Why Russia needs new corvettes
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik) - On March 31, 2010, another Russian warship floated out in St. Petersburg: the Soobrazitelny corvette, the second vessel of Project 20380. The vessel's name follows the old Soviet/Russian tradition of using adjectives to name small warships. "Soobrazitelny" means "smart" in Russian. This name was borne by a Soviet Project 61 destroyer, and before it, by a legendary World War II destroyer.
Unfortunately, new additions to the Russian Navy occur rarely these days, and the launch of the new corvette became a noteworthy event. Besides, the Soobrazitelny deserves special mention as an example of one of the most advanced projects in the world.
The work on the ship's design began in the 1990s, and the difficult period in Russia's modern history left its mark on it. In a bid to reduce construction costs and avoid building several series of specialized warships, the designers made Project 20380 vessel a universal one, which was capable of destroying practically all types of targets: surface ships, submarines, aircraft and even ground-based targets.
This all-purpose nature determined its classification: instead of being given a rank common for small Russian warships, such as small anti-submarine ship, small missile ship, etc., the new vessel was classified as a corvette, which, according to Western standards, is an all-purpose warship.
But while conforming to this classification in size (displacement 2,000 tons), the new Russian corvette outgrew it by fire power. Eight anti-ship missiles, a deck-based helicopter, a wide array of sonar and anti-submarine equipment, a 100mm gun, and an impressive complement of close-in air-defense systems made experts place it among the frigates, which is a higher-level ship in naval classification.
This raise in status is especially justified for Soobrazitelny and its successors. They are equipped with even more powerful weapons: instead of the Kortik air defense gun and missile system these ships will accommodate an integrated weapons complex with eight loading bays, each of which can hold 1-4 missiles depending on their type.
The new corvettes are also equipped with the Sigma combat information and control system, which simultaneously tracks and engages targets on land, on and under water, and in the air, much like the U.S. Aegis system, allowing a task force to organize coordinated defense, to exchange information, to share targeting data and to control the group's weapons in real time.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Navy has fallen behind its opponents as far as new-generation warships are concerned, and is now making up for lost time. More often than not, this race produces real breakthroughs. Today, Russia has developed a unified family of combat ships, ranging from corvette to destroyer, compatible in basic systems and differing only in the number of armaments installed.
Currently, Russia is building new ships in small series. Soobrazitelny is only the second of its project run, with three more still at various stages of construction. The rate of construction will be stepped up as soon as enough information is gathered on all the benefits and drawbacks of the new projects, which will make it possible to introduce the necessary updates.
In the next 10 years, Russia plans to build at least 20 Project 20380 corvettes. They will perform a wide range of missions: from patrolling Russia's territorial waters to supporting larger ships, including all-purpose landing craft, destroyers, cruisers and even aircraft carriers whose construction is slated for the coming decade.
For such a wide variety of tasks, the 20 corvettes may fall short of the demand, suggesting more spending on new ships. These are really needed by Russia with its extensive sea borders and the remoteness of key theaters of military operation from each other. Russia needs a strong Navy to be able to stand up to any opponent.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
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