To be or not to be the fleet Russia? What place does it occupy in the formation of the defense capability of the Federation? Finally, what should our fleet be like?
The problems associated with the protection of our sea borders and shores are not diminishing - and, accordingly, the discussion devoted to this is growing more and more extensively and sharply from year to year.
Past publication caused a positive response from the majority of those who got acquainted. However, during the discussion, many commentators could not come to an agreement.
In which, of course, there is also my author's miscalculation - unfortunately, it is impossible to try to cover such a large-scale topic as naval construction with just one small article. However, we can at least slightly rectify the situation by examining in more detail the most interesting questions that arose during the ongoing dispute.
It is worth warning that I will deliberately avoid any complications of the material in the form of, for example, comparisons and enumerations of the technical and tactical characteristics of a particular type of weapon. So that the text is understandable and accessible to as many readers as possible.
A series of articles devoted to the discussion of Russian naval development:
Does Russia need a strong fleet?
A blow against reality or about the fleet, Tu-160 and the cost of human error
About the fleet that we need
Russian Navy - Execution Cannot Be Pardoned?
The first question
Question # 1: focusing on marine Aviation, isn't the author talking about the liquidation of the surface and submarine fleet?
Of course not - we are talking about strengthening the combat capabilities of the fleet by the available methods and means at the current time. And by no means about its even greater weakening and destruction.
For the effective defense of the sea space, it is vital for us both to maintain the current ship composition and to slowly increase it in accordance with the needs. The problem is that even in this case, our Navy will have extremely limited resources even in matters of protecting their native shores.
A sharp increase in the volume of construction of surface ships does not carry military and economic expediency: following this path, we will lose a lot of funds. But at the same time (more than likely) we will not be able to ensure parity even with the fleets of regional opponents. Moreover, this will in no way affect the "chronic" difficulties faced by national naval development, such as the geographic remoteness of theaters of operations, and the lack of adequate infrastructure for servicing, repairing and basing a large number of ships.
Conclusion: We need a navy, but only naval aviation, with its mobility, firepower and vast capabilities, can provide a proper solution to all current problems.
The multipurpose Su-30SM can serve as an excellent basis for the tactical aviation of the fleet - and they are already being purchased. Photo source: aex.ru
The second question
Question number 2: why planes? Is aviation less complex and technologically advanced? Why not bet on the construction of ships?
Unfortunately, it just so happened that the capabilities of our ship and aviation industries are simply incomparable. Moreover, aircraft construction is receiving a much higher state priority. And, accordingly, it has enough funds, ready-made projects, specialists and industrial capacities.
Suffice it to say that the total area of the plants of the United Aircraft Corporation is 43 million square meters. m. (For example, the total area of Boeing factories is 13 million square meters with the production of about 800 aircraft per year). I think everyone understands the potential lies in these numbers.
Our aviation industry can easily ensure the production of a large series of multipurpose fighter-bombers. At the same time, shipyards can hardly cope with the construction of even such small warships, such as corvettes.
If we talk about "work for the future", then here, too, aviation is one step ahead: in the field of aircraft construction, we have much more projects that are close to the start of serial production and can really strengthen the defense potential of Russia.
Of course, things are not going smoothly in the aviation industry either.
The volume of orders and the number of cars produced per year can be described as extremely modest. For years, the UAC has been “torturing out” transport and passenger aircraft, which are extremely important for the country, constantly postponing the dates for launching production. But, nevertheless, this is a ready-to-go structure that can really fulfill a large defense order without the additional infusion of funds that our shipbuilding industry requires.
Conclusion: military construction is primarily based on the industrial and economic capabilities of the country. In our case, the circumstances are such that the most practical and logical way out is the development of aviation. Russia has excellent potential to create several air divisions within five to seven years.
Question # 3: Why do we need to develop onshore infrastructure? Why not build one aircraft carrier instead of three or four airfields?
The topic of carrier-based aircraft is, of course, the cornerstone of any discussion concerning our fleet.
Yes, the aircraft carrier is extremely formidable and multifunctional weapon... But at the moment we do not have the infrastructure for the operation of such a ship. There is no adequate battle group (including supply ships). The technical possibilities of creating such a vessel in Russia are also unclear: there are no catapults, there is no carrier-based AWACS aircraft, there are questions regarding the power plant. And, in the end, the manning of the air group.
We also have more prosaic reasons: there is no experience in the operation and combat use of such ships, and, accordingly, the concept according to which it should be built. The place of the aircraft carrier in our national naval strategy is unclear. There are no personnel to staff it.
Is it possible to solve the listed problems?
Of course yes.
The only question is how many decades and money it will take. And also in the extent to which one or two ships of this class (we cannot afford to launch a large series even in our wildest dreams) will ultimately be able to strengthen our defenses.
