Aircraft carrier cruisers and Yak-38: retrospective analysis and lessons
Around the aircraft-carrying cruisers of Project 1143, many copies were broken, and the name of their aircraft - Yak-38, has become synonymous with helplessness far beyond the borders of our country. The critics are right in many ways. The Gyrfalcons (project code 1143) were indeed strange ships. And the Yak-38 really was seriously inferior to normal aircraft.
However, in the ending stories
these ships and their planes (actually completed) there are many "blank spots". And there were still many points that were simply not understood. And it is so now. Today our country is in some way at the bottom of its sea power. From fleet
remained "horns and legs", sea aviation
(including the ship one) is practically "killed". But that is what should force us to learn from the past - and they are there. Aircraft-carrying cruisers and their planes are exactly the case.
There is no point in retelling what is already known about the 1143 project and the Yak-38. What is the point of writing what you are looking for in two clicks? But little-known pages are worth opening, and it also makes sense to draw some conclusions that were not voiced out loud at the right time.
The first thing is the planes. A brief excursion into the history of the Yak-38
It is believed that the main weapons
the aircraft carrier is aviation. And also that the main weapon of Project 1143 was still anti-ship missiles and anti-submarine helicopters. In order to understand how it could have developed in reality, one must first evaluate its aircraft.
This is what I must say right away. The Yak-38 really did not live up to expectations, like the VTOL aircraft, in principle. But at the same time, there is no more slandered aircraft in our history.
Photo: RIA Novosti archive, Vladimir Rodionov / ru.wikipedia.org
The milestones in the creation and evolution of yaks were the following events.
1960 - the first project of the VTOL aircraft design bureau im. Yakovleva.
1960-1964 - research work, study of VTOL aircraft options, Yak-36 design, preparation for testing.
1964-1967 - Yak-36 test program. A decision was made to create another aircraft. Test flights of the Yak-36 continued until 1971.
Yak-36 (without "M") is more of a flying experimental stand than an airplane. The first Soviet "vertical".
Why does all this relate to the topic?
Because it was the creation of a scientific and technical groundwork. And without the Yak-36 errors, the next Yak-36M (which was later renamed Yak-38) simply would not have appeared.
1967 - the decision to create a light attack aircraft with vertical takeoff and landing. On December 27, 1967, the Resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Council of Ministers of the USSR No. 1166-413 was issued, which contained a decision to create first an attack aircraft, then a training "twin" and then a fighter. The attack aircraft, according to the Resolution, was intended:
“For air support of combat operations of ground forces in the tactical and immediate operational depth of the enemy's location (up to 150 km from the front line), as well as when basing the aircraft on ships of Project 1123 to destroy surface ships and coastal objects in naval operations and conduct visual aerial reconnaissance.
The main task of the aircraft is to destroy mobile, stationary ground and sea targets of the enemy in conditions of visual visibility. In addition, the aircraft should be used to combat air targets such as military transport aircraft and helicopters, as well as to combat AWACS aircraft and helicopters and anti-submarine aircraft.
With the support of the ground forces did not work.
It turned out that "verticals" are almost unsuitable as a base machine flying from ground airfields. The question was discussed in more detail in the article “Educational program. Airfieldless and dispersed basing of aviation "
... But this will be revealed later.
1970 - the beginning of flight tests. The aircraft were immediately tested as taking off vertically. November 18, 1972 - test pilot Mikhail Sergeevich Deksbakh performs the first in the history of our country landing of a jet aircraft on a ship - anti-submarine cruiser "Moscow". On this occasion, by decision of Aviation Marshal Ivan Ivanovich Borzov, an entry was made in the cruiser's logbook
"Birthday of carrier-based aviation".
Here it is, this landing. The first in our history.
May 18, 1975 - the first landing on the regular carrier of the TAVKR "Kiev".
July 1976 - first flights over the Mediterranean. At the same time, the first interception occurred - the American Orion began flying over the deck of the cruiser when flights were being made from it. The Yak was raised to intercept under the control of Colonel Feoktist Matkovsky, the future commander of the 279th OKSHAP, who died almost a year later on the MiG-21. The Orion was pushed back to a safe distance.
August 11, 1977 - the aircraft was put into service. Already like the Yak-38, not the Yak-36M. From the moment when the OKB im. Yakovleva began the creation of VTOL aircraft, more than 17 years have passed.
This is the first important lesson from the past - new "verticals" are created for a long time and it is not easy. Anyone who today hopes that Russia will be able to quickly create an aircraft with a short take-off / vertical landing should think about it. Of course, today we have experience. But this other experience, an attempt to create the F-35B "a la russe" will require completely different technologies than we have preserved. Both time and money.
But we should continue.
Since 1977, the aircraft had to be finished. The trip of the "Minsk" to the southern latitudes in 1979 required the alteration of the aircraft, the installation of the oxygen supply system to the engines in take-off mode. During operation, it turned out that during vertical take-off with a combat load, the combat radius is negligible, for which the aircraft received a dismissive nickname
"Mast guard aircraft".
The way out was a short takeoff run (WRC), which made it possible to increase this radius to a value that gave the existence of the aircraft at least some sense. The development of the SRS began in the same year, but it was still far from the implementation of this method in practice.
All of this was not enough. In 1980, four Yaks were sent to Afghanistan, where they flew 107 sorties in conditions of thin air, dust and real war. Basically "Yaks" worked at the training ground of the Afghan Air Force, but they were also sent for real combat missions.
