“Now that the Russian Federation has inherited a significantly smaller and much less active naval force, the US Navy again has no serious rival at sea - American aircraft carriers are protected from any enemy attack, but not from domestic critics who point out the enormous cost of aircraft on aircraft carriers in the opposite of their land-based counterparts. Once again, the US Navy responded by removing defensive aircraft from aircraft carriers, replacing them with fighter-bombers; again he emphasizes his ability to attack ground targets from the open sea ... "
- Edward Nicolae Luttwack. "Strategy. The logic of war and peace ”.
Military construction is an extremely complex area of intellectual activity. Alas, it just so happened that she does not forgive mistakes, emotions, fantasies and enthusiastic amateurism.
Otherwise, citizens pay severely for them - first with income, way and standard of living, and then with their own blood.
The pages of the "Military Review" are again shaken by discussions about the advisability of the presence of aircraft-carrying ships in the fleet Russia. This topic is undoubtedly hackneyed, but still not losing its relevance in the community - carriers of deck aviation are seen by many as an object of a coveted fetish, but for others they act only as floating targets.
Alas, both are wrong.
This material will be devoted to the answer to the article by A. Timokhin "A few questions to the opponents of aircraft carriers", which, in turn, became the answer to "Inconvenient Questions for Supporters of the Aircraft Carrier Lobby".
To be honest, it is somewhat difficult to take seriously the arguments of a person who did not bother to clarify the name of the opponent (what then can be said about the quality of his factology?), But still I will consider the material of the respected A. Timokhin - though not on his terms.
Unfortunately for the aircraft carrier lobbyists, any weapon designed and built under immediate needs state - first of all, we are talking about its foreign policy and, accordingly, political ambitions.
Certainly, история has examples of "cults" of certain types of weapons - at one time the world experienced a "battleship boom", and after the end of World War II, aircraft carriers became one of the symbols of state prestige. However, this class of ships is too complicated even in operation (not to mention construction), and therefore, over the next decades, the "aircraft carrier club" has significantly thinned out - in it, for the most part, there are only those countries for which carrier-based aircraft became an object of military necessity, it is closely related to foreign policy.
Dear supporters of the aircraft carrier lobby, unfortunately, have not yet understood this fact - they continue to use this class of warships as an object of technological fetish, adjusting it to their own inappropriate fantasies. One of the striking examples of this are many articles by Alexander Timokhin, who regularly tries to promote the interests of the fleet (or, perhaps, those interested in increasing its funding of persons) in accordance with his fantastic scenarios, in spirit more suitable for the definition of magical realism.
"Magic realism (mystical realism) is an artistic method in which magical (mystical) elements are included in a realistic picture of the world."
A. Timokhin very often appeals to the combat value of aircraft carriers, constantly trying to sum up the need for their construction within the framework of tasks that have no real justification. Avoiding serious questions regarding the real state of affairs in Russian politics, he charms the gullible public with stories of incredible naval battles in the Red Sea or off the coast of Africa.
Why try to argue with populism and unscientific fiction? Let's try to look at the root - in the very expediency of the connection between the military necessity of an aircraft carrier and our political capabilities and ambitions!
So, let's start, starting from the materials of the respected A. Timokhin.
I would like to start with the fact that in one of the moments Alexander is really right - our state, civil and political thinking really froze somewhere at the level of bygone eras. Perhaps it will not be a mistake to say that we (on a national and global scale) are guided by criteria that are more suitable for the reign of the unforgettable Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev. In such conditions, Comrade Timokhin feels confident - he, enchanted by the power of the United States of the 1980s, thinks in the framework of the late Cold War era.
However, these are still stereotyped fabrications of bygone times, and they have nothing to do with the current state of affairs.
Alexander very often appeals to the Syrian operation of the RF Armed Forces, pointing out that the aircraft carrier could, if something happened, be our forward airbase in Syria:
“But if the aircraft carrier were in a combat-ready form and if its aircraft were also combat-ready, then we simply would not have such a sharp dependence on Khmeimim. The first stage of the war, when the number of combat missions of the Aerospace Forces was measured by several dozen per day, we would have fully extended the Kuznetsov. "
Perhaps, this cannot be called anything more than a direct insult to the intellectual abilities of the officers of our General Staff.
Alas, it just so happened that such operations are not planned overnight - and the Syrian one was no exception.
