Recently, an article was published on the electronic pages of "VO" entitled "Inconvenient questions for supporters of the aircraft carrier lobby”Respected A. Voskresensky. The author's conclusions are unambiguous - the creation of aircraft carriers has no practical justification, we are not what to build - the terms of reference for their development are incapable of formulating, and there is nowhere and no one to create them, and there is no money for them. And, in general, the idea of building aircraft carriers is "a malicious message that rejects the pragmatic approach that is so necessary for the country, an appeal aimed at wasteful spending of funds allocated for the development of the armed forces."
Well, the position of the respected author is clear. It is not clear only on what it is based, because almost all inconvenient, according to A. Voskresensky, questions, long ago, were given exhaustive answers.
What to build?
A. Voznesensky titled the first section of his article "Where to build?", But in fact formulated several questions in it. One of them sounds like this: the fleet has not yet been able to formulate the requirements for a promising aircraft carrier, so how can we build a ship if we do not understand what exactly we want to get?
A. Voskresensky is convinced that there were several attempts to formulate the terms of reference, but they were "unintelligible", and that the fleet "cannot get rid of the obsession with creating a new aircraft-carrying cruiser - moreover, a springboard". At the same time, A. Voznesensky is sure that the leadership of the Navy categorically rejects the idea of building an aircraft carrier according to the modernized project 1143.7 Ulyanovsk. Thus, according to the distinguished author, if Russia is going to build an aircraft carrier, it will most likely be a copy of Kuznetsov. "The country will receive not an analogue of Gerald R. Ford, but a new Admiral Kuznetsov ... And this is at best," A. Voznesensky warns.
Let's try to figure out how justified this opinion is.
Let's start simple. Nobody will give out the technical assignment for design (TK) just like that, because there is nothing to do. TK is issued when there is a need for the design of a ship. And such a need arises when its construction is planned. What does this mean for an aircraft carrier?
Talking about designing an aircraft carrier until 2010 is generally meaningless - since 1991, shipbuilding has gone into a steep peak, there have been no orders for ships, and the construction of a few units lasted for decades. But then the leadership, realizing the need to restore the country's armed forces, approved the State Armaments Program (GPV) for 2011–2020. Of course, the Russian Navy should have been revived not from aircraft carriers. And work in this direction was not included in the program. And since they were not included, there was no need to develop technical specifications for aircraft carriers. It is possible, and even very likely, that the fleet made some kind of sketches, but they clearly did not get to the level of the TK.
In the future, however, the GPV for 2011–2020. revised. It became clear that the program was not feasible. And instead of it, a new GPV was created, now for 2018–2027. To tell the truth, this new GPV was approved with a fair delay, after its actual start. Unlike GPV 2011–2020, it turned out to be much more classified, there is almost no data on it. But in May 2019, an unnamed "shipbuilding source" told TASS that:
"R&D on the new aircraft carrier is included in the current state armament program until 2027 and will begin in 2023."
In addition, the source indicated that the aircraft carrier is planned to be built atomic, and its displacement should be about 70 thousand tons.
In June of the same 2019, the same or another source told TASS that
"TTZ for the new aircraft-carrying complex is now being formed and has not yet been sent to the United Shipbuilding Corporation."
This is fully confirmed by the data of the USC itself, which has repeatedly reported that they did not receive technical specifications for the development of an aircraft carrier. The source also noted
"The unity of opinion of the Ministry of Defense and the High Command of the Naval fleet regarding the fact that a promising aircraft carrier should be with a nuclear power plant. "
In January 2020, two sources in the shipbuilding industry already told TASS that the development of technical specifications for a promising aircraft carrier was underway, and that
“When creating an aircraft carrier, drawings and other technical documentation of the project 1143.7 Ulyanovsk, unfinished during the Soviet period, atomic TAVKR (heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser), will be used.
In addition, when creating the ship, it was planned to take into account the experience gained by our only TAVKR "Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov" off the coast of Syria. To date, as far as I know, the TK for a promising aircraft carrier has not been issued by the Navy.
What is it all about?
Yes, that there were no "incomprehensible" technical specifications for the aircraft carrier, and it could not be, for the simple reason that the fleet did not issue any technical specifications to the developers at all. Why then did A. Voznesensky have a different opinion? I can only assume that the respected author was misled by the "near-aircraft leapfrog", namely by the numerous statements of responsible, moderately responsible and completely irresponsible persons on this topic.
For example, in 2012, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, Admiral V. Vysotsky, reported in an interview with RIA-News:
“The implementation, that is, the construction of the ship itself, will begin earlier than 2020, and completion - immediately after 2020. The appearance of the new aircraft carrier complex will be determined within two years - until 2014 ”.