Ground airfields, however, fully meet our requirements: they are feasible for the country, both economically and technically. They have greater combat stability (you need to make a lot of efforts and resources to completely disable the airfield, equipped with the latest engineering ideas). Fits into the current realities of our military strategy. And they are a long-term government investment.
In addition, the so-called "sponge effect" (one of the favorite topics in the discussions of American strategists) should never be swept aside - by developing ground infrastructure, we somehow create priority targets for the enemy that he simply cannot ignore when planning an attack.
This predetermines the potential moves of the enemy. He is forced to act in a way that is obvious to us. Losing the offensive impulse and surprise effect. Expending serious resources. And, accordingly, incurring losses. In an attempt to deprive us of a couple of conditional air bases covered by echeloned air defense. (Let's assume that in this scenario the enemy still has the ability to attack us exclusively from the air).
The aircraft carrier, of course, will also become a similar priority target.
But how long will it last?
Moreover, taking into account the current realities, when we do not have a decent escort for him?
This is a big question.
And it (in contrast to the ground runway and related structures) cannot be restored in case of destruction.
I will repeat one of the phrases of the previous article.
"For all its shipbuilding power, China does not hesitate to develop coastal defense."
This is doubly relevant for us.
Unlike the PRC, we have several potential theaters of war. And our industrial and economic opportunities are limited. In such conditions, it is critically important to develop precisely the ground military infrastructure. In particular, on the islands belonging to our country (for example, the Kuril Islands).
Such a strategy contributes to both increasing the capabilities of our naval aviation and the creation of defensive lines extended and removed from the continental coastline. Briefly considering a similar situation with an illustrative example, we can return to the already mentioned Kuril Islands, which de facto make it possible to create an "unsinkable aircraft carrier" next to one of our potential adversaries - Japan.
Of course, a potential aggressor will not be able to ignore such a threat - one way or another, but in the event of a conflict
"For the return of the original Japanese territories", the islands will become his primary military goal.
In addition, Japan will be within the range of our tactical aviation, as well as within the range of destruction of cruise and quasi-ballistic missiles.
Of course, not a single carrier strike group will be able to ensure the formation of a positional area of this kind. Of course, if it exists, the AUG can significantly enhance the capabilities of the first echelon of defense in the form of the above-mentioned islands, but in no way replace them.
And this, however, is absolutely not learned by us experience of strategic planning of the United States, which has 11 aircraft carriers, but is actively developing ground infrastructure. Including a network of air bases, radar stations, interceptor missile bases, etc.
Conclusion: ground infrastructure is of paramount importance even in naval construction. When planning the creation of a powerful ocean-going fleet in the long term, it is necessary in the short and medium term to provide a powerful echeloned defense of the coast, whenever possible trying to place positional areas in dangerous proximity to a potential enemy.
The Americans are not trying to replace the airbases with aircraft carriers. Why do our experts talk about this so often? Photo source: geopolitica.ru
Question number 4: what types of aircraft do we need? Why did the author mention exclusively tactical aviation?
To be honest, the mention of exclusively tactical aviation was not malicious. Unfortunately, in the last article I got the main message a little wrong. However, we have the opportunity to fix this: it was about construction multipurpose naval aviation.
Of course, a proposal of this kind carries a lot of difficulties: scientific and technical, engineering, economic, industrial, etc. This is due to the lack of a number of types of aircraft vital for the country, some of which have been tested for many years or are under development.
For the needs of naval aviation, in essence, all the same types of machines are required as for the aerospace forces - both produced and promising.
1. Multipurpose fighter-bombers as a universal basis for recruiting strike regiments of naval aviation.
2. Reconnaissance and strike unmanned aerial vehicles of medium and long range for the needs of patrol aircraft, constant reconnaissance and monitoring of the country's maritime borders, target designation, the fight against the "mosquito" fleet and assault operations against a hypothetical enemy landing.
3. AWACS aircraft... (They may not need clarification, but I will give them). In the modern world, it is almost impossible to conduct hostilities without adequate coverage of the air situation. AWACS aircraft make it possible to ensure enemy detection at distant lines, issue target designation and direct an air battle, receiving all the necessary information in real time.
4. Transport aircraft of all types are necessary both in peacetime and in wartime to supply remote bases and garrisons, to quickly transfer personnel and materiel in a threatened period.
5. Medium-haul narrow-body vehicles for the needs of patrol, anti-submarine and special aviation is a sore point not only for military transport, but also for civil aviation. The functionality is clear from the names of aircraft types - surface and air situation lighting, search for submarines and fight against submarines, target designation, electronic warfare, mine laying, etc.
6. Tanker aircraft Is an equally acute issue for our armed forces at the current time. It is also impossible to stutter about some kind of naval construction (even as practical and sparing as we are talking about, and even more so about some large-scale programs for creating an ocean-going fleet) without having a fleet of tanker aircraft. Without these vehicles, the range of our aviation is reduced to a minimum, and all air operations will be limited to an area of 400-600 km.
