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Amphbious Ships

The consequences of the collapse of the USSR by the beginning of the 21st century came as a result of an almost landslide reduction in the naval composition of the Russian Navy. Among the victims were large landing ships. All three of the three largest BDKs of Project 1174 (total displacement of 14060 tons) left the game. Of the 14 old BDKs of Project 1171 (total displacement of 4360 tons), 4 remained. Of the 27 BDKs of Project 775 (total displacement of 4400 tons), 15 remained intact.

At the same time, it was the BDKs that were perhaps the most popular naval warships. True, this was not due to the fact that our Fleet had to land amphibious assaults continuously, but to the fact that this Fleet itself did not have military transports. In the role of such, the surviving BDK had to be used. Those at the same time, of course, were wasting their precious resource and certainly were not getting younger.

For operations within the contiguous waters of the Soviet Union sufficient assets were available to lift the organic naval infantry regiments plus additional forces. If the amphibious forces and landing craft within each fleet are combined, the maximum single lift capability in the mid-1970s was estimated to be a division.

When considering amphibious lift capabilities beyond their contiguous waters, however, certain definite constraints were apparent. The Soviet amphibious fleet appeared specifically designed to provide the surface lift capabilities for short-haul operations within the contiguous seas of the Soviet Union. The capability for transporting amphibious forces over longer distances was restricted by the insufficient size and limited mnmber of truly ocean-going vessels. Amphibious ships of the "Alligator" and "Polnocny" class were designed for short-haul operations and their relatively slow speed, 15 and 18 knots respectively, severely constraints transoceanic projection.

The Soviet Union emphasized the amphibious portion of their shipbuilding program in the 1970s. Much of their amphibious fleet was new but surprisingly limited. Only a few of their amphibious ships possessed truly ocean-going ability. The "Ropucha," "Alligator," and "Polnocny" landing ships have been observed during Soviet naval maneuvers and on deployments in the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean. The majority of their landing craft appear to be designed for short haul, shore-to-shore operations.

It is often mentioned that within the Soviet Union's merchant fleet lay the latent capability to support and sustain overseas force projection. Although this possibility cannot be discounted, it is significant to note that during Soviet naval exercises, the participation of merchant marine shipping was minimal. In fact, when they have been used, as in "Okean 75," their activity was essentially relegated to an actor or aggressor role. Soviet merchant vessels simulated Western shipping reinforcing NATO and allowed the Soviet Fleets an opportunity to practice their role of interdicting the shipping lanes to Europe.

If the Soviet Union's merchant fleet was employed to increase the oceanic lift capability, it is obvioas that their lift capability would significantly improve. Using their Merchant Marine as auxiliary lift they could probably have transported 15 to 20 divisions. However, the planning would be exceedingly difficult and the Soviet Union indicated neither a desire nor any movement in this direction.

Excluding the smaller landing craft which the 1976-1977 Militarv Balance estimated at 60, a decrease of 30 from the previois year, it is doubtful that the entire amphibious fleet of the Soviet Union exceeded 125,000 tons. This represented a total troop lift capacity of approximately 20,000 to 25,000 men. Only the "Alligator" and the newer class "Ropucha" the larger Soviet amphibious vessels, can accommodate an entire Haval Infantry Battalion. Those shipe, however, only compare with the LST, the smallest vessel of the U.S. amphibious fleet.

In comparison, in the 1970s the American amphibious fleet, with its impressive array of 20-knot vessels, displaced in excess of 700,000 tons and was capable of accommodating approximately 130,000 embarked troops. Accordingly, the entire Soviet amphibious fleet represents less than one-fifth of the U.S. amphibious force. It was possible that the Soviet Union could assemble their amphibious ships in one area. However, this represents a sizeable problem of organization and something beyond vhich naval infantry forces have demonstrated.

The Alligator tank landing ship [LST] is a typical amphibious assault ships. Propelled by diesel, this ship is relatively small, displacing about 4500 tons. In 1978, the Soviets launched a new amphibious ship, the Ivan Rogov, which in the west would be classified as a Landing Ship, Dock [LPD]. The advent of the Ivan Rogov was taken in the West as an indication that the Soviet Navy was planning to strengthen the power projection mission of Naval Infantry. Twice the size of earlier ships, it can launch amphibious vehicles from its open bow doors. It also carries helicopters. Among the various small assault landing vehicles to launch from the bow are hovercraft, such as the Aist, which can carry the naval infantry ashore at speeds of fifty knots.

By the end of the Cold War the Soviet Naval forces had over eighty landing ships as well as two Ivan Rogov-class amphibious assault docks. The latter were assault ships that could transport one infantry battalion with forty armored vehicles and their amphibious landing craft. At seventy-five units, the Soviet Union had the world's largest inventory of air-cushion assault craft. In addition, many of the Soviet merchant fleet's (Morflot) 2,500 ocean-going ships could off-load weapons and supplies in an amphibious landing.

Russian navy's fleet of landing ships will be fully overhauled by 2050, Navy Commander Adm. Viktor Chirkov said 11 June 2015. Chirkov stressed that the modernization would cover the entire range of landing vessels, from small landing boats to large landing ships. "We are planning to replace practically all existing landing ships with new ones by 2050," Chirkov said during an official laying down of the second Project 11711 large landing ship, the Pyotr Morgunov, at the Yantar shipyard in Russia's Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.

Alexander Khramchikhin noted in early 2019 that "Apparently, it was on the BDK from the Black Sea Fleet moved from Novorossiysk to Sevastopol "polite people" in 2014. But the main mission of the domestic BDK was to save Syria.... Since the summer of 2012, BDK has started regular flights from Novorossiysk to Tartus. These flights were informally named "Syrian Express" (similar to the Tokyo Express , the transfer of troops and equipment during world war II ships of the Japanese Navy to the island of Guadalcanal in 1942-1943). All Black Sea, Baltic and North Sea BDK and even two of the four Pacific BDK (Admiral Nevelskaya and Peresvet) were involved in it at different times. They have already made several hundred flights to Syria. In particular, they transferred the bulk of the cargo for the deployment of the Russian aviation group and air defense swells."

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Page last modified: 25-12-2019 18:54:40 ZULU