Soviet Naval Force On the Eve of the Great Patriotic War
The Russian navy suffered a purge in 1938 which has deprived it of many senior officers. It was hardly equal to the command of the Baltic against even the present German navy. In the Far East, it depended almost wholly on the submarine - that is to say, on corsair operations, never successful in achieving a decision in sea warfare. In the Black Sea, the Soviet fleet was barely able to cope with that of Turkey. The history of the Russian navy did not encourage the hope that it will prove an important factor in post-Munich affairs; and its strength is divided among three entirely separate theaters.
The reappearance of the Russians on the Baltic Sea coast after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 was strategically of greatest importance. Previously the Soviet fleet had been restricted to the harbor of Kronstadt in the innermost part of the Gulf of Finland as its only Baltic Sea naval base and therefore was scarcely in a position to conduct major operations in the Baltic Sea. Now the Moscow treaty had opened the way for them to the good, favorably situated harbors on the Finnish west coast and in the Baltic States. It would not be long until the Soviet armed forces began to realize on these advantages they had won. Naturally this development appeared in no wise desirable to the German Navy High Command. It meant an appreciable strengthening of the naval position of Russia in the Baltic and therewith a considerable alteration of the balance of power in this inland sea which previously had been under the uncontested control of Germany.
By the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet navy had 3 battleships, 7 cruisers (including 4 new types of Kirov), 61, and the leader of a destroyer, 269 torpedo boats and 218 submarines, 22 patrol ships, 80 minesweepers. Fleet Naval Aviation consisted of 2,581 machines of various types.
To the greatest extent the increase in ships was characteristic of the Baltic Fleet. Warships built in the prewar years, especially during the Second Five Year Plan, were equal in quality to the ships of foreign navies constructed in the same period, and for some tactical and technical characteristics superior to them. Thus, the "Kirov" class cruiser, being the most high-speed ships of this class, had at the same time the most powerful guns (nine 180-mm guns). However, these cruisers had weak armor (50 mm). Leaders and destroyers, having a very high speed, and had heavy artillery and torpedo armament. Submarines "C" and "K" were the most modern boats of the period.
A significant drawback of pre-war shipbuilding program consisted of an imbalances in the classes of warships, which was expressed in a limited number of combat units, intended to carry out support tasks. Thus, for example, was clearly not enough to be held of minesweepers in the number of special construction. Naval Academy and the Military Council of the Baltic Fleet at the time paid attention to this lack of programs.But the proposals that were before the war, Professor, Vice-Admiral L. Goncharov and Rear-Admiral Yuri F. Rall, the need to be at the Baltic Sea up to 200 modern trawlers, unfortunately, not been taken. Meanwhile, the main loss of the Baltic Fleet in combat and auxiliary ships from enemy mines during the war years were a direct consequence of the lack of minesweepers. The major drawback stemming from an underestimation of another serious danger - submarines, was limited the construction of anti-submarine ships and boats. They were built a few dozen, but hundreds were needed. Finally, the beginning of the war fleet had no landing craft, as well as landing craft specially constructed.
Of course, all these shortcomings were not accidental, and the issue of removing them was raised repeatedly. But even big by the time the possibility of industry and economy of the Soviet state were not limitless, and needs continued to grow.
The material part of aviation as a whole, including naval aviation, was not adequate. Unfortunately, as a result of a number of reasons for the new types of aircraft began belatedly. By the spring of 1941, 87,5% of naval aviation aircraft were obsolete types. Only 23,8% of aircraft fleet aircraft were bombers or torpedo. The backlog of naval strike aircraft is determined, on the one hand, qualitative deficiencies rather constructive obsolescence of the main aircraft types and on the other - the quantitative discrepancy between the available attack aircraft fleets of the Air Force tasks in the main theaters of naval operations. Thus, a third of bombers and torpedo was in the Pacific theater, while the Northern Fleet aircraft had just 11 such aircraft. Dive bombers in naval aviation were almost absent; aircraft such as the Pe-2 began to arrive in the fleet after the war started. There were the beginning of the war in the Navy the Il-2.
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