7. Carriers of operational-tactical cruise missiles - this type of aircraft can be postponed for the medium term. If necessary? Probably not. However, at the moment we do not have suitable projects for long-range missile carriers (PAK DA is most likely not suitable for these purposes - most likely, it is an analogue of the Tu-160M: it cannot strike at surface targets and has a high production cost).
Perhaps, in this regard, as an "ersatz" the country could consider the American concept of an "arsenal aircraft" - heavy transport aircraft equipped to carry and launch cruise missiles using external guidance and target designation.
8. Multipurpose helicopters with modular equipment (conceptual analogues of the American SH-60 Seahawk), capable of landing troops, evacuating the wounded, serving as carriers of anti-ship missiles, conducting rescue operations, fighting submarines, etc.
If we are talking about short-term prospects, then already now we could completely cover the needs for tactical aviation. Partially - in medium-range UAVs, transport aircraft, tanker aircraft. With due diligence - in "arsenals" planes, helicopters and AWACS vehicles (at least, launch the A-50 modernization program).
Considering that the country has a fleet of aircraft on storage, such prospects look much more real than the construction of nuclear destroyers and aircraft carriers. Funds for this can be found both in the optimization of the current ship composition, and in the reduction of illiquid naval programs (creation of various kinds of "superweapons" that sailors are trying to give themselves importance in the ranks of the Armed Forces, costly and useless "rocket boats", meaningless R&D dedicated to creation of a bloated surface fleet, inappropriate repairs and upgrades of ships like "Admiral Kuznetsov", which serve exclusively as elements of state prestige).
Conclusion: we can already start building naval aviation, having all the necessary funds and capabilities for this. We cannot (and it is time to admit it) an analogue of the Reagan "Program 600" (an initiative of the US Navy in the early 1980s, which provided for the forced construction of a fleet of six hundred ships), but we are capable of forming, recruiting and supporting several naval air divisions capable of providing a multiple increase in our defensive capabilities.
The Arsenal aircraft C-17A Globemaster III with AGM-158 cruise missiles is a potentially interesting project for Russia as well. Photo source: thedrive.com
Question # 5: Why are we considering a concept that drives us into purely defensive combat?
I think it is worth starting to consider this issue with the fact that at the moment our sea borders are de facto bare - and, I hope, no one will argue with the fact that our current "thin" ship composition is unlikely to be able to oppose something even to regional rivals. The defense capability of our country in this area is not supported by missile cruisers and nuclear destroyers, but by means much more "mundane", such as coastal missile systems and ground-based radar detection stations.
The proposed concept is one of the options for enhancing military power in a short time and with affordable means. It allows us to solve the problem of transferring forces from one theater of potential bases to another (accordingly, strengthening our groupings in threatened directions), to increase the functionality of the naval forces, to remove the excess load from the Aerospace Forces, which are currently forced to cover the Navy.
Moreover, as mentioned above, China and even the United States are engaged in the development of their defensive capabilities - and in fact they have a huge ship composition. Why, then, are we trying to talk about some obscure wars with the Japanese merchant fleet in the Persian Gulf and naval battles, if we obviously do not have the proper protection and control of our native shores?
However, not everything is as simple as it seems.
In confined waters, even such a purely defensive weapon as a DBK can become the most offensive. Naturally, in the presence of target designation.
And what about combat aircraft?
Having a powerful multipurpose naval aviation, you can act aggressively. And to set before the fleet even such daring tasks as blocking the Danish straits, the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, to strike directly at the enemy's territory with conventional weapons, as was discussed above with the example of Japan.
Aircraft will be of exceptional value, both in a regional conflict and in a hypothetical large-scale war. (This is at least a reserve in the form of operating airfields, hundreds of vehicles, trained and experienced personnel, stocks of precision weapons, spare parts depots, etc.). And expediency of this kind is one of the main reasons for the disputes over the need for a fleet in modern Russia.
No, naval aviation is not exclusively about defense. And first of all, about practicality, mobility and an adequate response to all potential threats.
Separately, it should be said that the creation of such a structure in the ranks of the Armed Forces will help to reform the fleet, creating an "expeditionary" force to promote Russian foreign policy far from the borders of our country. Naturally, we are talking about operational-tactical tasks adequate to our capabilities, and not about the attack of San Francisco after the battle with a couple of AUGs.
Of course, the approach I have described will not find a response among the adherents of the concept of the classical construction of naval power. However, I think its expediency is understandable for a wide range of readers.
In the short term, only naval aviation can cover all the needs of the fleet, both in defensive and offensive means. Providing serious groundwork for both local and large-scale conflicts.
Moreover, this is an accessible way for us to develop naval capabilities, which is adequately correlated with the economic, technical and industrial potential of the country.