Unfortunately, it became possible to judge the post-war development of the Soviet Navy only after the collapse of the superpower. Total Soviet secrecy did not give a comprehensive assessment of its fleet either to amateurs or specialists. But after 1991, a whole stream of information poured out on everyone who wanted to drown in it.
The first assessments of the post-war Navy were immediately critical. For professionals - moderately restrained, while others are sometimes simply scandalous. Then it was decided to scold everything Soviet. Today, many estimates are revised, but in the part of the Navy - practically none. A critical assessment of post-war development fleet recorded in many works of many authors of those years. But a serious attempt to voice the revision of these estimates was not undertaken. It is today that a situation has developed where this can and should be done. This article is only an attempt to take such a step.
Evaluation of shipbuilding of the Navy of the USSR. Acting point of view
The fundamental work on the post-war development of the Soviet fleet "USSR Navy 1945-1991 years" (V.P. Kuzin, V.I. Nikol'skii) gives the following characteristic:
If it were not for this inclination towards the rampant construction of a submarine, for the same money it would be possible to build a navy that is not inferior to BNK OK, the US Navy, and invest significant funds in the development of a stationary basing system. Thus, the concept of replacing some ships with others in solving the tasks of the USSR Navy, both tactically, as mentioned above, and economically, was an obvious gamble. INCOMPLETE MILITARY AND POLITICAL DECISIONS led to ADVANTURE MILITARY-TECHNICAL POLICY, and the latter led to INOPTIMAL ECONOMIC COSTS.
Let's try to critically evaluate the information provided.
Navy is not a thing in itself. It is an integral part of the state’s defense system. Therefore, it makes sense to consider it in the light of the global opposition of the USSR and NATO.
In the post-war period, the great European war was seen as a fleeting conflict in which the USSR would strive to rapidly destroy NATO forces on the continent with its ground forces. (We will consciously ignore the use of ICBMs and nuclear weapons.) Western analysts devoted no more than a month to this, and Soviet Tanks overlooking the English Channel. It is clear that in such a situation, NATO forces will seek to strengthen the grouping in Europe as quickly as possible, fending off the Soviet strike. And the transatlantic convoys transporting equipment from the USA to Germany and France, as well as convoys of important military cargoes from other directions (oil products, timber, gas, ore), became of paramount importance in this. There is no doubt that the USSR will destroy these convoys in order to isolate the theater of operations and to undermine the economic potential of the enemy as much as possible. There is a classic cruising challenge. The task is not the only one, but one of the most important.
And here the Navy begins to play the main role. The nature of the goals is quite definite - these are convoys and warrants in the Atlantic. It is clear that using surface ships, especially given the numerical superiority of NATO fleets, it is extremely difficult to destroy these convoys. Marine missile aviation It has a limited range and low combat stability. But it is precisely for this task that submarines are ideally suited. All that is required of them is to prevent massive military traffic for a month until the ground forces of the USSR defeat the ground forces of NATO in Europe (we do not doubt that the Soviet Union is capable of this).
Behind beautiful aircraft carriers and cruisers there is a “other fleet” of the USA - the most powerful transport in the world. That he could provide an incredible volume of cargo in a short time. In the photo - USNS Gordon (T-AKR 296) at work
Arguments about the development of the fleet will inevitably take the form of opposing the underwater and aircraft carrier directions. These two whales define the face of modern fleets. If the USSR abandoned the mass construction of the submarine and deployed the construction of the AV, what would happen then? Solving the same problem, the Soviet AUG would have to break from the closest Barents Sea to the Atlantic with battles, repelling enemy coastal aviation attacks from Europe, dodging enemy submarines, and at the end of such a campaign, fought with American AUGs. Our aircraft carriers were easily detected and tracked after entering the outer raid of Severomorsk. Getting to the convoys would be incredibly difficult.
For submarines, on the contrary, the problem of a breakthrough was not so acute, for even today the discovery of submarines in the open ocean remains a problem with many unpredictable factors. Even the most advanced means of PLO are not able to track the submarines for a long time and guarantee its destruction. The submarine, having obviously stronger means of hydroacoustics than aircraft or surface ships, maneuvering in three-dimensional space and using means of counteraction in a heterogeneous aquatic environment, is able to avoid attacks and harassment many times. Moreover, the submarine secrecy made it possible to deliver annoying blows even where the enemy did not expect — in the Indian Ocean or in the South Atlantic. Naturally, during the conflict, NATO forces will gradually increase the PLO’s assets and will be able to find and destroy our submarines, but this will take time, which the USSR ground forces occupying all of Europe will not allow for a few weeks.
Head-to-head comparison of the naval forces of the USA and the USSR is always incorrect. Because it does not take into account the peculiarities of geography for each of the parties. Are there many truly maritime countries in the world? Countries that have a spacious outlet to the world ocean? It seems that the USSR with its gigantic marine feature is one of them, but if you forget about the fact that 90% of this coastal feature of 2 / 3 has been closed by ice.
In fact, full-fledged maritime countries - units. These are the USA, Japan, Great Britain, India, the People's Republic of China and partly less important players, such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile, France, and Vietnam. All these countries have a common place - this is a spacious coastline in non-freezing seas with convenient harbors and excellent coastal infrastructure. All US naval bases are located in the most developed parts of the country. The sun shines brightly there, it is warm, and when leaving the bay, giant ocean expanses open up, with incredible depths at which even such a large object as an aircraft carrier can easily get lost. Somewhere in Russia there is something like that? Not.
