"Working horses" is not enough
Today, the command of the Russian Navy with all the urgency is the problem of urgent replacement in the ship composition of its operational-strategic associations of “veterans” of Soviet construction who served their time. Unfortunately, overhaul with modernization for many of them is extremely difficult for the construction features. Indeed, in the marine design bureaus, they did not assume that the offspring designed by them would have to remain in the ranks for more than 25 – 30 years.
As a result, our Navy faced a bleak prospect: if it is not urgent to increase the number of newly built combat units, by the end of the current - the beginning of the next decade there will be a drastic reduction in the number of ships. To the greatest extent at the expense of the “workhorses” - the BOD of the 1155 project, the still remaining guard of the 1135 project and the destroyers of the 956 project.
It should be understood that the 25 TFR, EM and BOD (“Soviet Trio”) available in the fleets are already not enough to fulfill all the tasks assigned to the Navy. In addition, there are really no more than 15 – 16 of them in the ranks, the rest are either preserved or in a prolonged repair. By 2025, no more than three or four guardians, destroyers and BODs, “born” in the USSR, have a chance to continue their service. Thus, during the 15 years, the Russian Navy needs to receive at least 20 modern frigates that can compensate for the absence of ships of the three classes mentioned above.
The problem of missile cruisers stands apart. Here is the study of the restoration of the three TARKR project 1144, as well as the modernization of Peter the Great. The possibility of a major overhaul of three ships of the 1164 project is also being discussed. The destroyer of the new generation should be supplemented or replaced by a new generation, as far as can be judged by the available information, corresponding to their combat capabilities and practically not inferior in size (more than 10 thousand tonnes of displacement, more than 100 missiles of various types of missiles). However, the project has not yet begun.
To compensate for the cancellation of the "Soviet trio" was originally supposed to be a frigate of the 22350 project - a warship of a new generation, developed by the Northern PKB. With a relatively modest displacement (up to 4500 tons), it has impressive firepower: typical equipment for its launchers are 16 supersonic Onyx anti-ship missiles and medium-range 32 missiles. This roughly corresponds to the firepower of the 956EM project destroyers, which have the 8 anti-ship missiles and the 48 anti-aircraft missiles, while the latter are launched using obsolete machine guns.
In addition to the above, the frigate of the 22350 project has an impressive arsenal of close-range air defense, anti-submarine armament, a helicopter, and is equipped with modern radio-electronic equipment. In short, we are talking about a worthy replacement of combat units of Soviet construction.
Unfortunately, the time factor played a negative role here. "Admiral Gorshkov" was laid in 2006-m, launched in the fall of 2010-th and already this year should go to sea for testing. His colleague, Admiral Kasatonov, was laid on the stocks three years later and is expected to be commissioned in 2012 – 2013. In total, with rhythmic funding in the current decade, approximately 8 – 10 ships of this project can be built, and before the 2025 of the year, 12 – 14 can be built. The trouble is that such an amount is not enough. A natural solution seems to be an increase in construction. However, under present conditions it is not so easy to do, and the difficulties are not only and not so much with money.
The construction of Project 11356 frigates for the Indian Navy is one of the most successful export operations of the Russian defense industry. In the early 2000s, three ships manufactured at St. Petersburg shipyards were handed over to India, and now three more frigates are being completed at the Yantar plant in Kaliningrad. Mastered by industry, having strong and familiar the fleet "Roots" in the form of TFR project 1135, this particular ship was chosen as the "backup option" to replenish the Russian Navy and "Yantar" received an order from the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.
First, it was about three combat units for the Black Sea Fleet, and the head Admiral Grigorovich was laid in the autumn of 2010. Almost simultaneously, construction began on Admiral Essen and Admiral Makarov. Given the already mastered the process of building frigates by the fall of 2014, all three "Admiral" should be operational. At the same time, from the very beginning it was clear that this would not stop there - not only the Black Sea Fleet needs urgent replenishment, but it also needs at least five new ships. As a result, six “three hundred and fifty sixths” are being said now, and this is clearly not the last increase in order.
