Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced Monday the Russian Navy will receive 24 submarines and 54 surface warships of varying classes by 2020 as part of Russia’s military rearmament program. To meet these naval construction goals, $166 billion has been allocated; an entire quarter of the Russian defense budget.
The 78 vessels in total to be delivered to the Russian Navy will include eight Borei Class nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) armed with the new ‘Bulava’ sea based ballistic missile; eight Graney Class nuclear attack submarines (SSN) and eight Kilo and Lada Class diesel electric submarines (SSK).
Russia’s surface fleet will receive 54 new warships of various configurations such as the new Gorshkov Class frigates (FF/FFG), the new Buyan Class corvettes and Ivan Gren Class large landing craft which will replace the aging Ropucha Class of Soviet Era design.
This announcement follows in line with previously announced plans for rebuilding the entire Russian military. The newer classes of vessels have the benefit of increased ingenuity and technological advancements in Russian shipbuilding expertise which was not always present during the Soviet Era of state centralized planning.
The 54 new surface warships to be built are primarily for protecting Russia’s littoral waterways and the ships will specialize in coastal sea control and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) to protect the coasts and seaports from interdiction by hostile submarines and/or do battle with neighboring nations comparably sized warships in times of hostilities.
Though not mentioned in this announcement Russia also has plans for rebuilding a modern ‘blue water’ fleet as well. All blue prints for large warships left over from the Soviet Era have been scrapped and new design boards commissioned to design modern cruisers, destroyers and aircraft carriers along with full development of the carrier battle group concept which the Soviet Navy attempted but, largely failed to achieve before the Soviet collapse.
These naval plans are the most ambitious Russia has embarked on since the end of the Cold War and time will tell whether they can actually be carried out. The Russian Navy has suffered along with its sister services with corruption in both the uniformed and civilian force ranks.
One sign however that the Russian government is serious is the announcement that a permanent Mediterranean force will be created despite the impending loss of Russia’s only external naval base in Syria. A small force though it may be, Pres. Putin seems determined to maintain a Russian naval presence in the Mediterranean.
Even in Soviet days with vast resources and large numbers of ships and friendly ports of call in Syria, Libya, Albania and the former Yugoslavia, the Soviets rotated warships in and out of the Mediterranean from other Soviet fleets rather than try to base a permanent naval force there.
These new Russian naval developments run in parallel to efforts to reinvent the Russian Army from ‘head to foot’, with Defense Minister Shoigu announcing steps to cure the Army of ‘commercial tasks’, reopen military officer schools to fill the severe shortage in field officer billets, reopen the Ryazan Airborne Command School, reinstate the warrant officer program and reorganize Russian ground formations back into larger field divisions, rather than western style brigades.
Russian military forces last month conducted large nationwide exercises which seemed to have the purpose of testing overall conditions and readiness of forces rather than focus on any one threat scenario. The exercises included Black Sea naval maneuvers, rapid deployment of large ground formations with little to no notice and nuclear weapons drills on a scale not seen since the Cold War raising concerns in the Pentagon.
Russian military chief, Gen. Valery Gerasimov also conducted a round of snap inspections of Russian Army units during these exercises and then went public with the media on the ‘systemic problems’ he found down to the foot soldier ranks with particularly harsh words reserved for the 28th Motorized Rifle Brigade based in Tajikistan. Such snap inspections have not been carried out in nearly 20 years but, according to Gerasimov, will now be routine.