Over the past five years, the Russian military, defense industry managers and members of the expert community have been engaged in heated debate over the construction of domestic aircraft carriers. There are two main, absolutely polar points of view: Naval the fleet Russia does not need aircraft carriers at all, and, on the contrary, without the inclusion of aircraft carrier groups in our Navy, it will be impossible to ensure reliable protection of Russian maritime borders during a future war.
We add that the problem is seriously aggravated by the time factor: the naval race preceding a possible new world war has already begun de facto, and at this stage Russia is losing it.
As is known, the only aircraft carrier of the Russian Navy was and still remains TAKR (heavy aircraft carrying cruiser) "Admiral of the fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov", which is obsolete in its tactical and technical characteristics.
Initially, it was clear that the time of aircraft-carrying cruisers, as a class of warships, had passed. However, the confusion arose right on the stage of the initial determination of the appearance of new ships.
Even 27 July 2008, the then commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy, Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky, issued a statement that the fleet command "decided to build not just aircraft carriers, but naval aircraft carrier systems." “Everything should work in the system, including aircraft carriers. We called it the Marine Carrier System (MAS), which will be based on the Northern and Pacific Fleets. The construction of such systems will begin after 2012 of the year, ”the future aircraft carrier ships described the commander in chief of the Navy. It was assumed that from the conventional fleets of autonomous aircraft carrier groups in foreign fleets, Russian MAS will differ in linking with the air defense-EKO grouping.
However, on October 13, 2008, the Supreme Commander of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev, while visiting the Admiral Kuznetsov TAKR, voiced the exact opposite point of view, instructing the Ministry of Defense to develop a program for the construction of new aircraft-carrying cruisers. “It is necessary to restore the very base for the creation of aircraft-carrying cruisers and, in fact, the entire Navy. The aircraft-carrying cruiser is being built on average for about five years; by the year of 2013 – 2015, we will be able to get the first results if we count down five years from the decision, ”Medvedev stressed.
After a few months, the idea of reviving aircraft-carrying cruisers quietly sunk into oblivion.
On June 25, 2009, Navy Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Vysotsky unequivocally declared that Russia would build in the future "sea aviation complexes, since the creation of standard ships of this type (aircraft carriers) has become unpromising today. ” In particular, Admiral Vysotsky made an important clarification: the naval doctrine provides for the construction of new aircraft carriers, but these should not be just carriers of aircraft - the fleet will receive marine aviation systems, which will include “space component, aviation, marine and advanced technologies in other areas. " That is, the Navy Commander-in-Chief continued the advancement of the somewhat rewritten idea of “marine carrier systems”.
The United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) spoke against the conceived by the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy "project MAS-MAK". The USC insisted on the need to build a classic aircraft carrier. Vice-Admiral Anatoly Shlemov, head of the USC State Defense Order Department, emphasized: “All ship designs must be designed for the basing and flying of airplanes that are themselves carriers of weapons. There will be no cruise missiles on the aircraft carrier, as it was practiced on Soviet and Russian aircraft-carrying cruisers, since it will perform only its intended functions. ” From the point of view of shipbuilders, the Russian aircraft carrier of the new generation will have to have the following characteristics: displacement 60 thousand tons, full autonomy, the ability to carry on board 60-70 combat aircraft. In addition, Admiral Shlemov proposed the inclusion of reconnaissance and shock drones in the composition of deck aircraft.
Further, the situation developed in a standard way - neither side wanted to yield. The commander-in-chief of the Navy continued to insist on the creation of a ship that "would have to act in all environments, that is, be multi-media." USC, through the words of its general director, Roman Trotsenko, defended the idea of a classic project. At the end of June 2011, Trotsenko defiantly announced that the construction of an aircraft carrier with a displacement of 80 thousand tons would begin in Russia in 2018 and be completed five years later. The outcome of this conflict was predictable. 12 May 2012 was followed by a categorical statement by Anatoly Serdyukov: “The Russian Ministry of Defense does not intend to begin building aircraft carriers for the Navy in the near future. There are no such plans. ”
And only when all three main participants of the epic described above — Serdyukov, Vysotsky, and Trotsenko — were retired, was the question of building aircraft carriers again raised to the appropriate level.
