We really can't build aircraft carriers. And not only now, at a bad time for the Nevsky Design Bureau and the decline of national shipbuilding in general. Let this be some consolation, but we did not know how to do this before, during the heyday of the defense industry. However, can this circumstance, as well as the others, at first glance, no less significant, serve as a serious motivation not to revive a fleet worthy of Russia, dispensing with its obviously "lake version" or the option of a "mosquito fleet? However, it is already encouraging that the image of the fleet in the public mind is increasingly linked precisely with aviation and the continued construction of nuclear submarines.
The construction of aircraft carriers is not a straightforward and ordinary task to mindlessly resort to analogies with the process of building other classes of warships. After all, in addition to creating a carrier ship, its equipment and technical conditions for its effective combat use are created.
Thus, even initially, the task, in addition to its technological complexity, is characterized by a particular organizational complexity. This is due at least to the fact that the construction of aircraft carriers is in the sphere of influence of two completely different departments: the shipbuilding industry and the aircraft industry, where, in turn, is divided into tasks of a specific aircraft industry and equipping the carrier with original ship equipment.
If you go further, the tasks of the combat use of the aircraft carrier are directly related to the use of aircraft in the open sea, and at a level of significantly higher operational-tactical and flight quality than in the air force.
It is particularly necessary to highlight the problem of equipping an aircraft carrier with unique equipment, such as catapults, aviofinishers, aircraft lifters, landing equipment, which are technologically unique products exclusively produced by the United States. But the presence of a combat-ready aircraft carrier on the naval theater of military operations (theater of operations) is the foundation of the operational and tactical viability of the naval forces (naval forces) that own it.
MILITARY PLANS AND ECONOMIC REALITY
So is Russia to build a large fleet when it does not know how to build aircraft carriers? The intention to build a modern fleet must comply with the technological viability of the domestic defense industry. But there are already problems. They are superimposed by the lack of a clear idea of the military itself, what kind of aircraft carrier they need, and behind this - understand what kind of fleet is needed. That is, objectively, there is no concept of building and using the fleet.
With all the tragedy of the situation in this remark is nothing offensive for the sailors there. After all, this is a problem from the field of strategy, while the fleet has not had an appropriate body in the management structure for 60 for years, and there is no access to strategy. But it is not possible to engage in a strategy on a voluntary basis, all the more so to hand over the question to the industry, as has sometimes happened. We have already raised this problem several times, however, it was inaccessible for understanding to those to whom it was intended.
When there was a question of building or radical renewal of the fleet, Russia did not stop at a single historical breakdown in the technological lag: neither under Peter I, nor with the start of mass steam shipbuilding and rearmament after the Crimean War, nor at the stage of equipping the fleet for the needs of the Far East before the Russian-Japanese war, neither with the start of dreadnoutilization, nor later, during the years of Soviet power. If there was a state will to build a fleet, it was built, and technology turned out to be secondary. Samples of new ships and technologies, mechanisms and weapons were being sought, and they were acquired abroad. We quickly mastered the new technique, technology, reproduction, and even improved them. From there, torpedoes, diesel engines, steam turbines, gyroscopic direction indicators, range finders, radars, sonars, landing ships, self-guided torpedoes, and much more, were once born, and the fleet could not be considered modern.
The head was turned over by the 60 – 90 period of the last century, when the successes of the military-industrial complex in the construction and armament of the fleet created the impression of national priority and self-sufficiency. Of course, success was enormous and hard to overestimate. The Navy became the second fleet in the world, making the leap from third-rate to the most powerful and modern fleets. However, it was mostly submarine fleet like the German one during the Second World War. The viciousness of long-term reliance on such an unbalanced fleet became apparent during the Soviet period. The problem required bold and extraordinary decisions, but after Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Sergei Gorshkov there was no one to take them, none of his successors had the same authority and influence in the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee. They did not have the will and courage not only to solve the priority tasks of building the fleet, but also to keep it from rapidly collapsing.
By the beginning of 90's, the problem was not only chronic but also painful: in comparison with the likely adversary, despite the constant renewal of its personnel, the Navy was increasingly lagging behind in development.
