True, the author is not going to enter into polemics with those who support the concluded agreement or reject it. I want to talk about something else.
At the beginning of this year, domestic media spread the message that the State Armaments Program does not provide for the construction of aircraft carriers, at least until the end of this decade. This message did not cause a wide resonance in our country. Yes, of course, both experts, political scientists, current and retired military (first of all, of course, sailors), military-industrial complex workers, argued, continue to argue, whether Russia needs “floating airfields”, whether there are opportunities for their design and development. . But the “narrow circle” of these people in the 140-million Russian Federation, therefore, was not, and there is not even a semblance of a national discussion. What must be said directly is very symptomatic. To a certain extent, this fact testifies to the degree of unity of interests of various strata of our modern society.
However, let's take a look at the explanatory note to the Imperial Russian Law navyadopted exactly one hundred years ago. Here, in particular, it was said in it: “The development of the fleet is a question, first of all, of the world, because the formidable development of the naval armed forces of our political neighbors not only raises doubts about the results in the event of a direct collision with them, but also about the very possibility of maintaining neutrality, dignity and honor during the struggle between the two other powers.
All attempts to replace free naval power, based on technical means of combat, are unsuccessful to this day - all states of the world have realized this, despite the difference in interests, international and geographical position, creating battle linear fleets for which they are currently fighting time can only be talked about weapons. Only a strong linear fleet, able to go into the open sea, find the enemy and give him a successful battle, can satisfy the requirements of the inviolability of the state both in relation to its political interests and in the sense of territorial security ...
Any other defense will be reduced to creating more or less easily overcome obstacles for the strongest adversary, which can never be decisive, until they are in contact with the line fleet and rely on its support. ”
The ideas set forth in just a few paragraphs of this document are by no means outdated in the 21st century. Just replace the words: instead of "strong linear" put "strong aircraft carrier."
The question of the need for the revival of the Russian fleet, pretty dilapidated in the "dashing 90-e" and at the beginning of the 2000-s, has not yet been removed from the agenda. For now (and, incidentally, before) the Russian Navy has two main tasks - protecting the long coastal borders of the state and creating the so-called free sea power, designed to defend Russia's interests in any part of the world. That is, our fleet must have the ability to project power to the most remote corners of the globe. The second task (and by and large the first one) cannot be solved if aircraft carriers do not appear in the Russian Navy. Without them, the squadron and detachments of warships on the expanses of the oceans will be very easy prey for any potential enemy.
Thus, the absence of a first-class aircraft carrier fleet is vital for the Russian Federation, and not a far-fetched problem. But does our country have at its disposal all the things without which “floating airfields” will fail to acquire?
After all, if we somewhat rephrase the expression of the epoch of “dreadnought race” of the beginning of the 20th century, taking into account modern realities, then, it seems, today it may sound as follows: aircraft carriers measure not only the sea power of the state, they are a kind of indicator of its power in general. The carrier has become a new political currency. Diplomats build their combinations and enter into negotiations, focusing only on the number of squadrons, batteries and divisions. To a much greater extent taken into account the presence of aircraft carriers. These Leviathans are the personification of the power of the state, its prestige, weight in the international arena, financial well-being, economic prosperity, the highest level of science, technology and industry.
Among other things, the question of the accelerated development of our fleet in a number of other types of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation against the background of the significant recent enhancement of Moscow’s foreign policy and the growth of Russia's GDP projected in the historically foreseeable period becomes of paramount importance.
I didn’t get it ...
Meanwhile, the creation of an aircraft carrier fleet includes a whole complex of the most important components, each of which requires a truly enormous effort. As a kind of “ultimate weapon system”, an attack nuclear carrier has long turned into a kind of super-manifestation, very dependent on many political, financial, economic, technical, tactical, as well as a huge number of other conditions and reasons. Only a rich and advanced country in all respects can afford the luxury of having expensive giants.
If you turn to historical In retrospect, the catastrophe of 1917 put an end to plans developed (shortly before the First World War) (by the way, more than real) to make Russia one of the leading maritime powers. That was not the first attempt. For example, in the reign of Alexander III, the Russian fleet included 114 new ships, including 17 armadillos, and it took 3rd place in the world after the English and French in total displacement (300 thousand tons).
The leadership of the Soviet Union in the middle of the 30-s also set itself the goal of turning the country into one of the "masters of the seas", in addition - with one jerk, in 10 years. At the same time, the initiative did not come from the command of the RKKF, but exclusively from Stalin himself.
The decisions to build numerous battleships and heavy cruisers were due not so much to the needs of the country's defense against potential aggressors, but to considerations of a general political nature. “The mighty Soviet state should have a sea and ocean fleet worthy of our great cause,” said Vyacheslav Molotov, chairman of the USSR SNK, at the XVIII Congress of the CPSU (B.).