The sole reason for the resumption of the development of the long-suffering project was the launching ceremony of the first aircraft carrier of the Chinese Navy "Liaoning" that took place on 25 on September 2012 in the port of Dalian. In the Russian press flashed an article titled: "China has overtaken Russia in the construction of aircraft carriers." Add that the head of the Chinese State Shipbuilding Corporation Hu Wenming said: China plans to put into operation new, more powerful ships of this class by 2020. Another significant circumstance should be mentioned: after very lengthy ups and downs with the modernization of the aircraft carrier "Vikramaditya", during which the very limited capabilities of the Russian shipbuilding industry were clearly demonstrated, India decided to build the first aircraft carrier for its Navy on its own. Thus, it became obvious that Russia is losing the naval race in the most important strategic position. Therefore, the statement of the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Viktor Chirkov, sounded by 19 of May of this year, cannot be considered accidental: “Work continues on creating a promising appearance of a new nuclear aircraft carrier for our Navy. We need an aircraft carrier, not yesterday and not today, but a really promising ship, surpassing all existing ships of this class. This is our strict requirement for the industry and we will not refuse it. ” The Commander-in-Chief of the Navy has determined the approximate dates: the serial construction of new aircraft carriers will start from 2021.
Nevertheless, the ambitious plans of China and India to create powerful aircraft carrier groups as part of their fleets did not at all convince many Russian military, defense industry leaders and experts in the possibility of similar steps to build the capacity of our fleet. For example, Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov, Chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee, in an interview with the Izvestia newspaper, said: “We are not building any aircraft carriers. The case is limited only to declarations, despite the fact that the start dates are declared the most diverse - from 2015 to 2030 of the year. ” An even more skeptical point of view was expressed on the pages of the Svobodnaya Pressa online edition by Alexander Surpin, an expert at the Weapon of the 21st Century Information and Analytical Center, captain of the 2 rank: “Due to the paucity of financial resources, Russia cannot maintain such ships. Only his (Admiral Kuznetsov TAKR) elementary service costs several million dollars a year. ”
A military columnist for Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Viktor Litovkin, made a definitive conclusion - the construction of aircraft carriers in Russia is impossible: “Indeed, there is no place to build aircraft carriers in our country. There is no corresponding base for this. Shipbuilding plants in Russia for the construction of aircraft carriers are not adapted - neither St. Petersburg, nor Kaliningrad, nor Komsomolsk-on-Amur, nor even the Severodvinsk "Sevmash". There are no corresponding docks, slipways, a proper number of highly skilled specialists. Our naval leadership still does not agree on conceptual issues. In particular, what kind of aircraft carriers we need - with a catapult system of take-off of deck fighters or with a horizontal one, as has been built so far. But besides the aircraft carriers themselves, ships of a multi-purpose aircraft carrier group — cruisers, frigates, corvettes, support ships, shipborne long-range radar patrol and detection aircraft are needed. ”
Some experts agreed in general that Russia does not need aircraft carriers at all.
Thus, Alexander Khramchikhin, deputy director of the Institute for Political and Military Analysis, believes that aircraft carriers can be really replaced by “improved Air Force and Air Defense”: “The only conceivable use of aircraft carriers in the event of a“ big ”war (with NATO or China) is to push the air defense and DOT limits to a few hundred miles from their shores. This problem is much cheaper and more efficiently can be solved by developing and improving the Air Force, Air Defense, coastal SCRC and submarine fleet. Especially given the fact that aircraft carriers with such a variant of their use will be "disposable products." There remains the option of using aircraft carriers for "raiding" operations in the countries of the "third world". It's hard enough to understand why we need it. We do not need to seize other people's resources, to keep ours ”.
However, the most original arguments in favor of the complete freezing of the program for creating aircraft-carrier groups of the Russian Navy were expressed by the analyst of the Military Review publication Alexander Samsonov: “There is a moral aspect to the situation with the construction of aircraft carriers. The possession of aircraft carriers puts our state in the category of "hostile", engaged in conducting military special operations abroad. As an example, consider the United States, whose naval forces include 11 aircraft carriers that are actively involved in armed conflicts around the globe, including the war in Libya. But Russia has always declared its defense strategy and refrains from participating in military operations outside its own territory. ”
This brings to mind the famous phrase of Marshal of the Soviet Union Grigory Kulik, said shortly before the start of the Great Patriotic War: “We don’t need automatic machines. Automatic - a weapon of gangsters and police.
In assessing the real practical significance of the above arguments, it is necessary to recognize that with regard to the problems of the production and technological plan, much of what was said by the opponents of the program to create an aircraft carrier fleet is really fair. Yes, we have no experience in building aircraft carriers and we will have to create such an experience from scratch. The existing production capacities of Russian shipbuilding enterprises are not enough to build ships of such enormous displacement and difficult in terms of technological "stuffing" of ships. It is also true that during the years of the complete collapse of the defense industry of the 90-s period and the fake "stability" of the zero-period period, the most valuable personnel of specialists were lost - from designers and marine engineers to highly skilled workers. This personnel shortage is the most serious problem not only for the shipbuilding industry, but for the entire Russian defense industry as a whole. Since an aircraft carrier is the most technically complex type of military equipment, the problem of a huge range of components required for the commissioning of this ship — navigation equipment, special radar systems, engines, and so on — raises to its full height. Many of these components are produced in Russia in very limited quantities or not at all. A separate problematic issue is deck-based aviation: the Su-33 or MiG-29 KUB maritime fighters currently available are in all respects obsolete. That is, it is necessary to create from scratch not only aircraft carriers themselves, but also deck aircraft on board. Finally, even with the successful construction of an aircraft carrier, there will instantly be a problem of special bases for these ships (there are no such facilities at present) and their provision of adequate infrastructure. As a result, the total expenditures from the state budget within the framework of solving all these tasks will reach numbers, which the opponents of the aircraft carrier program call completely unaffordable for our country.