Preparations for it began back in 2013 - it was then that monitoring of the situation, intelligence, establishing ties with Iranian forces and working out plans began. A year before the start of the operation, active training of the Aerospace Forces began at the Chelyabinsk Shagol airbase, which lasted until September 2015. Earlier reports of the presence of small groups of Russian special operations forces, as well as our advisers in Syria, date back to 2014.
Even without a detailed analysis of the chronology of events, one can understand that our Armed Forces did not suit any "impromptu" - it was a professional, thought out and calculated action in advance.
Moreover, the initial burden of hostilities fell on our strike aircraft stationed at the Iranian Hamadan airfield, where the Tu-22M3 and Su-34 were based.
Where, dear readers, do you see a place for an aircraft carrier in these events? Or, perhaps, if needed, the leadership of the RF Armed Forces would not have prepared "Kuznetsov" in the 2 years that the operation was planned?
Whether A. Timokhin deliberately distorts the facts and misleads his fans, or sincerely does not understand the complexity of preparing any military action of this magnitude is an open question.
Considering examples of protecting our investments in other countries, respected A. Timokhin, alas, only demonstrates his complete lack of understanding and incompetence in these matters.
Quite frankly, such issues are closely linked to complex international politics and influence, including soft power. If the solution to all problems was as simple as Alexander wants to present us, even such strong powers as the United States would not suffer from all sorts of nonsense - private military companies, diplomacy, cultural influence, humanitarian missions, establishing ties with the elites ...
Why all this? They drove an aircraft carrier to the shore, landed a regiment of marines and bomb the damned Papuans ahead!
All modern powers with corresponding foreign policy ambitions strive to implement their military presence in other countries with the most compact units and mercenaries. Even the aforementioned America moved away from the practice of introducing large military contingents, in particular, after the battle in Mogadishu. Now the forward presence of AFRICOM (African Command of the US Armed Forces) is represented mainly by special forces of no more than two squads (excluding logistics).
A similar situation is observed with France, Great Britain, Turkey and China: small highly mobile MTR groups with light armored vehicles and UAVs.
Below are maps of the economic and military presence of the PRC on the African continent:
As you can see, Chinese investments in Africa are extremely extensive, but Beijing is not eager to send its aircraft carriers there. Why, if all issues of investment protection are solved by economic pressure, technological assistance, diplomacy and military advisers?
The Chinese are not stupid - they know very well that a hammer cannot replace a microscope, and they build their AUG to solve a very specific task - to prevent a naval blockade by the United States and its allies. And for the PRC with their monstrous sea freight traffic, this is a really pressing problem, and not an empty desire to play soldiers.
Russia, despite the inertia of our political system, is doing well in the general trend. Our PMCs and military advisers are excellent at ensuring the presence of the Federation in our areas of interest.
And yes, there is a future behind this strategy.
A. Timokhin's fantastic proposals have no relationship with real foreign policy - by no means, he suggests that we take a step back, moreover, dragging the country into an arms race and lowering the threshold for entering military conflicts.
Here, however, it would be appropriate to digress and talk about another country that once had a powerful navy and an imperial past - about Great Britain, which is much closer to us in its historical path than it might seem.
After the total reductions of the armed forces in the 60s, Britain was completely out of work - political defeat during the Suez crisis, chronic lack of money, falling international reputation, complete absence of military levers of pressure ... does it remind you of anything?
Britain is returning to a permanent military presence in the oceans, but prioritizes its modest strategic nuclear forces, not aircraft carriers. Photo source: news.sky.com
It is worth giving the London politicians their due - they soberly assessed their capabilities and began to carefully and methodically promote their influence by economic methods, and used the legendary British SAS for regularly emerging military tasks, which operated all over the world - from Indonesia to Oman.
As we can see, this strategy turned out to be successful - now, 55 years later, having strengthened its position, Great Britain is once again returning to the club of world powers.
An aircraft carrier is not a substitute for politics and diplomacy.
As, however, and the fleet.
Naval war with the NATO bloc
To be honest, it is extremely dubious pleasure to analyze these fantastic scenarios.
“Politically, it will be very beneficial for the United States to show brutally knocking out the“ Russian support ”from under China. They do not consider us a significant enemy and are much less afraid than North Korea or Iran. "
I think, after reading this remark, you, dear readers, will understand my dislike.