The current position of a country intending to build a modern fleet contains only one advantage: almost with nothing (apart from one’s own delusions) you don’t have to be painfully parted, since there is practically nothing left from the former fleet. And one of such misconceptions is to build the future fleet, not thinking about aircraft carriers, as we are kindly, but Alexander Mozgovoy strongly recommends.
I will try to disprove the arguments of Alexander the Brain. I will begin with the categorical statement that no one but the Americans today can build aircraft carriers. There is no doubt that if the project of the French “Charles de Gaulle” was completely successful (the creators abused the economy), it would become a masterpiece of the Paris polytechnic school and world shipbuilding.
Indeed, with a displacement of one third of the American one, according to experts, it claimed 0,6–0,75 of the combat effectiveness of the latter. Moreover, the design and implementation take into account all current trends in the development of forces and means of armed struggle at sea. In particular, it is armed with full-fledged AWACS aircraft, has catapults, and a balanced air wing. A stands with aviation armament is five times cheaper than the last American. And then, the French in shipbuilding and aircraft building have such a serious engineering reputation that there is no doubt that they and optimal negative experience will be put into business and will create another technical masterpiece in the near future.
Technical continuity works for the French. Their old aircraft carriers, Foch and Clemenceau, built 60's (aircraft carriers generally build, relying on the 40 – 50-year life cycle) they exploited for more than three decades, modernized and sold to third countries in good condition and sold to third countries (as aircraft carriers) , and not for scrap metal, like us), receiving in return a new atomic one.
There is no doubt that the British, completing the 9-year-long design cycle for Queen Elizabeth, now known as the Euro-Avian carrier, took into account not only their rich experience in building these ships, but meticulously investigated all the errors revealed in the design of the atomic French aircraft carrier. It is not by chance that France connects its future in aviation with the borrowing of a successful and constructively non-over-stressed (as Charles de Gaulle has turned out) English project. Moreover, as is known, they had different approaches with the British to the choice of the main power plant (GEM), methods of raising and subsidence of carrier-based aircraft, and much more.
In the context of the expected technical decisions of the French side on the choice of a GEM for a new aircraft carrier, Alexander Mozgovogo’s statement about the obsolescence of steam power plants on aircraft carriers sounds, to put it mildly, very strange and looks premature. Especially considering what percentage of the steam output on aircraft carriers with the traditional method of lifting aircraft is designed to operate catapults. Instead of burying steam power plants, we should deal with the boilers on the former Gorshkov, now Vikramadity. The “disease” of the boilers is old and stretches for all the domestic combat NKs built by 60 – 80-s, including the one known on our only aircraft carrier, the Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov.
What is impossible to disagree with, Alexander Mozgov, is that when starting to design an aircraft carrier, you need to understand what we want to have: a combat-ready aircraft carrier or, again, a "floating exhibition of the achievements of the military industrial complex".
The project of a new aircraft carrier can only be unique, which have not yet been in our practice. It should give rise to unprecedented relations and principles of work in our practice, become a testing ground for new relationships and approaches to work: economic, design, technological, and organizational.
Let us turn to the English experience, which Alexander Mozgovoy so defiantly said, stating that the British had lost the ability to build aircraft carriers. In particular, his attitude towards aircraft carriers of the so-called intermediate type (“Illustrires”), which he doesn’t count as aircraft carriers due to the small number and imbalance of the air group, is remarkable.
Adherents of such an opinion would be nice to recall the phenomenon of the mobilization deployment of the Royal Navy in the spring of 1982, when the basic idea is not tailored to fit the carrier ship, but rather, ships and everything else adapts to the ideas of aviation. And then the calculation is not from thousands of pounds per ton of carrier displacement, but from how each ton of displacement works for the combat effectiveness of the aircraft carrier. Suffice it to recall that it was these aircraft carriers that ensured the British victory in the battle for the Falklands.
The cost of a new euro-avian carrier, now queen in all its versions, is not comparable to American costs and amounts to 2 – 2,4 billion dollars. Its French version of RA-2 (Porte-Avions 2) costs 2 – 2,9 billion dollars
The format of a Euro-avian carrier is reasonable carrier sizes, reasonable sizes and composition of the wing, reasonable money. Borrowing the best European experience is the best reference point, and perhaps even an option for our designers.