That is, according to V. Vysotsky, we are talking about the "appearance" of the ship, but a number of publicists, replicating this interview, poured: "The task has been set for Russian shipbuilders ...", "The technical design of the aircraft carrier will be ready by 2014." But in reality there was no task at all. In fact, from the statement of V. Vysotsky, it is quite obvious that there is no appearance of a promising aircraft carrier for 2012, and it has yet to be formed. And it is far from the fact that the fleet, in general, began this formation, since in the same 2012 V. Vysotsky left his post, and the Russian Navy had a new commander.
Or, for example, the statement made by the deputy head of the Ministry of Defense Yuri Borisov in 2016, in which he announced the plans of the Ministry of Defense to lay down a new aircraft carrier in 2025. I reported, but I said separately that the final decision will be made only after the creation of a new generation aviation technology. And yet - he clarified that a return to the ideas of the VTOL carrier is possible:
"In the plans of the Ministry of Defense, we are discussing the creation of a carrier-based aircraft, and it can be a vertical take-off and landing aircraft."
The fact that the RF Ministry of Defense is considering various, including conceptually different, options for the development of carrier-based aircraft carriers is correct. But it has nothing to do with TK: such reasoning can only be considered as the earliest steps towards the creation of TK.
But the statements of high-ranking officials are not so bad. After all, a lot of proposals from developers have been added to them - here is the giant, up to 100 thousand tons displacement, the aircraft carrier "Storm" in nuclear or non-nuclear design, and "Manatee", and the conversion of "Ulyanovsk", and a catamaran (!) Aircraft carrier, and rather modest "Varan" in only 45 tons. In general, there is something to grab your head from.
But the fact is that in fact all these mock-ups are nothing more than attempts by developers to interest the RF Ministry of Defense in order to get an expensive order for the design of a promising aircraft carrier. And although the media are full of messages such as "Nevsky PKB has developed a project for a nuclear aircraft carrier ..." in fact, there are no projects, but there are only concept models created on an initiative basis by various design bureaus.
The conclusion is simple.
There are still no "intelligible" or "unintelligible" terms of reference for the creation of a promising aircraft carrier for the Russian Navy. Currently, the Russian Navy is slowly creating a technical specification for a promising aircraft carrier. Taking into account the fact that they are going to start designing it only in 2023, there is still more than enough time. And, contrary to A. Voznesensky's opinion, this aircraft carrier, according to the data that TASS is inclined to trust, will be nuclear, its displacement will be about 70 thousand tons, and Ulyanovsk's developments will be used in its design.
This is my first response to the "uncomfortable questions for the aircraft carrier lobby."
Where to build?
Here A. Voznesensky, in general, did not ask any questions, but stated:
“… We need large slipways, which we simply do not have, and welding works on open stocks at sub-zero temperatures (if we talk about the same Sevmash) are undesirable. What does this mean? First, you will have to invest billions of dollars (by no means rubles) in the modernization and expansion of the capabilities of the ship industry - and, secondly, at least five years to wait for results. "
Well, there is no question. But all the same - I answer. Currently, the Russian Federation has a place where you can build aircraft carriers. This is, of course, Sevmash. And to be more specific - shop number 55.
This workshop has a closed (no open slipways!) Boathouse 330 meters long and 75 meters wide, while the press service of Sevmash indicated the height of lifting cargo with bridge cranes up to 60 m.In other words, in this workshop, even now, you can start building an aircraft carrier a little smaller than "Ulyanovsk", which had a length of 324,6, a width of 75,5 (the largest, at the waterline - only 39,5 m) and the height of the hull (without superstructure) up to 33 m in the area of the springboard. Taking into account the fact that the height of the unfinished atomic TAVKR together with the superstructure was 65,5 m, most of it can also be built right in the boathouse.
True, there is a nuance here.
It is possible to build an aircraft carrier in shop No. 55, but to take it out of the shop is not. Because the withdrawal of ships is carried out into the bulk pool. And he, alas, is not ready today for aircraft carriers of such a large-scale size to "dive" into it. In addition, the size of the lock will not allow the aircraft carrier to be taken out of the basin.
However, these obstacles are completely removable. The fact is that the USSR was building the 55th workshop with the expectation that in the future warships of large displacement would be created in it. And the possibility of such modernization was included in the project from the very beginning. But, since at the time of construction the main task of the workshop was the construction of the latest nuclear submarines at that time, it was considered unnecessary to immediately invest in the "expanded" version. However, such a possibility was foreseen.
