Several years ago, the Russian Navy could receive its first universal amphibious assault ships of joint Russian-French construction. However, the deal fell through, and our country had to independently develop this direction. The design was successfully completed, and on July 20, the laying of two UDCs of our own design took place at once.
From project to construction
Over the past few years, after completion stories with "Mistrals", materials on UDC's own projects regularly appeared at domestic exhibitions. There were also statements about the ability of our industry to build such ships and the imminent start of construction. However, until a certain time, real work was postponed.
In November last year, it became known that the Zelenodolsk Design Bureau, which is part of the Ak Bars corporation, will develop a new UDC project. Already in early January 2020, materials on this project, which received the number "23900", were demonstrated to the country's leadership. It also became known that in the coming months, two new UDCs will be laid at the Zaliv plant in Kerch (also part of Ak Bars).
Initially, it was reported that the ships were laid in May, but due to the difficult situation, these events were postponed. The signing of the construction contract has also shifted. According to domestic media reports, the Defense Ministry and the Zaliv plant signed such an agreement on May 22. For two UDCs the performer will receive approx. RUB 100 billion
On July 20, a solemn ceremony was held in Kerch with the participation of President Vladimir Putin, representatives of the government and the Ministry of Defense. Embedment boards are installed on the sections of the future ships "Ivan Rogov" and "Mitrofan Moskalenko".
To date, both the appearance and some characteristics of the promising UDC pr. 23900 have been published. This allows us to assess their capabilities and potential, as well as compare with foreign models of their class.
Demonstration of materials on the project to the country's leadership, January 2020 Frame from the reportage by TV company "Zvezda"
Etc. 23900 provides for the construction of a ship with a length of approx. 220 m with a full displacement of 25 thousand tons. The hull has traditional contours and a special layout typical for UDC. So, a significant part of the internal volumes is given to the crew quarters for the landing and the deck to accommodate the amphibious, land and aviation technology. A dock chamber is organized in the stern, in which landing craft of pr. 11770 Serna or other floating craft are transported. The nasal ramp, which is typical for domestic large landing craft, is not provided.
The superstructure of the ship is shifted to the starboard side, due to which a large flight deck with a width of 33 m with six take-off positions is organized. With its help, the operation of helicopters for various purposes is ensured - the attack Ka-52K, transport-combat Ka-29 or anti-submarine Ka-27. Perhaps in the future they will be supplemented by short or vertical takeoff aircraft.
UDC pr. 23900 will be able to carry up to 1000 troops and up to 75 units. armored vehicles - depending on its type. The dock chamber can accommodate up to six boats. On the deck and in the hangar, there is space for 20 helicopters of different types.
It is known that the new ships will receive various weapons for self-defense, but its composition remains unknown. According to various estimates, the ship needs artillery and missile-artillery air defense systems, anti-torpedo systems, etc. Also on board must be present advanced electronic weapons, incl. electronic warfare means. At the same time, the ship does not need advanced shock systems.
The crew of the new UDC will include 320 people. Autonomy - 60 days. Full speed will reach 22 knots, cruising range - 6 thousand nautical miles. As part of naval groups, the new UDCs will be able to operate at a great distance from the bases and solve the tasks of landing troops, participate in humanitarian operations, etc.
The main reason for the appearance of pr. 23900 should be considered the refusal of France to transfer two ready-made UDCs. When developing a Russian project, foreign experience and developments were taken into account, but they were implemented differently. As a result, the projects "23900" and Mistral differ significantly from each other - and it makes sense to compare them.
First of all, it should be noted that the Russian ship is larger and heavier than its French counterpart. "Mistral" has a length of less than 200 m and a total displacement of 21,3 thousand tons. The difference in the main dimensions and displacement leads to serious differences in the areas and volumes available for the deployment of troops and equipment.
Depending on the duration of the voyage, the French UDC is capable of taking on board 450 or 900 paratroopers. Cargo decks can accommodate up to 59 units. equipment, incl. up to 13-15 basic tanks... The dock chamber accommodates four CTM landing craft or two LCACs. Hangars and flight deck are capable of accommodating up to 16 heavy helicopters or 35 light helicopters. The Russian-French order provided for the completion of the increase in the height of the hangar deck in accordance with the dimensions of our helicopters. The aviation group of the Russian UDC was supposed to include 30 vehicles of several types.
For self-defense, Mistrals carry two Simbad air defense systems, two 20-mm NARWHAL anti-aircraft guns, as well as a set of machine guns of normal and large caliber. Ships for the Russian Navy were to receive reinforced Russian-made weapons. It was proposed to use two AK630 gun mounts and two Gibka anti-aircraft systems. Fire control systems are Russian-made.
UDC type Mistral is capable of speeds up to 19 knots. An economic speed of 15 knots provides a cruising range of over 10 thousand nautical miles. At the same time, autonomy is limited to 30 days.
It is easy to see that in almost all basic tactical and technical characteristics, Project 23900 bypasses the French Mistral. It follows from this that the Russian military and shipbuilders studied foreign experience, but did not adopt ready-made solutions and designs. The result is a larger, faster and more capacious ship with all the necessary capabilities.
Waiting for new items
Back in the spring, before the contract was signed, the domestic media reported on the completion date of the planned construction. The head UDC pr. 23900 was planned to be handed over to the customer in 2026, the second one in 2027. Thus, launching should be expected after 2023-24, and after completion, the ships will go out for testing.
So far, the Ministry of Defense plans to build only two new UDCs, and the possibility of further construction is not ruled out. After the laying ceremony, V. Putin noted that the decision would be made based on the experience of operating the first ships. In addition, the president spoke about plans for some alteration of the landing ships to solve other problems - but did not specify which ones.
Thus, the current state of affairs is conducive to restrained optimism. The long-awaited construction of the first fully domestic UDC has begun and will be completed in a few years, thanks to which the Navy will receive fundamentally new ships. So far, one cannot exclude certain difficulties at different stages due to the lack of necessary experience, but there are no reasons for negative predictions.
It should be noted that the delivery of two Mistral ships was planned back in 2014-15. But due to the dubious actions of the French authorities, the plans of the Russian Navy were disrupted, and the development of the amphibious forces was slowed down. The first desired UDC will be obtained only 10-12 years after the dates stipulated by the Russian-French agreement.
However, this time has not been and will not be wasted. Over the past few years, Russian scientific and design organizations have studied promising topics and worked out new projects, while the factories were preparing for construction. As a result, the Russian Navy will receive the desired universal amphibious assault ships, and better than foreign ones and without any political risks. Their construction has already begun.