First of all, note that in stories Russia more than once and not twice happened when we had to start building the navy from scratch. And we coped with this task. In other words, experience, production facilities, human resources, financial resources - this is all a matter of mainly political will.
We urgently need to overcome the deadly skepticism that has become the norm everywhere and is knitting us hand and foot. Why is India or China, still scientifically and technologically inferior to Russia, capable of building aircraft carriers, and we are not?
Leave this question open.
Objections against the formation of aircraft carrier groups, as such, deserve closer attention. But in this case, the truly significant arguments are de facto missing. The same Khramchikhin, contrary to his own opinion, asserts: “The very fact that China commissioned a ship that is not a full-fledged aircraft carrier and cannot serve as a prototype for new ships clearly indicates that China attaches great importance to the development of its naval forces. and is going to build an aircraft carrier fleet. Otherwise, he would not need a training aircraft carrier. ” Both the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the defense industrial complex, have repeatedly stressed: the Asia-Pacific region is the sphere of the most important strategic interests of our country. The simple question is: is the navy a tool for securing these interests or not? If the United States, India, China, in order to ensure their interests in the Asia-Pacific Region, are taking urgent measures to build up aircraft carrier groups as part of their fleets, then what actions should Russia take?
We emphasize that Soviet military science once gave an unequivocal answer to this question. Thus, a professor of the Naval Academy of the USSR Navy, Captain 1 of the rank of V.D. Dotsenko, in his work “History of Naval Art”, wrote: “In 1972, a research work was performed under the code“ Order ”, the conclusion of which was:“ Aviation support for the Navy is of paramount, urgent task, as it raises issues of maritime strategic nuclear forces; without air cover under the conditions of the domination of anti-submarine aviation of a potential enemy, we will not be able to ensure not only the combat stability, but also the deployment of our submarines with both ballistic missiles and multi-purpose, which are the main striking force of the Navy; without a fighter cover, the successful operation of coastal-launched naval missile, reconnaissance and anti-submarine aviation — the second most important strike component of the Navy; without fighter cover, more or less acceptable combat stability of surface ships is impossible. " Thus, four decades ago, our naval theorists formulated an axiom: counteraction to an aircraft carrier fleet without its own sea-based aviation is unpromising. The result of this research work was the decision of the country's leadership to build a series of heavy aircraft-carrying cruisers.
At present, the level of technology of the naval war has become much higher. The quantity and quality of the carrier forces of the leading fleets of the world is only increasing. The development of aircraft carrier programs are engaged in countries that have not yet possessed not only aircraft carriers, but also significant naval forces in general. Contrary to the popular opinion of opponents of the program of formation of aircraft carrier groups, who believe that the idea of an aircraft carrier as the main means of fighting at sea, has developed during the Second World War, the role of ships of this class does not become less significant. First of all, it can be seen from the development trends of the naval potential of the dominant power in the World Ocean - the United States. The US Navy has the ability to make more than 3000 sorties per day and continues to improve the efficiency of its aircraft carrier forces.
We can confidently assume that the war on the sea in the 21st century will be a clash of aircraft carrier groups.
Of course, the specifics of the Russian maritime doctrine differ from the American one. It is against this fact that the opponents of the formation of the carrier groups of the Russian Navy are particularly concerned. But at the same time they forget that Russia is a country with the most significant length of maritime borders. Even to a non-specialist, it is obvious that a fleet devoid of aircraft carriers is pressed to the coast line, since it can receive air cover only from coast-based aircraft. Accordingly, if there is a long coastline, the advantage will be on the side of the enemy aircraft carrier group. Being on the operational field, the enemy will be able to freely choose targets for strikes, without entering the zone of destruction of coastal assets and the coastal fleet, remaining under the protection of their aircraft and submarine forces. Another important point: the removal of the line of defense of the sea frontiers farther from the coast with the help of its own aircraft carrier forces is much cheaper and more efficient than an equivalent strengthening of coastal defense and coastal fleet. Thus, to ensure a strategic presence in the oceans and reliable protection of the maritime border of Russia, it is necessary to create powerful aircraft carrier groups. Otherwise, our fleet will be obviously weaker and more vulnerable for the potential enemy fleet.