The project, created on the basis of the basic 1135 platform developed in Soviet times, becomes a real salvation. Mastered by industry, with a full construction cycle of less than three years and excellent running characteristics of the ship - than not a solution. It was necessary only to modernize the "stuffing". The systems with which Indian frigates are equipped do not fully comply with the requirements of the Russian Navy. In particular, we are talking about the Uragan air defense missile system with a single-channel deck launcher, which does not allow to realize all the capabilities of modern equipment and missiles, a number of elements of radio-electronic equipment, a combat information and control system, etc.
In order to improve the characteristics of the ship, the project was finalized using a number of equipment elements borrowed from the 22350 project, in particular, the universal ship-firing systems, the Sigma ICS, etc.
The updated frigate is inferior to its prospective counterpart in displacement (4000 tons versus 4500), the number of VKSK launchers (8 instead of 16), the power of artillery weapons (100-mm universal artillery unit, not 130-mm) and concealment in the design of the 22350 frigate design units significantly more elements that reduce radar visibility, compared with 11356. However, a significantly lower price and high construction speed compensate for the differences.
Much depends on the successful implementation of the program. If Yantar successfully accomplishes the task, in the future other enterprises will also join the construction of frigates. The likelihood of success is very high - the Indian order has demonstrated the ability of Kaliningrad plant specialists to work quickly and efficiently, the only question is regular financing.
Disappearance and Revival
Classification is one of the most interesting questions of the modern fleet. There is considerable inconsistency. The same combat units in different countries can be called patrol, patrol, escort ships, corvettes, frigates. In the second half of the 20th century, the same combat unit was considered a destroyer and a cruiser, a destroyer and a frigate, a frigate and a cruiser, etc., depending on the “political course”. By the end of the last century, the tendency to “lowering the level” clearly prevailed - ships that fully corresponded to the capabilities and tasks of classic cruisers (the Soviet EM of the 956 project, the American Orly Burk) were ranked as destroyers.
Today, among other things, the Russian Navy is moving away from the previously adopted classification of ships of lower ranks - small anti-submarine and rocket ships, patrol ships - in favor of the western “corvette / frigate” scheme. What content today are born concepts that have existed since ancient times of sailing?
200 years ago, all the sailors knew: both the corvette and the frigate were three-masted ships with direct (ship) armament. At the same time, the latter (the etymology of the word “frigate” still remains a riddle, but it is used in almost all European languages), as now, was a class above the corvette. The most powerful frigates fought in the battle line along with the battleships. The frigate had at least one closed gun deck (and sometimes two - open and closed) and carried 30 – 50 guns (5 – 6 rank), including heavy ones.
Yielding the battleships in terms of basic dimensions, firepower and hull strength, the frigates were faster, more maneuverable and served as "servants for everything" - from general combat to reconnaissance and from escorting convoys to round-the-world expeditions.
Corvettes (French Corvette - light military ship, small frigate, Holland. Corver - ship-hunter) very closely intersected with the so-called small frigates (less than 30 cannons), which were, like the corvettes, already “out of ranks”. Corvettes differed from small frigates mainly by the absence of a closed battery and were also multi-purpose ships. They carried out reconnaissance, messenger and escort tasks, and in the remote seas they could also be the flagships of local forces, frightening the natives with carronades, covering the actions of sailing longboats with light cannons and paratroopers.
This separation continued until the advent of the steam era in the 50-ies of the XIX century, when frigates and corvettes for literally three decades have gone from the scene. Almost the entire niche of these classes was occupied by cruisers that replaced them. Then they were joined by destroyers and destroyers, who gradually, with the growth of the performance characteristics, more confidently mastered the role of escort ships.
Corvettes and frigates as a class returned to life the Second World War, when it turned out that destroyers, and even more so cruisers, were not enough to fulfill the most important task - escorting convoys that had become truly blood vessels of the United Nations. In addition, destroyers, not to mention cruisers, are too expensive and excessively powerful for such purposes.