Of course, expanding the filling pool and increasing the size of the sluice is not cheap, it will really cost billions. But - rubles, not dollars. And no 5 years of waiting for results is needed. Firstly, they will take much less time, and secondly, such work can be carried out in parallel with the construction of an aircraft carrier.
Thus, Russia already has a place for the construction of aircraft carriers, although it requires a certain "file refinement". But a separate shipbuilding complex, as A. Voznesensky writes about it, does not need to be built for this.
“Where are we going to build nuclear submarines then?” The dear reader may ask. Yes, all on the same "Sevmash". Let's not forget that today Sevmash is simultaneously building two series of nuclear-powered submarines - SSBN Borey-A and SSGN Yasen-M. Obviously, the construction is divided into workshops, as far as I know, in the 55th SSBNs are being built. However, their construction will be completed in the foreseeable future. The outer ships, "Dmitry Donskoy" and "Prince Potemkin", will have to be transferred to the fleet in 1926-1927, and launched much earlier. And even if two more strategic missile carriers are laid in order to bring their total number to 12 units (3 Borey and 9 Boreyev-A), then in this case it should be expected that no later than 1927-1928 ... shop number 55 will be vacated. And the need for new SSBNs will arise in more than a dozen years.
At the same time, the second operating workshop, specializing in the construction of "Ash", can simultaneously build 6-8 ships of this type. In addition, if, nevertheless, common sense prevails, and in the future our fleet will begin construction of relatively small multipurpose nuclear submarines, then, at least theoretically, they can be built at other shipbuilding enterprises.
But, in fact, no one bothers to build a completely new shipbuilding complex for the aircraft carrier, like the Far East "Zvezda". The pleasure, of course, is expensive - in 2018, the cost of its construction was estimated at 200 billion rubles, that is, 3,17 billion dollars at the then exchange rate, but in reality it may turn out to be even more expensive.
But you need to understand that such construction will not at all be a heavy burden on our economy. On the contrary, it will push it forward. Today, our shipbuilding industry is “on fire”, it is saved only by military orders, which make up 90% of the total production of this industry. However, even with military orders, the industry is underutilized - up to 50–70% of production capacities are idle. At the same time, the Russian Federation has a huge need for civilian vessels of all classes: from small fishing trawlers to giant Arctic gas tankers, 300 meters long and 50 meters wide for sailing along the Northern Sea Route. It seems to be - build for yourself and build, but the fixed assets of the Russian shipbuilding are worn out by 70%. And we are building using outdated technologies, since for most factories large-block assembly and other modern methods are simply not feasible with the existing equipment park. All this, of course, affects both the timing and the cost of construction.
And as a result of all of the above, we live in a real theater of the absurd - our own shipbuilding industry is idle, and we order the same gas tankers to Korea.
It is very good, of course, that the Zvezda shipbuilding complex was built using the mass of the latest technologies, but it alone is not enough. And, if we are going to create another new complex, then it could well, along with aircraft carriers, build large-capacity civil vessels. Simply put, if we want, for example, to have 2 aircraft carriers in the fleet, one each for the Northern and Pacific fleets, while the slipway period of one aircraft carrier is 10 years, and the service life is 50 years, then during half a century the shed of a new shipbuilding complex will be occupied by aircraft carriers for 20 years, and the remaining 30 years it will be possible to build any other ships and vessels, including civilian ones, of course.
Therefore, when they say that we have nowhere to build an aircraft carrier, and the creation of a new production will cost a pretty penny, I answer - we have where to build aircraft carriers now, but if (in spite of this) we start to create a new shipbuilding complex, then it will be very good for our economy.
Who will build?
According to A. Voznesensky, there is no one to build a Russian aircraft carrier today.
“… At the time of those works, a significant part of Soviet specialists was still“ in service ”- it was banal for them not so many years, and the United Shipbuilding Corporation had experienced and efficient personnel at its disposal. Now another decade has passed - and it is reasonable to ask, how many of those who participated in the work on the Vikramaditya are still “in the saddle”? "
Here, alas, I can only make a helpless gesture. Because it is completely unclear why the respected author needed the very people who worked on Vikramaditya. But let's sort it out in order.
The agreement with the Indians was concluded in 2004, but in fact our TAVKR was brought into the Sevmash filling pool only in 2005. Before that, there was a survey of the ship and the unloading of equipment that was not supposed to be transferred to the Indians. Thus, the actual construction work on the aircraft carrier was carried out from 2005 to 2012, when the Vikramaditya first went to sea. What was the situation with the qualified workers at that time?