"Yak" in Afghan camouflage, photo of 1980, in the background "spark" Yak-38U and "normal" attack aircraft.
A lot of issues related to swivel nozzle, dust protection and short-range takeoff have been resolved in Afghanistan. And it will not be an exaggeration to say that it was during this war that the Yak became precisely a combat aircraft. Just a bad, not a dangerous attraction for pilots.
However, its effectiveness was far from what was required. And in 1983, an improved version of the Yak-38M was created, which was put into service in 1985. This was already a real deck attack aircraft. The Yak-38M had engines with higher thrust. He could carry two outboard fuel tanks. And (depending on the combat load) during takeoff with a short takeoff run, its combat radius could reach 380 kilometers, which was already good.
And this aircraft, in fact, became our first fully combat-ready and more or less effective ship (deck) attack aircraft capable of operating as intended.
38 years have passed since the creation of the project of the first "vertical" of the Yakovlev Design Bureau until the adoption of the Yak-25M. Since the first flight of the Yak-36M / 38 - 15 years. Since the adoption of the Yak-38 into service - 8 years.
This is the time frame for such aircraft being created and brought to an operational state. In a normally operating aviation industry, there are practically no "effective managers", no organized crime groups seeking to "straddle" financial flows in the defense industry, with minimal restrictions on money and resources. With the simplest electronic equipment of the "Stone Age", if you call a spade a spade. A reason to think about all lovers of "vertical".
Well, now - to the unknown pages.
Interceptions and assessment of real opportunities
In 1980 "Minsk" with "Yaks" went to the South China Sea. With an absolutely "aircraft carrier" task - to put pressure on the daring natives with their presence. The reason was the aggravation of the situation on the border between Thailand and Kampuchea.
The activities of detachments of the Khmer Rouge and their allies sent from abroad continued with the active help of the Thai authorities and their direct participation. Link.
For example, on June 27, 1980, the Maticon newspaper published in Bangkok told about a press conference by Thai Colonel Prachak Sawangjit, who said that “Thai troops destroyed the enemy's base in a village located on Cambodian territory five kilometers from the border”.
In September 1980, Thai aircraft and helicopters invaded NRK airspace 98 times on reconnaissance flights over the border provinces of Pousat, Battambang and Kahkong.
In October 1980, the Thai artillery 330 times subjected to rocket and artillery shelling the settlements of the Cambodian provinces bordering Thailand.
Our specialists also perished from the actions of the sent gangs.
The Vietnamese, who controlled Kampuchea then, did not remain in debt and carried out raids on Thai territory. Very bloody. And it was in the summer of 1980. But the death of Soviet citizens required a different reaction.
The response to the provocations of the Thais was the deployment in the Gulf of Thailand in October 1980 of a ship-based aircraft carrier group of the USSR Navy consisting of: TAVKR "Minsk", ICR "Letuchiy" pr. 1135, BPK "Petropavlovsk" pr. 1134B and MRZK "Deflector".
Naturally, the Americans, who have been playing their anti-Soviet and anti-Vietnamese game in Asia for a long time in an alliance with China, could not stand aside. The Soviet naval group was discovered 94 miles from the Thai naval base Sattahip. And it was impossible not to react to this.
The then commander of the "Minsk" Viktor Aleksandrovich Gokinaev (then-captain of the 1st rank) recalls:
The flights were planned and performed on schedule:
Monday and Tuesday - flights;
Wednesday - pre-flight preparation;
Thursday and Friday - flights;
Saturday - pre-flight preparation.
And so on for a month.
The flights were carried out for combat use at a breaker target with automatic cannon fire, NURS and bombing, both by single aircraft and as part of flights in the morning from 9.00 to 17.00. Then - from 18.00 to 02.00 flights of the second shift - helicopters. There were also mixed flights of airplanes and helicopters during one flight shift.
... The work of the aircraft carrier "Minsk" in the Gulf of Thailand was under the control of not only the command of the Soviet Navy, but also the intelligence services of the United States and Thailand.
Every day, a Yak-38 flight and a Ka-27 helicopter in the form of a rescuer were on alert in the technical position. The duty unit regularly went up on the combat alert into the air to check the combat readiness. And sometimes to intercept intruders - reconnaissance aircraft of the United States and Thailand, who were actively interested in our actions.
Twice, during the flight through the aircraft carrier, the B-52 and Orion, taken in "pincers", our attack aircraft carried out over the air defense positions of Vietnam.
The lesson went for the future. Tough measures were taken against the Thai reconnaissance aircraft.
As for the Ka-27PS, this is probably just a mistake. There should have been a Ka-25.
Harsh measures - displacement, similar to the actions of Colonel F. Matkovsky in Crete.
What's interesting here?
That the Yaks were able to do such things. In the photo below, a B-52 is flying past one of our 1143s, on the deck of which attack aircraft are clearly ready for takeoff. Most likely, it was filmed there, and the ship - this is "Minsk" and is. In any case, there is no other information about the meetings of American bombers with our aircraft carrier cruisers.
It's a pity, but the "continuation of the banquet" did not get into the public domain. Alas.
What else attracts attention?
The distance of 94 miles for the Yaks was too long to fly to strike a Thai naval base with a significant combat load. Alas, these were also the first planes without the "M" in the index.
However, reaching the range with which the Yak could have inflicted such a blow with a pair of bombs was a matter of a couple of hours for Minsk. In addition, the presence of radio-contrast targets on the naval base would make it possible to inflict a very tough combined missile-aviation (missile-assault) strike with Basalts and aircraft.