NO MONEY EXTINGUISHED
We will not assess the economic situation so straightforwardly: there is no money - there is no large fleet either, money has started - we are starting to build a fleet. There is no extra money, so the situation must be viewed from the classical premises.
On this side, the classical prerequisites for the construction of a large fleet, an indispensable attribute of which are aircraft carriers, there seems to be no reason either. Neither the level nor the pace of economic development, or in terms of visible prospects. Dangerous hang on the hook food addiction. We do not know how to jump off the oil needle. The main employment item is state and law enforcement agencies. Small business, the agricultural sector to engage in business is unprofitable. The fleet, which in peacetime is right to defend free trade, is deprived of the semantic and ideological prerequisites for development.
Meanwhile, the aviation industry and the shipbuilding industry, within the framework of the objective needs of the shipbuilding program, would have been able to claim at least 1,7 – 2,3 million jobs. And in the sector of high-tech activities!
At the same time, with the “tears of tenderness” nostalgic for the Soviet period, we forget about the expressive negative lessons of that period. From 70 to 85% of the volume of domestic shipbuilding of that period accounted for military shipbuilding. And where is our tanker fleet? We did not know how and do not know how to build supertankers. We do not know how to build gas carriers. Therefore, we are not able to build aircraft carriers.
What is common is that supertankers, modern gas carriers, superbakers and other vessels, like aircraft carriers in the Navy, are the largest naval targets. It is their presence, their ability to build and exploit the most vividly reflect the national economic, technological level and, ultimately, the foreign political weight of the state.
It turns out that building a large navy with aircraft carriers in the absence of a significant merchant and fishing fleet is a clear bias towards militarization. Then the question involuntarily arises: maybe Alexander Mozgovoy is really right? But it is impossible not to build!
The specificity of building an aircraft carrier as a combat system deserves to dwell on it in more detail. Especially since so far misunderstanding and deliberately incorrect consistency of actions have prevailed in this matter.
In the ocean zone, aircraft carriers as a part of factions are usually regarded as the real basis for ensuring combat stability, the basis for conquering and retaining domination in operationally important areas.
Ensuring the combat operations of an aircraft carrier presupposes the presence of several long-range radar aircraft (DRLO) aircraft, electronic warfare (EW), and rescue and transport helicopters. Modern concepts of war at sea suggest the inclusion of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the air group. None of these machines we have yet.
At first glance it may seem that the situation is better with helicopters. However, in reality, we chronically do not have a heavy sea helicopter capable of “guarding” enemy submarines over the ocean or dragging heavy loads, nor a light helicopter ready to “ride” the decks of literally all new ships. A heavy naval helicopter is badly needed by amphibious forces, which we, without even realizing it, are starting to acquire with the entry into the Navy "Mistral".
The presence in the aircraft armament of aircraft with a take-off weight of more than 40 tons, a legitimate desire to provide deck attack aircraft and fighters with a tactical radius of at least 800 km with an unconditional desire to have all modern weapons in service with the aircraft clearly indicate the inevitability of the aircraft carrier version with a catapult.
The idea of avifinisheran in the domestic fleet has been worked out and can be used after it has been modified for a specific project. It remains to understand the ship’s boiler room installation, aircraft lifts, the fleet ACS, believing that such a ship cannot but claim to be the flagship of a large separate and remotely operating operative connection. Catapult, our industry is not ready to offer an automated control system, as well as the problem with boilers for a promising ship has not been completely solved.
It remains to add that the optimum displacement of a promising domestic aircraft carrier should be 65 – 70 thousand tons, the speed of the 30 – 32 node; the length of the flight deck 275 – 285 m, width 64 m, draft 8,5 – 9 m. Aircraft 45 – 50 aircraft and helicopters.
It is not difficult to assume that the project should have at least status as a state program. The primacy of the conceptual strategic side of the project is obvious: without it, we again risk building a “steam train”.
The problem of building an aircraft carrier is not only in its extraordinary cost and technological complexity, and perhaps most importantly, in an absolutely non-standard organization of the process that requires integration, in scope and depth for today's Russia, unprecedented; so that its level is able to literally test the state for maturity.