Very bad. The fact is that in the period 1991-1996. "Sevamsh" handed over to the fleet the penultimate serial "Pike-B" (in the amount of 4 units) and "Antei" (5 units), after which, in fact, stood idle. In the period from 1997 to 2005, the extreme "Pike-B" - "Gepard", which was handed over to the fleet in 2001, was slowly being completed. Moreover, the construction of Severodvinsk and Yuri Dolgoruky, which were laid down in 1993 and 1996, respectively, were not shaky and shaky. It was only in 2004 that Alexander Nevsky was finally laid down. In other words, the gigantic plant, which in the past built 10 nuclear submarines at the same time, or even more, "rolled down" to 2-3 ships, and even those built very, very slowly. And this state of affairs (by the time work began at Vikramaditya) persisted for 9 years.
There is no doubt that at this time the plant lost many skilled workers who were forced to look for other work on the side. And it is obvious that today the situation at the plant has significantly improved - at present, Sevmash again, like in the old days, is building simultaneously 12 submarines (5 Boreev-A and 6 Yasenei-M, and Belgorod), although and it does it much slower than before. But, undeniably, the situation with skilled workers is much better than in 2005. And it is likely that upon completion of the construction of Boreyev, the enterprise will have an excess of labor, which will need to be occupied with something.
Thus, without a doubt, we obviously have qualified personnel for the construction of an aircraft carrier.
So what is the respected A. Voznesensky dissatisfied with?
Perhaps he thinks that for the construction of a promising aircraft carrier we will need exactly those workers and engineers that did the Vikramaditya? What for? Should I remind you that before Vikramaditya, Sevmash had never built aircraft-carrying ships? And, nevertheless, when the need arose to rebuild the TAVKR intended for basing vertical take-off and landing aircraft into a full-fledged small aircraft carrier, Sevmash did an excellent job with the task.
Oh yes, after all, according to A. Voznesensky, he failed. Well, let's take a look.
Is Vikramaditya an epic fiasco?
According to the distinguished A. Voznesensky, "Sevmash" failed to cope with the restructuring of the former TAVKR "Baku" into an aircraft carrier. And even the presence of old, still Soviet personnel “even this factor did not save the ship - everyone knows about the accident during sea trials, when the power plant of the aircraft carrier was out of order. The very same project of re-equipment of "Admiral Gorshkov" turned out to be unprofitable for Sevmash ".
Let's start at the end, that is, with losses. As you know, the cost of repairs can be determined only on the basis of a complete defect list, when it is already known exactly what needs to be fixed. But the Indian contract in those conditions was heavenly manna for Sevmash, and that is why it was concluded incorrectly, without a complete survey of the rebuilt ship.
And when they did it, it turned out that it was out of order and required much more replacement than was originally expected. Naturally, the tight-fisted Indians were not eager to overpay in excess of the contract, although, in the end, they had to do it. As a result, "Sevmash" could not count on big profits, but that was not the main thing - the work on "Vikramaditya" helped to retain the same qualified personnel, which was then so useful to us in the construction of "Ash" and "Boreyev".
As for the quality of work, the failure of a power plant during testing is certainly a regrettable case, but nothing more. The tests are designed to identify ship problems and eradicate them. This is exactly what happened with Vikramaditya. On July 8, 2012, he first entered the test. And on November 16, 2013, that is, after 1 year and a little over 3 months, the aircraft carrier was transferred to India. This is not too long. For example, the British destroyer Daring began sea trials in July 2007, and did not enter service with the Royal Navy until 2009.
Nevertheless, A. Voskresensky is dissatisfied with the quality of Sevmash's work. However, the Hindus themselves take a different point of view. For example, Pabbi Gurtej Singh, Chief of the Indian Navy's Logistics Department, stated that:
The Vikramaditya is a wonderful aircraft carrier ... Today it is the flagship of the Indian Navy. Over the past five years, we have been very active in exploiting it. He perfectly performs all combat missions and often goes to sea. "
I must say that the Indians never went into their pockets for a word to moan at our technology. But there is no criticism regarding the aircraft carrier (unlike, by the way, the MiG-29K, based on it). Moreover, after holding appropriate negotiations, Sevmash undertook to double the terms of its stay in the Indian fleet - from 20 to 40 years.
What can better prove the quality of Sevmash's work?
Where to base?
Here it is necessary to fully agree with the respected A. Voznesensky - today there is nowhere to base aircraft carriers.
But there is no need to exaggerate the costs of creating such an infrastructure. A. Voznesensky writes: "China ... did it for four whole years - that is how much it took to build a special naval base in Qingdao."
The thing is that building a naval base from scratch is really an extremely expensive business, and this is exactly what the Chinese did when they created a new naval base in the Qingdao region. However, we do not need to go the same way, we can simply create the necessary infrastructure in the existing bases, which, of course, will be many times cheaper.