The missiles could have been struck first. Then the rapprochement, the second strike of the anti-ship missile system and the "cleansing" of the base with planes with bombs and unguided missiles. After that, the mobility of the aircraft carrier group would have made it possible to complete the withdrawal. Most likely unpunished.
The Thai aviation, which has no experience of naval warfare, apparently would not have had time to do anything. In the best case, some small reconnaissance and strike group would go to our ships, performing the task of additional reconnaissance of the target... Which would have to deal with a very serious naval air defense for those times.
The fact of raising the aircraft to strike would most likely have been revealed by a reconnaissance ship. And American bombers in those years did not yet carry anti-ship missiles. Although preparations for arming them with "Harpoons" were already underway.
And the most important thing.
If, when delivering a missile strike "Minsk", he was limited by the need to select radio contrast targets, then "Yaks" provided the ability to strike at any target - albeit at a short combat radius. And with a very low combat load.
Armament "Jacob" was varied. The photo shows the UPK-23-350 cannon container with a pair of 23-mm barrels under the wing.
Thailand had to consider all this.
Neither the Thais nor their American patrons took any action against our ships and aircraft. And the intensity of provocations along the border was reduced.
So, no matter how useless the "Yak" may seem then or today, this machine began to give results immediately.
In the future, the tradition of interceptions continued.
The USSR Navy did not have AWACS aircraft. There were no AWACS helicopters capable of operating against air targets either. But there were many ships. And there was someone to put on the radar patrol if necessary. And this made it technically possible to detect in advance the approaching American aircraft. And, relying on guidance from ships, go out to intercept.
In January 1983, the American press reported that the Yaks first intercepted aircraft from the Eisenhower, being armed with air-to-air missiles (it could be R-60 or R-60M).
According to the information available today, the described event first occurred on December 16, 1982 over the Arabian Sea.
This is what their press wrote then (link in english):
Washington. According to the Navy, two Soviet vertically taking off fighters armed with missiles intercepted two American planes from the aircraft carrier Eisenhower in the northern Arabian Sea.
Then, briefly, we intercepted Tomcat and Corsair 2. This is the first time that Soviet aircraft have operated with air-to-air missiles. Before that, interceptions were without missiles.
It must be understood that this happened more than once afterwards. Unfortunately, our Ministry of Defense does not please us with historical details. Americans, in general, are also reluctant to talk about these episodes.
However, at least one photo goes around the network.
March 25, 1986. This is the only thing we know about this case. And the fact that the photo was taken from an American plane.
"This Russian is on our tail, sir!"
The Yak-38 could be anything bad, but in the event of a real war, it would look like someone's death.
But was the Yak generally capable of fighting in the air?
It is known that the pilots of the naval assault aviation regiments practiced something in this regard. There is one interesting piece of evidence on this score. True, anonymous. And no confirmation. It was posted on one of the military history forums. Without a single proof. Just as part of the dialogue.
“I am telling a story told to me by the officers of the 33rd training center in the mid-80s. Unfortunately, not an anecdote:
A Yak-38 with a young pilot is making a training flight in the Vladivostok area.
Initial data: no weapons, normal refueling, identification system switch in the wrong position (it was on the side and behind the pilot's seat, very inconvenient, according to the reviews of pilots and instructors, and in this case it worked), weather conditions are average with a tendency to deteriorate ...
The pilot completes the mission. And, returning, crosses the border. Ground-based air defense radar detected. Does not respond to requests. Naturally, the signal "I am mine" does not transmit due to incorrect installation of the identification system.
A couple of interceptors are raised. Which go to the target area and not immediately, but briefly detect the Yak visually. The wingman did not recognize the type of aircraft and reported:
"I observe the target visually, the type is unknown."
Further, according to the instructions, it performs the necessary actions and, after the order, launches the rocket. Miss.
The attack was carried out from the tail, the distance is unknown.
The Yak-38 pilot was in the dark until the rocket flew past. Interceptors were not observed. Reflexively, he begins to maneuver, changing course and altitude, and energetically. Visually observes the second missile, finishes the maneuver. They managed to evade.
The interceptors enter the second attack. The Yak-38 pilot notices them, reduces the speed to the limit (he did not use lifting engines, did not hover) and descends to the sea surface.
Interceptors lose it, as do air defense radars.
On a low-level Yak-38 it returns home without hindrance.
On this occasion, there was a corresponding order and organizational conclusions. Unfortunately, the type of interceptors and missiles is unknown.
In Soviet times, this case was considered the only real air battle involving the Yak-38.
Training air battles were carried out, but I have no information on them. "
So maybe he wasn't that bad and bad, this Yak?
Yak-38 with UR VV R-60M. Since these missiles were part of the armament, it means that their use was being worked out. This was not an isolated incident.
Everything changes when we move from trying to use an attack aircraft without a radar as a fighter to strike missions.
Some time ago appeared article, dedicated to the comparison of "Yaks" and their British counterparts - "Harriers". We will not quote much, since there are many inaccuracies in it, but of secondary importance. But the conclusions that are made from the characteristics of the aircraft are not very challenging.
Briefly. As a fighter, the Harrier was superior to the Yak-38: both in terms of flight performance and in terms of the presence of a radar on board. Moreover, it was not so superior that a hypothetical battle between these machines would be a "one-sided game".