So forgotten were two classes reborn again. The corvettes with a displacement of up to a thousand tons were armed with artillery of caliber up to 76 – 100 millimeters, 20 – 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns (or machine guns), bomb emitters and rocket bombers. They had quite solid electronic armament, which is called the “gentleman's set”: radar (one of the most common radar of military times - the famous British “271 type” of the centimeter range), GUS (for example, 127DV type) and high-precision direction finder “Daf”. Under this description, say, well-known British corvettes of the “flower series” (Flower), replicated in 267 specimens and which became approximately the same symbol for foggy Albion as the T-34 tank for us, are suitable. Equipped with horsepower 2750 steam engines, they and their 16 units busily scurried back and forth along the line of leisurely crawling convoys. Australian ore carriers from Freetown to the UK, Liberty and tankers from the USA to the UK, the same Liberties and Soviet transports from Halifax and Khval Fjord to Murmansk and Arkhangelsk ... They found a place for themselves everywhere. But the range of their voyages (3,5 thousands of miles) did not always allow accompanying convoys throughout the route, and refueling on the move was not always possible.
This problem was just solved by frigates, for example, the British type River. Solid ships, 1370 "long tons" of displacement in the standard, 1830 full displacement, power plant capacity from 5000 to 6500 horsepower (steam turbine or steam machine) and the speed of more than 20 nodes. Unlike corvettes, they could already accompany convoys along the entire length of the route. And the weapons were more solid than the brethren: a pair of 102-mm (or 114-mm) guns, up to a dozen anti-aircraft "Oerlikon", as well as RBU and bomb-throwers with a solid stock of depth charges (up to one hundred and fifty) sufficient for serious counteraction to submarines the route of the convoy.
The modern look of corvettes and frigates acquired already in the 60 – 70-ies due to rocket armament. It was then that a sharp increase in the number of URO (guided missile weapon) ships in all more or less serious fleets began, primarily due to the relatively cheap units of these two classes. By the 70 years, corvettes and frigates grew in size (to 1,5 – 2 thousand tons of corvettes, to 4 – 5 thousand tons frigates) and began to turn from purely escort ships into multi-purpose fighting units, which were their sailing ancestors. "Multitasking" was determined by the capabilities of weapons. Anti-submarine potential remained major. Powerful sonar complexes (GAK), combining several stations (GUS), in combination with guided torpedoes and / or PLRK (anti-submarine missile systems) and the presence (for frigates) of the deck helicopter, continued to retain the reputation of the submarine hunters.
The air defense potential has increased due to the appearance of compact short-range and close-range air defense missile systems, and compact anti-ship missiles (the most well-known and widely used still, the Harpoon and the Exochet) completed the conversion of corvettes and frigates into multipurpose combat units capable of performing most of the tasks surface fleet.
Back to the roots?
Today, the development of corvettes and frigates, as well as ships of the “upper classes” - destroyers and cruisers, has reached a new stage thanks to universal launchers, which made it possible to dramatically expand the range of weapons. In the mines of modern UVP, you can place anything from a strategic cruise missile to a “pack” of light melee missiles.
As a result, the traditional classification loses its meaning. The difference between large URO combat ships is leveled, generally reducing to a difference in the volume of ammunition, navigation range and seaworthiness. Modern corvettes perform the traditional tasks of destroyers, frigates and destroyers, in turn, correspond to the tasks of classic light and heavy cruisers, and the capabilities and functionality of the cruiser quite allow us to call it a ship of the modern "battle line". This, in particular, is confirmed by the classification, which in the West is assigned to the Soviet cruisers of the 1144 project - in NATO they are designated as Battle Cruiser, battle cruisers.
It is quite possible that it makes sense to return to the old rank classification, when rocket ships will be divided into ranks depending on the number of launch "nests" of their CWR, just as the sailors times battleships were divided into ranks by the number of guns.