Find a Security Clearance Job!

Military


CVN Heavy - Nevskoye PKB - 100,000 tons

A new Russian aircraft carrier may have a displacement of up to 100,000 tons and a nuclear power plant. It is such a grandiose and ambitious project that many experts doubt the Russia's ability to pull it even in the medium term. Why would Russia need an aircraft carrier which would undress the Ministry of Defense? One clue is in the words of Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who said a couple of years ago: "The construction of such ships is not a military-technical issue, it is a geopolitical issue."

Proponents of a new supercarrier insist that Russia which borders two oceans and the two major seas (the Baltic and the Black), must develop and build new carriers in order to remain a major naval power. Other observers argue that there are other strategic goals in the naval sphere that Russia must solve first, and that the country must first prepare the necessary material infrastructure before the construction of carriers can be considered a serious option.

Others still, including independent military observer Vladimir Tuchkov, say that there is an argument to be made that Russia can and should put off the construction of supercarriers altogether, if not for good, then at least for the foreseeable future. For one thing, Tuchkov wrote, "from the point of view of modern naval strategy, the relevance of aircraft carriers is now being questioned even in the United States, the homeland of the world's cutting edge floating airfields."

Carriers Can Be Sunk

The carrier's aviation strike group, which in addition to the aircraft carrier itself, includes up to fifteen ships and escort vessels, is very slow to respond. The entire world can almost literally watch its deployment to the area where airstrikes will be carried out. This is quite justifiable, when we are talking about terrorizing a country unable to defend itself against air and space-based attack a sort of traditional form of American gunboat diplomacy."

"But even leading American experts say that militarily developed countries like China or Russia are able to deal a powerful blow to carrier strike groups using modern anti-ship missiles before its aviation even has a chance to take off, thus instantaneously making the very idea of such an attack a moot point," the analyst added. The reverse is also true regarding the prospective Russian carrier, Tuchkov noted, with the US having the necessary missiles to destroy any Russian supercarrier.

Cruise Missile Are More Efficient

Just as significant, according to the observer, is the growing importance of surface ship and submarine-launched high-precision cruise missiles especially because these systems now often have a longer range than carrier-based aviation.

There are also three other reasons why cruise missiles are a more effective tool against ground targets than carriers, Tuchkov noted. "First of all, the maximum deviation of missiles from their target has dropped to between 5-10 meters, or even less. Second, when striking targets via cruise missiles, there is no need [for aircraft] to enter the enemy's air defense zone. Third, strikes can be applied with the highest degree of secrecy, especially when carried out from submarines."

Carriers are Extremely Expensive

The first issue and, perhaps most important, is the price. According to published data, it will come out no less than 15-20 billion dollars (about a trillion rubles at the current rate). Only it is unlikely that even such a cyclopean sum will not swell on the road from the stocks. The already astounding trillion rubles is the provisional value of the Russian ship itself. The cost of the of 90 aircraft and helicopters planned for the wing is a separate expense item.

Given these facts, Tuchkov stressed that it was only natural to ask whether Russia today really needs to develop the kind of aircraft carrier technology that's so cherished by the US. After all, the construction of even one such ship would be an extremely expensive proposition, while a lone new carrier shared among Russia's four fleets simply wouldn't be enough.

Tuchkov noted that the construction of one carrier with a 100,000 ton displacement "would cost, by the most conservative estimates, about a trillion rubles, including research and development costs," equivalent to about $16.8 billion US. "But that's not all," the observer added. "To support the vessel during campaigns, it would be necessary to create an entire carrier strike group. And this, American experience has shown, requires about fifteen escort and service ships, ensuring anti-aircraft and anti-submarine defense, logistical support, reconnaissance and other necessary measures. For this we can add another 100 billion rubles ($1.6 billion US).

Air Wing Cost

And that's not mentioning expenditures on the ship's air wing, the expert recalled. If the Defense Ministry foregoes the existing carrier-based MiG-29Ks and Su-33s, fourth-gen planes which will be reaching obsolesce by the year 2030, this leaves the option of a carrier-based version of the fifth-gen T-50 PAK FA.

However, to convert the aircraft for naval use, "it's not enough to attach a hook, fit it with folding wings and reinforce its anti-corrosion protection. It will be necessary to seriously modify the plane's avionics, since naval aviation has its own specificities. It will also be necessary to revise the composition of weapons, in turn requiring changes to weapons control systems, and to bring the system's location and early warning systems up to Navy standards."