But in strike missions, everything is different - the combat radius of the Yak-38 is smaller, but on condition that the Harrier carries two PTBs. Our PTB plane did not carry (the first 38th, not "M") and, accordingly, carried more weapons than "Harrier". The latter, without a PTB, could fly at about the same combat radius as our aircraft, with a slightly higher combat load. (The example in the article about "2,5 tons versus 1,5" is inappropriate. Since it refers to a strike at a distance of a few tens of kilometers. Which is not very plausible in a real battle. Even a Yak during takeoff with a short takeoff run could fly further ).
One quote from there:
Further - about the implementation of this very strike potential: it is not enough to deliver one and a half tons of ammunition to the target, these ammunition must still be put on target. In reality, a typical load of British aircraft consisted of 2 PTBs and 1-3 bombs of 1000 lb (454 kg) caliber. The variant with 3 bombs required the abandonment of guns (3 * 453,6 = 1360kg, the plane would no longer lift cannon containers); with two bombs, you can hang containers of 30 mm cannons. Other load options included three 280 kg BL.755 cluster bombs or two blocks of 50 mm unguided rockets (NAR) plus cannon containers under the fuselage.
The Yak-38, which did not carry a PTB, retained all 4 points of suspension for combat load and could take 4 FAB-250 or NAR blocks of 57- or 80-mm caliber, as an option - two 504-kg RBK-500 cluster bombs or two cannon containers plus two FAB-250 - there can be many options. In general, in terms of the number and range of unguided weapons, the aircraft will not yield to each other either. As for the delivery accuracy, we can assume that the Yak-38 and the Sea Harrier are about equal, both have a minimum set of sighting means for attacking ground targets ...
Consider now a guided air-to-ground weapon. The Sea Harriers could not carry such in 1982 at all, and the Yak-38 had Kh-23 radio command-guided missiles. The British could only counter this 314-kg missile with a 454-kg laser-guided LGB-16 bomb, which could be carried by the ground Harrier.
During the entire war, these bombs were used by the British only once, "at the end" of the conflict, during the assault on Mount Tumbledown. Those four bombs were dropped by a pair of Harrier GR.3, of 4 bombs, only half hit their targets - the positions of heavy artillery of the Argentines. The target was illuminated with a laser from the ground, from the battle formations of the British marines - the planes "jumped out" over the terrain only to drop bombs, they did not have time to search and recognize targets. It would be too risky to carry out the illumination with an onboard designator - the Harrier should be too close to the target for this, on the order of 1-2 km (based on the planning range of the bomb), and would be just as vulnerable to anti-aircraft artillery as an aircraft armed with conventional bombs ...
"Yaks" can launch their Kh-23s at a distance of up to 10 km, and the missile covers this distance in 10000 m / 700 m / s = 14 s - approximately this is the time it takes to follow the missile, aiming it at the target. Let's take the launch range even 8 km and the flight time with all the maneuvers of the rocket in 15 s (0,25 min), then the Yak-38 with a speed of 900 km / h will approach the target to 8-900 * 0,25 / 60 = 4,25 , 16 km is the distance at which the target has already been hit and the roll can be started. When the LGB-500 is dropped at such a distance to the target and from a small (1000–XNUMX m) altitude, the bomb is unlikely to reach at all, but after the drop it must be accompanied by highlighting the target with a beam!
And let's add here the NAR S-24, which the Yak-38 could also carry, and which the Harrier had no analogues. Plus, the fact that the Yak-38 could strike at a very short range by launching vertically with a combat load of up to a ton - the situation is impossible for the Harrier.
When performing strike missions, these aircraft must be evaluated at least as equal. Moreover, when hitting a surface target, the X-23 again brought the Yaki forward, and the naval aviation was ready to massively use this missile.
Moreover, the most important conclusion - after the appearance of the Yak-38M, the advantage went to us - with two PTBs ("Harriers" almost always flew from PTBs), our aircraft received an advantage in the range.
For two years from the moment the Yak-38M was put into service and until the Harrier 2 entered the British aviation, not they, but we had the world's best vertical takeoff and landing strike aircraft. Even if it was purely marine, but why such machines on earth?
Do not understand this as an excuse for "vertical" - a hypothetical MiG-23 in a ship version would be much better, like American aircraft. All of the above is written for something completely different - the Yak-38 (for all its shortcomings) cannot be considered either a mast guard aircraft or a useless attraction. In a real war, he was quite capable of inflicting losses on the enemy, like any normal combat aircraft. After all, no one demands from the same Su-25 the ability to conduct aerial combat against multi-role fighters? And the closest analogue of the "38" was this very machine, they were even tested in Afghanistan as part of one operation.
Pseudo-ironic remarks that, they say, the Ka-29 had more power is nothing more than stupidity.
It was just a weak aircraft, but he could definitely influence the course of hostilities. Moreover, we will see this a little later.
Understanding now the real capabilities of the aircraft, let us evaluate how a ship armed with them could prove itself in a real war with the United States. And at the same time, we will add to this assessment the information that the Soviet naval commanders during the Cold War did not possess and could not use.
"Gyrfalcons", "Basalts" and ship attack aircraft
Many of today's researchers consider anti-submarine operations to be the "canonical" purpose of these ships. On the one hand, this is true. These ships were widely used to search for foreign submarines. And successfully. And there were options for their combat use purely with anti-submarine helicopters.
Helicopters on the deck of "Kiev"
In the mid-80s, the Americans also finally realized what these strange ships were for these Russians — to guard the Bastions, as they called it.