Alas, in his desperate desire to prove the value of the fleet, Alexander descends to some absolutely incredibly ridiculous arguments. Sorry, but someone really thinks that the staff of military analysts and strategic planners at the Pentagon are quite often mentally disabled people who will be guided in their chosen concepts not by the size of the nuclear arsenal of a hypothetical adversary, but by ... emotions?
On this, perhaps, one could put an end to the discussion, but we will continue anyway.
A. Timokhin deliberately misleads the readers of the Voenny Obozreniye by trying to set the Navy with such tasks as a hypothetical prevention of a nuclear strike.
In general, this logic is absurd in itself for a number of reasons:
1. Warheads of reduced power W76-2 (to which Alexander appeals so much) were not designed for "high-precision" strikes, but primarily because of the problems associated with the renewal of the American nuclear arsenal and its political status. You can read more about this in the article. "Rotten US nuclear shield".
2. The Russian nuclear arsenal has full numerical parity with the American one, but has more advanced types of delivery vehicles. There is no real guarantee that the first disarming strike can work.
3. In the highest military and political circles of the United States, there is no consensus even about whether it is worth developing a nuclear arsenal and whether it is worth abandoning it altogether. In such conditions, to talk about the fact that the Americans will decide to go crazy and, for the edification of China (!!!), inflict an atomic strike on Russia, which has the world's first arsenal of strategic nuclear forces, is utterly stupid.
4. A. Timokhin does not at all understand the realities of relations within the NATO bloc - for some reason he seriously believes that in the event of a direct military threat, the countries of the alliance will be divided by contradictions. Well, as a simple and understandable argument, I will give the following example: in connection with the inspections and exercises of the Strategic Missile Forces, which the West saw as a gesture of threat related to the events in Ukraine, the United States made "electronic launches" of ICBMs at the Minot base, and France on the same day held the exercise "Poker" with the full use of the nuclear triad. Add to this the new British defense strategy, in which the United States is named as a key military partner of London, and the picture becomes quite clear.
The prevention of a nuclear strike is ensured by our strategic nuclear forces, and by no means hypothetical aircraft carriers.
By the way, now we don't have them (and even if we start building them tomorrow, there won't be at least 15-20 years) - why are American nuclear warheads still not falling on our heads? ..
This is what the current US military presence in Africa looks like. No regiments of marines or aircraft carriers. Photo source: africom.mil
There are no dreamers or fools in the NATO bloc - there are a lot of military professionals and analysts who are successfully waging a war with us on our own territory. While comrade Timokhin proposes to build aircraft carriers in order to defend overseas distances that do not yet belong to us, we lose in every battle in its own zone of influence.
We have lost the Baltics, Georgia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. They gave away Central and Central Asia, which are divided among themselves by the Chinese, Koreans and Turks. We are losing Armenia and Syria right now. And all this happens only because our state thinking is stuck in the era tank armies and battles of squadrons of missile cruisers.
The enemy has been operating in our underbelly for a long time - and even 15 aircraft carrier strike groups will not save us from losing influence in Tajikistan.
Military construction is based on real tasks и real funds - and not on dreams of a new Jutland and landings in Africa in the spirit of "Omaha Beach".
About technical difficulties
Most of the problems of building aircraft carriers in Russia were discussed in the article "Inconvenient Questions for Supporters of the Aircraft Carrier Lobby".
Unfortunately, dear opponents - both Alexander Timokhin and Andrey from Ch. - did not bother to answer the technical difficulties indicated there, limiting themselves, in essence, to replies in the spirit of patriotic chants.
By the time the aircraft carrier is built, we will probably need to develop a new carrier-based aircraft - who knows if the Su-2037 will be relevant in 57 ... Photo source: US Navy
Let's briefly consider the problem areas of this discussion:
1. Unfortunately, opponents stubbornly avoid the question of the duration of all worksincluded in the construction of the aircraft carrier fleet. Here “magic realism” is turned on - the FSB forced all contractors and military officials to work on an emergency basis, here we have an incredible groundwork for carriers of carrier-based aircraft from somewhere, here are engineering personnel (by the way, the training of engineers serving ship reactors takes 7 years), here are thousands of skilled workers (with whom we still have a deficit today - and we will have even more in 10 years, given the low demographic indicators and the "brain drain") ... One way or another, the reality is that our defense industry has been repairing "Admiral Nakhimov", and on April 1999, 6 it was announced that the commissioning of the TARK was postponed again. And this, for a minute, is not even a building from scratch ...