"That is, this should result in a new project called PAK PA," (a Prospective Airborne Complex of Carrier-based Aviation). And this, according to Tuchkov, would bring the cost up another 500 billion rubles ($8.4 billion) taking account of the estimated 6 billion ruble apiece cost of a standard T-50, and the Shtorm's prospective complement of 80 fighter planes.

Furthermore, Tuchkov noted, it's necessary to take account of the cost of creating a special dock and coastal infrastructure to actually build the new ship, given the fact that such huge ships have yet to be built in Russia, with all the Soviet Union's aircraft carrier-building infrastructure currently rotting in the Ukrainian city of Nikolaev. Taking these expenses into account, plus any inevitable additional costs, the cost of the ship rises to 2 trillion rubles ($33.6 billion). For the record, Russia's total military budget for 2016 was to $69.2 billion. "With this money, it's possible to build 80 nuclear submarines of the latest, 4th generation, at 25 billion rubles apiece. The benefits from them would be much greater than from one aircraft carrier," Tuchkov argued.

The air wing is promised to form, among other things, the multi-role fighters of the fifth generation T-50, which have not yet been adopted for service by the Russian Armed Forces, converted into a deck version in the future. How much will each cost - a virtual prospective aviation complex of deck aviation (PAK PA)? Since such a fighter is not yet in testing, there is no exact answer. But one can draw certain ideas from this: at one time India agreed to buy a "simple", not a decked, T-50 for $100 million.

Only this is not all. A full-fledged aircraft carrier can not do without the deck aircraft of long-range radar detection and control (DRLO), which allows to control the air and surface conditions at distant approaches to the ship. In the Russian aviation, nothing like this has ever been deployed. The Soviet Union tried to build one for the atomic aircraft carrier "Ulyanovsk", laid down in the last Soviet years in Mykolayiv.

The first domestic deck aircraft DRLO was literally on the way out, they already built a full-size mock-up. It was assumed that this aircraft with a crew of six and a takeoff weight of forty tons can patrol in the air for up to six hours at speeds up to 700 kilometers per hour. At the same time, it was supposed to target up to forty fighters. The aircraft was called Yak-44. But that project, together with the "Ulyanovsk", was cancelled in 1992.

It is clear that it is not possible to take the drawings of that aircraft from the dusty shelf in the "Yakovlevsky KB" and start building it again. Over the past quarter of a century, the Yak-44 is technologically hopelessly out of daten. Hence, the aircraft DRLO will have to be constructed anew.

Authoritative experts believe that the total cost of the air wing will inevitably exceed the cost of the ship itself. That is a trillion rubles. The aircraft would need a catapult. Steam, and preferably electromagnetic. Russia never did either.

Construction Site

The aircraft carrier with a displacement of 100 thousand tons has nowhere to build. A suitable dry dock is needed. They say that they are going to build it in Severodvinsk. In addition, there, on the decision of Joseph Stalin, they prepared a base for launching heavy cruisers and battleships. But this base is still close to the modern nuclear aircraft carrier. Is the dry dock open? That is, would the hull of the ship be built in the fresh air? This is doubtful in Russia.

After the USSR collapsed in 1991, Russia lost access to the facilities in Ukraine which built all Soviet aircraft carriers. As a result, Moscow was forced to create its own aircraft carrier industrial base. "Well be ready to begin construction of helicopter carriers as well as aircraft carriers," Alexey Rakhmanov, president of Russias United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), recently told Rossiya 24 new channel 16 January 2016.

"If you take up the technological capability for building aircraft carriers, we hope to acquire it by the beginning of 2019 as long as modernization works are completed," he added. Rakhmanov did not reveal details regarding where Russia would build its new aircraft carriers. But Moscows next generation flattop is likely to be built at Sevmash Shipyards, in Severodvinsk. It is the only facility to have recent aircraft carrier building experience. It refurbished and modified the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier into the Vikramaditya for the Indian Navy.

Homeport

Where to put it? This floating city needs ferry, electricity, and fresh water every second. If he begins to develop all this by his own means, he will quickly devour himself. As happened on the same roadstead with the predecessors of a prospective aircraft carrier of the Soviet Union - heavy aircraft carrying cruisers of Project 1143 "Kiev" and "Baku". And in the Far East - with the same "Minsk" and "Novorossiysk". No one even thought of building quays for them. Tied to anchored barrels, these cruisers continuously thrashed their boilers and diesel generators. Repairs went on continuously, until there was nothing to repair.



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list