However, here we get another lesson from the past - theory is one thing, and the situation, as Napoleon said, commands.
TAVKRs participated in combat services, especially in the Mediterranean Sea. And it was in the "hot 80s", when the USSR and the USA were really balancing on the brink of a hot war. It could easily have happened that no threatened period of more or less significant duration simply would not have turned out, and the Soviet naval formations would have had to take the battle at the place of their actual location. As, however, and the American.
Destroyer of project 956 "Desperate" and TAVKR "Kiev" in combat service in the Mediterranean, 1986
In theory, in this situation, the decisive factor would be the ability of the Navy to strike first. This should not be understood as the need to start a war first. Preempting the enemy is quite possible when he starts first. For example, a message comes from a direct tracking ship about the start of the recovery of aircraft from an aircraft carrier, then about an attack, then the connection is cut off. This is more than a clear signal. And with the appropriate orders from the commander of the TAVKR or a detachment of warships, the cruiser or the detachment could fire a missile salvo at the enemy, forestalling his attack. After that, with the successful defeat of the main target - the aircraft carrier, at best, the Americans could strike with part of their forces on our ships, after which their ability to conduct hostilities would sharply decrease.
Since the range of the Basalt anti-ship missile system significantly exceeded the combat radius of the Yaks, they were considered to be the means of delivering the first and main strike. And even when the command of the operational squadron, in the course of practicing a strike on a real aircraft carrier, demanded to approach the range of aircraft use and then deliver a "missile-assault" strike, it was often perceived "below" as a formality. Since there are planes, you have to do that. We are not to blame for the fact that they are what they are. But in a real war ...
Many in the navy denied the possibility of successfully using the Yaki. Here is what, for example, can be found in the article by Captain 1st Rank M. Monakov "On the Way to the Creation of Naval Aviation of the Russian Navy (1956-1989)" in "Marine Collection", No. 6, 2020. ( link to the pdf log file):
However, the performance characteristics of the Yak-38 did not allow them to be used in the first strike against enemy ship formations. Therefore, when planning naval operations to destroy the enemy's AUS, AUG, AMG and KUG, it was envisaged that the first strike on them would be made by anti-ship missile systems, and the Yak-38 attack aircraft would be used as a means of "developing success."
That is, in the event of the outbreak of war at the time the ships of Project 1143 were in combat service, they would be used as missile cruisers, and not as aircraft carriers. Calculations showed that the likelihood of a situation arising when, after the exchange of the first strikes, there would be an opportunity to lift the Yak-38 into the air, is such that it can be ignored.
And this is where the nuances begin.
The first problem that would prevent the use of TAVKRs as described by M. Monakov and as many commanders saw it, repelling the range of missile weapons, was this.
Ships do not fight on their own, but in groups - shock, search and strike, aircraft carrier. In missile combat, the key concept is the number of missiles in a salvo. A short excursion into salvo questions was made in the article "The reality of missile salvos: a little about military superiority"... And all this salvo had to be sent to the target, the number of this salvo (see "salvo model" in the article at the link) should have been sufficient to penetrate the air defense of the enemy's formation.
How many missiles were needed to "carry out" an aircraft carrier group "in one salvo"? This number grew steadily from the late seventies to the end of the Cold War. With the advent of mass ships with the AEGIS system, vertical missile launchers Mk.41, anti-aircraft missiles Standard SM-2, this number has approached three-digit value. But even earlier, in the early eighties, it was measured in tens.
Our missiles were superweapons in the 70s. And it was then that they made the US "sweat" and tense up properly. By the time the "Krechetov" appeared in the ranks, the Americans were already receiving the results of their efforts, the power of their naval air defense was constantly growing.
How many missiles could Kiev send to the target in one salvo? Eight. Would this be enough to break through the air defense of the US Navy formation in the conditions of a war that has already begun, when everyone is acting with maximum attention and exertion? Not a fact, so to speak. How could you increase the volley? Only at the expense of other ships.
Now let's imagine a situation when a naval carrier group with "Kiev" at the head in the Mediterranean Sea inflicts a strike on the US Navy AMG. What could be its composition, at least in theory? Well, for example, "Kiev", a couple of destroyers pr. 956, one of the first 1134, for example, "Vice-Admiral Drozd", three or four patrol boats, projects 1135 and / or 61. Maybe one of the "Bukari" "- BOD project 1134B, to strengthen the anti-submarine defense of the compound.
TAVKR "Kiev" (project 1143), tanker "Ivan Bubnov" (center), RRC "Vice-Admiral Drozd" (project 1134), BPK "Stroyny" (project 61-M). June 1985. Project 1134 and 1143 could easily have ended up in the same battle group - and ended up.
We count the salvo and range.
"Kiev" - 8 anti-ship missiles, supersonic, up to 550 km.
"Vice-Admiral Drozd", 4 anti-ship missiles in a salvo, let's assume that the realistic range in the non-nuclear version is 550 km, the speed is supersonic, but much slower than the "Basalt".
Destroyers, 8 anti-ship missiles in each salvo, 16 in total, supersonic, range up to 250 km, but only at high-altitude flight profile, at low-altitude - 100-120.
Already at this stage, we get the first consequence - in order to provide a strong strike, that is, a strike with a large number of missiles in a salvo, the ship's group will have to come very close. And, if we start from the flight characteristics of the Yak-38M, capable of carrying PTB, then the targets by this point would be deep within the combat radius of the attack aircraft. Or you would have to shoot from afar with "thin" volleys, with low chances of success and revealing your real location by enemy reconnaissance.