The possession of a strong linear fleet at that time, historians of the Russian Navy emphasize, was considered as an indispensable attribute for a state striving to be in the first roles in the international arena, like nuclear weapons after World War II. It is not surprising that Stalin gave the battleships the highest priority in prewar shipbuilding, demanding that designers and sailors create the strongest ships of this class on the planet. Designed in the shortest possible time and hastily established in the 1938 – 1940 years, the Soviet Union type battleships practically corresponded to the dreams of the leader. And in 1939-m pre-sketch projects were developed by domestic aircraft carriers - 71 and 71. Of these, the specialists were of the greatest interest, the first being well balanced and even, by some estimates, anticipating the American Independence. However, the German attack on the USSR prevented the implementation of the plans.
In the spring of 1945, the 10-year program for the development of the Soviet fleet was prepared. It was supposed to build 15 aircraft carriers. However, they were later excluded from the final version of the document. First of all, it was supposed to acquire large artillery ships - heavy and light. Only in 1953-m again began pre-sketch aircraft carrier design (project 85).
But Stalin died, and Nikita Khrushchev was very negative about “floating airfields”. In later times, the principled opponent of aircraft carriers was a very influential member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU, Dmitry Ustinov. The Soviet party elite in general believed that they were "a means of imperialist aggression." Supporters of aircraft carriers (in their classic form) were Marshal Andrei Grechko and Minister of the shipbuilding industry Boris Butoma. In the end, the domestic shipbuilder handed over the so-called heavy aircraft carrying cruisers to the Navy of the USSR and the Russian Federation - Kiev, Minsk, Novorossiysk, Baku (later Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov) and Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov. In the system today, only the last of them. "Varyag" was in China. "Ulyanovsk" is cut into metal in 1992 year.
In fact, none of these ships (even the Kuznetsov) can be classified as full-fledged aircraft carriers. Why? Yes, if only because there were no DRLO and U, EW and PLO aircraft in the TAVKR air groups. And, as far as we know, the Russian aircraft industry does not have similar machines in projects either. And without them, the aircraft carrier can not be considered a successful combat unit.
Then we will not catch up
There is one (and at first sight convincing) reason for these historical failures in the construction of the ocean carrier fleet. For our country, with its vast expanses of land, which, in the event of a major military conflict, became the arena of the primary application of all forces, the pursuit of the general idea of the steady creation of first-class Navy as a whole was not justified by a nationwide super task. This was inherent, for example, in England or the USA, but not in Russia. However, it should not be ruled out that the outcome of a hypothetical global armed confrontation in the 21st century can be determined in the vast expanses of the ocean.
Nevertheless, the verdict was passed - in the coming years we will not start building aircraft carriers. Whom the last word is left behind is unknown (and it is not clear if it will ever be revealed). It is quite probable that in making this decision truly fateful for the Russian Navy, the decision was based on the following: now it is not yet within our power, but after 2020 ... At this point, let's take a shock, with a twinkle, rolling up our sleeves!
However, for 9 – 10 years, our potential competitors on the seas and oceans are able to go into such a scientific and technical gap that even with the strongest political will, they will not be able to catch up under any - even the most favorable - circumstances. It means that it is possible that the refusal to create aircraft carriers for the Russian Navy is final and irrevocable - there will never be any of them in the Russian fleet's combat force, which will finally drive it into a kind of naval deadlock ...
In conclusion, I note that the construction of the Stalinist battleships (especially the purely technical essence of the work on super dreadnoughts), despite incompleteness, left a deep imprint on domestic military shipbuilding, was a very instructive and useful stage, served as a powerful impetus for the development of the potential not only of the shipbuilding industry , but also supporting industries, the fruits of which were reaped in the post-war period. The original golden decade of our shipbuilding in the 70s is, to a certain extent, the result of previous efforts.
In addition, the attempt to give the Navy battleships and heavy cruisers not only seriously expanded the scientific and technical reserve of the shipbuilding industry, served as a solid foundation for it, but also turned into an excellent school for training experienced personnel of scientists, designers, production workers and managers. It is no coincidence that many participants in the creation of these ships occupied various prominent posts in our shipbuilding industry in the postwar years.
That is why it is impossible not to assume that the decision to postpone the design and construction of aircraft carriers “for later” is a strategic mistake with very, very far-reaching, disastrous consequences for the country's defense capability.
And finally, the main thing is that the unified will of the ruling class and the support of such activities by the masses are absolutely necessary for the implementation of the costly and intensive program of naval construction. Today in modern Russia it is not entirely clear who is the ruling class (and even more so what is its will). The popular masses, according to a unanimous assessment of political scientists, are in a state of complete apathy. In such conditions, unfortunately, the implementation of large naval programs (including the construction of atomic strike aircraft carriers) is hardly possible.