2. Appeal to the example of the restructuring of the Vikramaditya. In this case, we are dealing with a partial restructuring of a Soviet aircraft-carrying cruiser, which disrupted the construction time of three nuclear submarines for our fleet and drove Sevmash into losses. Yes, the ship was prepared in a short time, but USC was forced to look for specialists throughout the country and even beyond its borders. It is not difficult to assume that building an aircraft carrier from scratch will become a project that will take away much more resources from the country and will almost certainly affect the provision of real defense capabilities.
3. Avoiding the R&D problem. You can talk as much as you like about experimental Soviet catapults and the ease of adaptation of icebreaking nuclear reactors, but this only emphasizes the lack of understanding by opponents of the entire technical complexity of various aspects of shipbuilding. The battleship is not a Lego constructor. It is impossible to take and easily adapt the old technical documentation (if, of course, we really do have it), developed, for example, for AV "Ulyanovsk" into a promising project. For example, the KN-3 reactor plant for the Kirov missile cruiser was made on the basis of the well-run icebreaker OK-900 - however, work on the KN-3, nevertheless, took as much as 7 years. And this is just one particular example!
4. Underestimation of the complexity of modernization of shipbuilding facilities. As an alternative, voluntaristic solutions are constantly offered - such, for example, as the construction of AB at the Baltic plant or in the 55th workshop of Sevmash. We remind you that the first is engaged in the construction of icebreakers (which are vital for our only strategically important sea artery - the NSR), and the second - SSBNs (which have been providing the country's defense capability for more than a decade). However, even if the country's leadership falls into madness, starting to build aircraft carriers instead of priority projects, one cannot do without billions of dollars in investments in the shipyard - at the same Sevmash at least a deepening of the basin and an expansion of the bathoport are required. Remind me how many years we have been tormenting the dry dock for Kuznetsov?
5. Avoiding issues of timing and cost of developing advanced weapons. Even in the case of the most optimistic scenario, it can be assumed that our first aircraft carrier will be laid down sometime in 2030 (taking into account the completion of all current defense programs). Its construction will take at least 7-10 years. By that time, the MiG-29K will become an exhibit for aviation museums, and what else, even the Su-57 will not be considered a new machine (after some 15-20 years!). You can deny reality as much as you like, but the development of new aircraft will be simply necessary, and this is a new investment. As a reminder, the cost of the Gerald R. Ford air wing exceeds the cost of the ship itself ...
6. Basing issues. This factor is ignored entirely. Given the above pace of work on the shipbuilding infrastructure, even the modernization of the existing naval base may be delayed indefinitely.
Any discussions about the Russian aircraft carrier fleet do not carry at least some expediency - the foreign policy of the Federation is infinitely far from the concept of a permanent military presence in the World Ocean, and our urgent needs lie in the countries located on our borders.
Unfortunately, most Russians to this day believe that weapons are the essence of a substitute for politics. Perhaps this is true only in relation to the nuclear arsenal - it is really capable of providing a serious factor of influence even for technologically backward rogue countries (such as the DPRK).
Should we consider hypothetical clashes at all when coming up with hypothetical targets for hypothetical weapons?
Libyan cadets flying the Turkish flag. Yes, this is what real political influence looks like - alas, in Africa and even without aircraft carriers. Photo source: arabnews.com
The construction of an aircraft carrier itself should not become an end in itself for the country - it is by no means a universal and extremely expensive tool. Take Libya, for example, where the interests of Paris and Ankara clashed: France has an aircraft carrier, but has it given it a political advantage over Turkey?
By no means.
Ankara seized the initiative, strengthening ties with an internationally recognized government, introduced its PMCs, MTRs and deployed UAV squadrons into the country. Egypt, which initially opposed Turkey, has now become its ally (for example, it recognizes the Turkish version of the demarcation of the maritime boundaries, not the Greek one). Now the Libyan army is undergoing training under the guidance of military advisers from Ankara, and Libyan oil is sent to Turkey, which provides the ruined country with investments and goods.
This is real politics.
This is a real strategy.
This is a real impact.
And for that not required aircraft carriers.