The second point is that in order to ensure the defeat of targets, it would be necessary to launch at different times. First, subsonic missiles. Then after a while "Basalts". And with a short delay - "Mosquitoes" from the destroyers.
And this deprived the shock of surprise even by itself, without other factors.
It was possible to act in different ways. But all the possible options for combat use had one thing in common - a purely long-range missile strike did not allow the enemy to be defeated.
And this meant the inevitable "inclusion" of aircraft from the ship in the strike. At the same time, the options for finding such ships as destroyers in the ship group (which had anti-ship missiles with a limited range) would simply push towards a scheme where at least the final attack of anti-ship missiles is delivered, precisely as an assault missile, with synchronized flight times of Mosquitoes from destroyers and attack aircraft Yak-38 or 38M with X-23, NAR S-24 guided missiles or bombs.
If he were successful - the question is open.
In theory, the ship group would need to disable or destroy the main target - the aircraft carrier with missiles, take on the strike of the aircraft, which he managed to raise, repulse it with some losses and then put into battle, firstly, ships with a shorter range of anti-ship missiles , and secondly, planes. And then, if after that there would still be aviation, then it would be necessary to operate by planes until the ships reached the range of using anti-aircraft missiles against surface targets. And then at the range of artillery use.
As far as can be judged from the information that got into the open press, the calculations showed a low probability that this sequence could be performed. But this does not negate the fact that it would not have been possible to solve the issue with purely missiles. Without aircraft, the defeat of the enemy was not achieved in principle (unless the enemy somewhere, by mistake, would have been put under attack). And in order to bring them into battle without losing them on the ship, a separate set of measures was required.
All these situations could be complicated by something else.
In the 70s and 80s, American submarines and combat swimmers actively operated at the naval ranges (especially in the Pacific Ocean), collecting fragments of guided missiles from the bottom immediately after firing before silting up. According to American sources, over several years of the operation, the US Navy had about two million fragments of the Basalt anti-ship missile alone. Based on intelligence data and using these fragments, the Americans were able to reverse engineer the seeker of our missile, which, according to them, allowed them to create effective electronic warfare systems against these missiles.
To what extent this is really so, now it is impossible to establish for sure. But if their electronic warfare means really turned out to be effective, then in addition to attack aircraft, the TAVKR would have no other tools for striking.
All this would overturn all the usual tactical approaches if the Soviet commanders had time to realize the sad reality before the death of their forces. However, the admirals, who immediately understood everything as they should, were there.
The well-known "Kiev" task of the oncoming battle with the AUG was solved against the background of the growing intensity of Yak-38 flights and the gradual delivery of the K-1 mission to the field headquarters. The detachment, meanwhile, slowly moved from the southeastern tip of Sicily in the direction of the island of Crete. Link.
By the end of the fourth day of intense work of radio intelligence, it was finally possible to establish the coordinates of the Forrestal and several ships of the core of its escort.
By this time, the warrant of the aircraft carrier had entered the range of the TAKR Basalt. However, the squadron demanded the implementation of the conditional missile and assault strike option.
Due to the limited range of the Yak-38, the exercise was thus extended for at least another two days. Or more if the American aircraft carrier begins to drift eastward.
... On January 14, on the maximum scale of the Kiev navigation radar, blurred outlines of the western tip of the island of Crete were cut. With the TAKR reaching the target designation range of the URO complex from the Ka-25RTs helicopter, the naval aviation was ready to carry out an assault strike.
A report on this immediately went to the 5th squadron. There, comparing the data of the "Kiev" with the information of the ships of the direct tracking of the "Forrestal", they gave the command to end the exercise and the results of the aircraft carrier's work were credited with the mark "good".
There were still two days of Yak-38 flights for piloting technique and at full range ahead.
So, imperceptibly, the first month of the combat service of the ships of the Northern Fleet in the 5th squadron came to an end.
This cannot be considered a documentary source. It's full of lyrical digressions. But where did the author get it from somewhere?
It should be admitted that the command of the 5th squadron, if this case is true, was 100% right. And those who did not understand this were just as much mistaken.
Alas, the experience of the Navy clearly indicates that not everyone understood the clear understanding of the need for aviation to strike the enemy. And some, in general, did not understand how to use these ships.
Beginning of 1981, Leningrad, organizational and methodological meeting "under the auspices" of the VMA. Admirals are losing a future war on the cards. Moreover, not with the actual ship composition, but with a promising one.
Admiral Emil Spiridonov, commander of the KTOF (who soon died tragically in the notorious crash of the "admiral's" Tu-104) "puts" his future aircraft-carrying cruisers "Minsk" and "Novorossiysk" in the air defense of the Fokino ("Tihas") base! And these are strike ships, the most powerful and expensive in the Soviet Navy.
Most likely, E.N. Spiridonov simply assessed these ships as
"Very bad aircraft carriers with very bad airplanes"
and just removed them from the sea out of harm's way.
But was this true?
The Americans unequivocally qualified the TAVKRs as a High Value Unit -
"High value unit".
And this, in turn, could lead to the fact that at each such HVU from the very beginning of the conflict, some kind of outfit of forces would be thrown, aimed only at its destruction.
Let's say it could be bombers with anti-ship missiles. An assessment of their capabilities was given in the article "American bombers against Soviet aircraft carriers"... It could have been other forces.