How to fight?
A. Voznesensky writes: “The most obvious choice is the use of the Su-57. However, this aircraft is still not in serial production, does not have second stage engines, and is probably too heavy even for an ejection AB. "
I am pleased to announce that the Su-57 went into mass production back in 2019. As for the engine of the second stage, let us recall that the Su-33, having a maximum take-off weight of 33 tons and engines with a maximum thrust of 12 kgf (total thrust - 800 kgf), has a thrust-to-weight ratio of slightly less than 25 ... And this allows him to take off from the third takeoff - weight restrictions apply only to a start from two short bow positions. And the Su-600 with its first stage engines has a total thrust of 0,78 kgf and a maximum takeoff weight of 57 tons. the thrust-to-weight ratio will still exceed that of the Su-30. And the second stage engines are just around the corner. And what is too heavy ... Well, the deck version of the Su-000 is quite possible with a maximum weight of 35,5-57 tons, while the maximum weight of the F-33 "Tomcat" came close to 57 tons. I don't think the difference is that fundamental.
As for the carrier-based AWACS aircraft, the respected author writes: “Considering that at present our Oboronprom has rested even on a large-scale modernization of the A-50, any talk about a carrier-based AWACS aircraft can be considered fantastic history about jelly shores ".
In fact, there is nothing fantastic here.
A-100 "Premier" is being created in the Russian Federation, in which we, in essence, have filled all the bumps that should have been. That is, at first they made for it a complex with an active phased array, automatic data exchange systems with other aircraft and other equipment, which is equally important and necessary for a promising AWACS aircraft, then they stood in line for the Il-76MD-90A aircraft, then they tested and tested all this, faced with inevitable difficulties, and even against the background of the need for import substitution ...
Regardless of how successful the work on the creation of the A-100 "Premier" is (officially, everything is successful there, but the project is secret, and who knows how things really are?), It is obvious that we have gained tremendous experience with its creation, and this experience will greatly simplify and facilitate the work on the "people's" AWACS aircraft. On the basis of, say, the same Yak-44, which will be much cheaper than the Premier and which can be produced in much larger batches in the interests of both the Aerospace Forces and the Navy.
Who will accompany?
Russia does not have and does not foresee ships that could accompany an aircraft carrier in the ocean, A. Voznesensky is sure. The respected author dismisses the idea that this task can be solved by Russian frigates:
“Ships of the“ frigate ”class can perform auxiliary tasks as part of the AUG, but they are definitely not its backbone. Moreover, in the event that our ship group is in the ocean (and the supporters of aircraft carriers always emphasize the fight against the enemy "on the distant lines"), ships of such a modest displacement may be unable to use weapon due to the restrictions imposed by the pitching ”.
The answer is very simple.
Currently, the Russian Federation is developing a project 22350M frigate or "Super-Gorshkov", if you like. One of the main differences of this frigate is the increased displacement, and if at first it was said that the standard displacement of the ship would increase by 1 tons, then later - that the displacement would reach 000 tons, that is, even if we are talking about the full displacement, this is an increase of approximately by 7 tons. Taking into account the fact that the standard displacement of the "Gorshkov" is 000 tons, the frigates 1M will have from 600 tons or even more.
At the same time, the air defense of the US aircraft carrier formations for a long time provided missile ships, called either "leaders", then "frigates", then "cruisers", of the "Legi" and "Belknap" types (9 units each), whose standard displacement was 5100 -5400 tons (although, perhaps, this is a displacement in the so-called "long tons"). Yes, and the first "Arleigh Burke" had only 6 630 tons of standard displacement, so there is no particular difference in size between these ships. Finally, the Soviet anti-submarine ships of project 1134-A, which traveled all the seas and oceans, had a standard displacement of 5640-5735 tons.
A. Voskresensky also writes: “We should also mention the integrated supply ships (by the way, they themselves are a little less than AB and their construction requires appropriate funds and capacities) - we do not have ships of this class, and without them the autonomy of an aircraft carrier strike is called into question. groups ".
All this is true, but there is a nuance - supply vessels will be needed by the fleet in any case, with or without aircraft carriers. This is not a question of an aircraft carrier, this is a question of long-range cruises of ships of the fleet. If we do not plan to send our ships further than the near sea zone, then, of course, we can do without supply vessels. But even today our ships go to the Mediterranean Sea and to the Indian Ocean, and we cannot build here without specialized tankers and fleet “supplies”.
Where to apply?
This question of A. Voskresensky is very, very interesting.
But the article is already too long, so I will postpone the answer to it until the next article.
Thank you for attention!