - Kirov, Admiral Lazarev and Admiral Nakhimov. However, the ensuing disintegration of the Soviet Union and the degradation of its armed forces caused by the catastrophic economic crisis led to the rapid loss of combat capability of the Eagles. In the absence of funding and the inability to carry out adequate repairs, the ships quickly became worthless. Fortunately, in 1998, the Russian Navy managed to complete and commission the fourth cruiser of the 1144 project, the Peter the Great, which has since de facto been the flagship of the Russian Navy and the most striking symbol of its power.
In the early 2010s, against the backdrop of problems with the construction of new large warships and a general decrease in their numbers in the fleet, the idea of returning to life and carrying out a deep modernization of the Orlanes appeared. In 2013, a state contract for the repair and modernization of Admiral Nakhimov was signed with Sevmash. At the end of 2015, the cruiser was delivered to the Sevmash filling pool and dismantling of old equipment began.
Initially, it was supposed to return the cruiser to the fleet back in 2018, however, the huge amount of work and related technical problems significantly shifted these deadlines. In fact, not only armament needs to be replaced, but also all other ship systems. At the moment, the delivery of the ship to the fleet is planned for 2022, but it is expected that the appearance of the ship in the active composition of the Navy will really take place only by 2024-2025. Initially, the modernization of the ship was estimated at 50 billion rubles, but at the moment there is no doubt that this amount is significantly exceeded, taking into account the enormous amount of work required, price increases after the depreciation of the ruble in 2014-2015, etc. According to modern and very rough estimates, the cost of modernization of the ship is at least 80-90 billion rubles, and, quite possibly, the price tag will completely exceed the mark of 100 billion.
It is also worth noting that such a long stay of the cruiser on the Sevmash affects other fleet shipbuilding programs. In particular, the modernization of the cruiser takes a significant share of the enterprise’s resources, which, for example, slows down the speed of construction of new submarines, and in particular the latest multi-purpose nuclear submarines of Project 885 Ash.
Thus, according to opponents of the Nakhimov’s modernization, the rejection of this program and the allocation of funds for the construction of new, modern ships would have been much more expedient.
One could agree with this opinion, but it should be borne in mind that the shipbuilding industry in Russia is in a state of deep crisis. The vast majority of new shipbuilding programs are shifting to the right in time from year to year. In addition to the depressing speed of the construction of new large units of the fleet, the Russian shipbuilding industry is not able, with some exceptions, to timely repair surface ships and submarines, which, nominally included in the fleet, de facto “hang” for repairs for many years. As a result, the Russian Navy is experiencing an acute shortage of large warships. And in this situation, the "reincarnation" of the old cruiser looks quite logical.
As for the equivalent of its cost to a few of the newest frigates, it is worth noting that by the time the Nakhimov is commissioned, at best, the construction of a series of six frigates of project 22350 should be completed (ships will be laid according to an improved project), of which moment built only two. Even if instead of Nakhimov the funds were directed to the construction of new frigates, they would have appeared in the fleet rather towards the end of the 2020s, given the low construction speed of new warships.
It is also worth considering that plans to create promising destroyers of the Leader project, which would replace the existing missile cruisers, have actually failed. If they will be built, then after 2030. The appearance of the updated "Nakhimov" will at least somehow compensate for this.
Now let's pay attention to what combat capabilities the upgraded cruiser will receive. At this point, it is known that instead of 20 launchers of the Granit rocket launcher, ten universal naval firing systems (UKKS) with eight vertical launchers in each will be installed on the cruiser. In each of the cells it will be possible to place the Onyx supersonic anti-ship missile system or one of the Caliber family of cruise missiles, and in the future promising hypersonic Zirkon anti-ship missiles. S-300F complexes will remain on the ship, but will be significantly upgraded. Instead of the obsolete 48N6 missiles of the first modifications, the cruiser will be able to use modern modifications of these 48N6DM missiles with a flight range of up to 250 kilometers.
And most importantly, Nakhimov will be able to use the latest 40H6 ultra-long-range anti-aircraft missile (adopted for service in 2018) with a range of up to 400 kilometers. In addition to the upgraded S-300F, the ship is likely to be equipped with the latest Poliment-Redut air defense system, and the existing Kortik air defense systems will be replaced with the modern Pantsir-M. Package-NK anti-torpedoes will appear in the cruiser’s arsenal. The ship’s radio equipment and sonar system will be replaced, and a new combat information and control system will be installed.
The appearance of this cruiser in the composition of the compound can radically increase its combat stability due to both strike and defensive potential. The cruiser will be able to deliver massive missile attacks using dozens of cruise missiles both on surface and ground targets. The presence of the cruiser in the composition of the compound gives him the chance to cope even with a massive and well-organized air strike of the enemy, such as, for example, a strike from a group of carrier-based carrier wing. The presence in the arsenal of a ship of super-long-range anti-aircraft missiles allows them to keep jamming aircraft at a relatively safe distance, not allowing them to disrupt the operation of ship's electronic equipment, and even to hit enemy aircraft before the turn of their launch of anti-ship missiles.
Besides, the presence of these missiles in the arsenal will not allow in the case of hostilities to airborne early warning aircraft to monitor the naval connection - the range of the 40N6 missile exceeds the range of the horizon for an altitude of 8-10 km, which is the ceiling for most DRLO aircraft. In addition, “Nakhimov” can assume the role of leader and headquarters for the formation of ships, which will contribute to the latest information management system. In peacetime, such a powerful ship is the best suited for the "demonstration of the flag" and the projection of force at the right point in the oceans. We also note that the “Admiral Nakhimov” has an unlimited range due to the presence of an atomic power plant.
Thus, given the reduction in the number of naval personnel of the Russian Navy, the low speed of construction of modern warships and the extremely vague and distant prospects of building destroyer-class ships, the modernization of Admiral Nakhimov seems quite appropriate, even taking into account its enormous cost and all other negative consequences, and the cruiser itself can become a reliable point of support for the Russian Navy in its current, far from the best, condition. However, given the enormous costs, it is likely that Admiral Nakhimov will remain the only Orlan to undergo modernization. In addition, there are some concerns about the fundamental possibility of this modernization being carried out by current Russian shipbuilders.
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