That is, the use of these ships in defense clearly transferred the initiative in carrying out an operation to destroy them into the hands of the enemy. Moreover, the enemy would be free to choose the method, the moment of time and the order of forces for this operation.
Taking into account the fact that the main enemy force was aviation, which the TAVKR air group could not resist in an open battle "aircraft against aircraft" in almost any form, this would actually be the withdrawal of the ship and the crew. In the best case, they would repeat the "feat" of the Kaiser's fleet. And they would have stood in the base for the entire war, on the course of which they could have had the maximum influence.
In contrast to this path, the advance deployment of surface forces outside the range of the enemy's base aviation, measures to mislead enemy reconnaissance about the real position of the aircraft-carrying cruiser and its covert withdrawal to strike the enemy gave some chances. Not the biggest, but never zero. And much higher than passive defense.
To check the correctness of all of the above constructions, the author conducted a small experiment.
Why don't we know a lot of what Americans know?
Because we do not have their experience - we have never had a war comparable to that of the Pacific. There were not thousands of ships in the ranks, there were not many naval battles from which any lessons could be learned.
We are theorists.
In the Ground Forces, it is possible to turn to the combat experience of the past. And find answers to a lot of questions there. There has always been some episode similar to this one, the current one, from which you can understand something for yourself, adjusted for modern weapons and communications. In the case of the navy, we have nothing of the kind.
It is easy to assume that if admirals could conduct a couple of dozen wars using aircraft-carrying cruisers, then there would be no "white spots" in their use. But this was obviously impossible.
Nevertheless, it is not entirely complete, but still there is a real way out - modeling. It is desirable with the use of computer technology and appropriate (at least conditionally) software.
Some time ago the author got the technical opportunity to do it. True, with a very large "error" in relation to reality. Modeling by those means did not and could not provide comprehensive answers to all questions. But it showed something.
First, the indeed, in the absence of external target designation (and with the outbreak of hostilities it would not have become very quickly, if it had been there at all - the enemy perfectly understood the significance of the Tu-95RTs), the range from which missile ships in the formation strike at the enemy significantly decreases ... Since you have to detect the enemy by your own means - by combining the results of the work of reconnaissance ships, data from hydroacoustics of submarines, raids of light ships (MRK, project 61) with reconnaissance missions, flights of carrier-based attack aircraft for reconnaissance, and most importantly - Ka-25Ts helicopters, the presence of which was critical. Departure of the scout "from the shore" would rather be a rare "bonus" and luck than a system.
At the same time, technically, the TAVKR was still capable of delivering a missile strike long before the approach to the range of use of attack aircraft. But it would be very undesirable, since the chances of destroying something with such a blow are negligible.
Second, the undoubtedly, it is much better to inflict a powerful missile strike with all units than to attack in turn immediately, as soon as one or another ship is at the required distance from the enemy.
Third, it is necessary to maneuver ships in such a way that by the time of the first or retaliatory attack of the enemy the TAVKR would not be in the order. In principle, the possibility of such a maneuver is obvious. And in the exercises, it was carried out, with the substitution of a supply ship or a tanker with corner reflectors instead of TAVKR.
Fourthly, we must strive to ensure that the development of success by airplanes is really possible. And if TAVKR avoided defeat, it would have been possible.
Ultimately, an application model emerged that was not an aircraft carrier, although it had its features. And it was not a model for the use of a missile cruiser, although it had its features. This was a specific tactical scheme for an aircraft-carrying cruiser operating as part of a formation, but physically not in a common order with it for a significant part of the operation.
Such a ship turned out to be significantly weaker than an aircraft carrier, which is generally obvious. But she was getting much stronger than a missile cruiser with the same number of missiles. And it was more powerful precisely because of the aircraft, in the first place. And the fact that the enemy's defense would be "softened", as the Americans say, by a series of missile strikes, secondly.
At the same time (depending on whether it was possible to deceive the enemy's reconnaissance), the strike by the planes could be delivered synchronously with the missile. Just from different heights and courses. It could have been otherwise.
The pledge of victory, ultimately, consisted of the following sequence:
1. Replay enemy reconnaissance and reach the line of missile launch. One of the proven ways to implement this was the very tracking of weapons, which became the hallmark of the Navy in those years. That is, the launch line was reached before the start of hostilities. And then the ships kept at this distance for the enemy. It would be critical to maintain a distance at which all the ships in the formation could fire a salvo. And to get closer to the combat radius of the use of attack aircraft could be in a short period of time (several hours).
2. At the moment when the start of hostilities is already inevitable (shortly before a salvo or upon receipt of an order to strike, or immediately after a missile strike), the TAVKR had to get out of the enemy's air strike, having gone beyond the order in which the enemy was his last once seen by means of intelligence. The high speed of the aircraft-carrying cruisers made it possible. For example, the lifting of an air group from an aircraft carrier, its formation in battle formation, the flight to the launch line of the anti-ship missile system could take up to an hour. An aircraft-carrying cruiser traveling at maximum speed during the same time could be very far away.
In the extreme case, the TAVKR makes a 180-degree turn and moves at a 30-knot speed in the direction opposite to the previous course. If the order continues to move, for example, with a 27 nodal move to the enemy, then the enemy will be waiting for him 27 miles to his side from the last point where he observed our forces. And the order will be there. And the TAVKR will be 57 miles (105 km) in the opposite direction. This is an extreme case.
In reality, such a maneuver will be performed taking into account geography (islands or shores nearby, our own, enemy or neutral), weather (20 miles to the east, a low cloud front, we hide from aviation under it), trade traffic, time of day (at night you can pretend to be a tanker) and etc. This is just a figure for understanding the scale. He's a slow ship, of course. But this is how it all turns out in the end.
3. Then, when the rest of the ships take on the battle, the TAVKR was supposed to get close to the range of the use of aviation and provide, if possible, a combined missile-assault strike or their series. And so on until the withdrawal of the surviving ships to the range of the use of missiles against enemy ships. Naturally, the surviving ships would also have to "invest" in these attacks with the remaining anti-ship missiles.
This model did not guarantee anything. This sequence was not easy to follow. But she gave some chances even against a deployed and battle-ready US Navy aircraft carrier group.
All the simulation results also showed the extreme doubtfulness of the idea of using this ship for anything other than an attack on enemy surface forces. Used as anti-submarine, it could. And with success. But in the absence of resistance from enemy aircraft and surface ships. In a real war, no one would have allowed this. But even if he did, then the use of TAVKRs as an attacking striking unit in any case provided more benefits than their use for any conceivable defensive purpose.
An important point - the enemy would have (with the right approach from our side) use really large forces in order to neutralize the TAVKR - and all this time these forces could not be used in other places, making the balance of forces in these other places more advantageous for the USSR. Well, or less unprofitable.
These are interesting conclusions that can be drawn today about the ships that we have built. And their possibilities were never fully tested. This is probably even for the best that they have not checked. But only if we draw the right conclusions from all this.
Lessons for Today
The era of aircraft-carrying cruisers is over.
At the moment, both the military-political leadership and the navy have a consensus that this page is closed forever. And that if someday our country lives to see the resumption of naval development "according to the mind", then "clean" aircraft carriers will be built as a more effective means.
But beyond this, the voluntarism of individual leaders still flourishes in our country. And there are no guarantees that soon we will not get some kind of missile-landing hybrid, another "unknown animal".
TAVKRs were just like that. And that is how they appeared. The Buyan-M missile gunboats were also born by the "willful decision" of army generals. So we have no money yet. And with stupidity - everything is in order so far. So, everything is possible. And with heavy ships.
What will need to be done if we "plunge into" again?
The aircraft carrier example teaches us the following.
For an atypical "hybrid" means of warfare, its own model of use should be created specifically for it. The model of the use of TAVKRs, for example, obtained from the results of modeling, was not reducible to that for missile ships or aircraft carriers. She had signs of both. As well as the ship itself.
Achievement of maximum destructive force in the strike (or strikes) delivered with the help of this ship directly depended on the ability of its commander or higher command to combine a missile strike with an attack air strike.
Even in the same Thai example - "Minsk" would have to act exactly as a "hybrid" - to approach each other to the range of use of "Yaks", deliver a combined missile and assault strike, then break away so as not to fall under a retaliatory air strike. And if it did not work out, then fight back mainly with the air defense systems of the ships included in the detachment, and not by aircraft. However, something "Yaki", as it turned out, could be in the air.
A hypothetical "hybrid" ship of the future, if it happens to be born in our Navy, will also need a model of application created "for it", taking into account its strengths and weaknesses.
The second important point is aviation.
The example of TAVKRs shows the importance of any aircraft, even the worst. Those very scolded "Yaks" made it possible to win a battle that could not have been won purely "on missiles" in any way.
In truth, the story of the Yak-38 and TAVKRs shows that it is almost impossible to make an aircraft so bad that it is useless at all.
This was the first Yak-36, but it was a "test of the pen", a flying experiment. The Yak-38 was no longer like that, the Yak-38M was not so much the more. And the continuation of the evolution of these machines could yield very interesting results. Up to the point that part of the TAVKRs would have remained in the Navy after the collapse of the USSR.
In reality, all the forces of the Yakovlev Design Bureau were sent to the Yak-41. And they did not have time to do it. But that is another story.
And the example of TAVKR shows well that aviation has decisive role even when there are other means. And formally, "on paper" are more powerful (anti-ship missiles "Basalt"). This conclusion will always be true in all cases.
On the deck of "Kiev". “Yaki” meant the difference between victory and defeat. Strange, but like that.
Another lesson is that even an unbalanced and bizarre ship with ample shock capabilities is a significant factor in the world's balance of power.
The Gyrfalcons were just that. They were seriously inferior in power to American aircraft carriers. But the point was they were giving in only American aircraft carriers and not in conditions where we would get the first strike. Even without fully understanding the capabilities of our ships (and we ourselves did not fully understand them then and do not understand them now), the Americans could not ignore their presence. And they were forced to go beyond the range of use by aircraft carriers and missiles "Basalt", and aviation.
They were also compelled to follow these ships. Just like we followed their aircraft carriers. Sometimes it took the grotesque guise of "reality the other way around" - when an American missile ship is directly tracking what they believed to be a Soviet aircraft carrier.
The USS Peterson, a USS Peterson, DD969, is tracking the Soviet aircraft carrier.
And there is no doubt that it was a significant deterrent for any adversary.
And there is still no doubt that a ship with serious strike weapons and good speed is much more useful in offensive actions than in defensive operations, as well as from a ship with strike aircraft on board. And none of his supposedly "value" justifies not sending him into battle when it is necessary - because otherwise there is simply no point in him.
These are the lessons today can be learned, for example, from the old, and seemingly irrelevant experience.