The open spaces and convenience of the United States Navy "Norfolk" did not even dream of our sailors
All maritime countries have an extremely small number of maritime theaters, which allows them not to split up forces into disparate areas and it is easy to achieve a concentration of forces that is important in military affairs. The United States has two theaters (and then conditionally), Japan, the United Kingdom, India, and the PRC - one theater. Only France has two unrelated theaters of operations. How many theaters does Russia have? Four full and one miniature (Caspian).
Imagine that in a threatened period, the Russian Federation decides to make a maneuver by an aircraft carrier from one theater to another? This will be a new campaign 2-th Pacific Squadron, no less. The submarine maneuver, on the contrary, most likely, no one will even notice until the submarines that have left the north do not emerge in the roads of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, and their appearance will not become obvious to satellite reconnaissance assets.
All this suggests that Russia, if it wants to seriously compete with the great maritime powers, cannot act symmetrically. Even if we spend the same amount on our Navy as the United States spends, all the same, at each of our naval theaters, all efforts should be divided into four.
I propose to compare our main databases for a number of parameters so that it is clear how inconvenient maritime geography is available for Russia.
As can be seen from the table, more or less, only Sevastopol falls short of world standards, but it also has a feature that can crush all other virtues - the Turkish straits. According to this parameter, we can say that the conditions of the base location are even worse than “unsatisfactory”.
Is it possible in such conditions to talk about the massive development of aircraft carriers, ships extremely demanding to the expanse and possess the minimum secrecy of all classes of naval weapons?
As is known, the USSR had its own military bloc, conventionally called the “Warsaw Pact countries”. The bloc was created in opposition to NATO. However, even today, when NATO remains, and there is no ATS, analysts and journalists continue to compare the military potential of Russia and the United States. This is a completely unfair assessment, since the United States does not act alone. Correct comparison should be made by Russia / USSR on the one hand, and NATO and Japan on the other. That's when there is a reason for sadness!
ATS countries almost never were taken into account, and in naval terms, all the more. For the United States has many strong naval allies, while the USSR did not have them, and there are not any now.
Did the naval forces of the USSR have enough ships? Yes, he was the largest, largest fleet in the world. So far, we do not take into account that NATO is a single whole. And the fleets of NATO have always surpassed the Soviet Navy in the ship's overall composition. The table shows that only by the number of nuclear submarines of the USSR was on an equal footing with NATO. For the rest of the parameters, even taking into account the fleets of the ATS countries, the backlog was serious.
Can we say that in such conditions the bet on the submarine was wrong? How long did it take to build aircraft carriers and other surface ships for the Soviet Navy in order to defeat the combined forces of NATO in an open "carrier-based" battle? It's scary to even think ...
It is extremely difficult to calculate the costs of maintaining and building such different combat systems as an aircraft carrier and submarines. In the book “The Navy of the USSR 1945-1991”, such a comparison was made in conventional units of measurement. At the same time, the cost of an aircraft carrier with an AUU is given as 4,16 of the cost of the NPS, and the SSGN (with missile armament) is the 1,7 of the cost of the NPS. This assessment does not look obvious. The net worth of an aircraft carrier as a surface ship cannot be a valid indicator. An aircraft carrier without an air group and escort ships is just a floating hangar. It is more logical to compare the submarine and the AV as a weapon system in the form of a minimum configuration sufficient to start full-fledged hostilities. For AB, such a composition, in addition to the carrier itself, necessarily includes the air group and escort ships. For submarines - only the submarine itself. The cost of the ammunition in both cases will be derived from the calculations, since it strongly depends on the current combat mission.
An approximate calculation of the cost of AB and NPS are shown in the table:
Thus, the AV in combat status is 7,8 cost "PLA with rocket armament" at current prices. Instead of 2,44 for the calculations given by Kuzin and Nikolsky. Perhaps this ratio will not be fair for the Soviet period. storiesbecause relative cost of aircraft was lower. However, such a comparison does show a trend. In the above calculations, there are concessions to the aircraft carrier, since the air group also needs ground infrastructure, a full-fledged aerodrome and many other means of support, without which the aircraft carrier cannot become a combat-ready unit. The NPS does not require this.
During the postwar period, the USSR built the 81 PLAT and the 61 PLARK. Thus, by abandoning the construction of the 61, the SSGN of the USSR could have built 8 full-fledged AUGs. Or, by refusing to build the 81 PLAT, you could build the 7 AUG. The numbers are not impressive, considering that only in the US Navy during the Cold War, the aircraft carriers were used in different periods of the 12-20, and at the same time, the Americans also did not deprive the submarine nuclear fleet. Deprived of the entire atomic submarine fleet of the USSR would have only gotten close to parity with the United States by the number of ABs, while completely losing superiority under water.
Finally, what is a big threat to NATO fleets - 15 strike aircraft carriers, or 142 nuclear submarines? The answer seems obvious.
The main difficulty in the work of submarines in the world's oceans has always been targeting. If in the first hours of the conflict, the submarines from the tracking mode could immediately attack the ward targets, then in the future, with the advent of new targets, there was a need for their reconnaissance. For this, during the Soviet era, there were Tu-95РЦ planes and space reconnaissance vehicles. If the Tu-95РЦ was quite vulnerable, and establishing contact with the AUG for it could mean a quick death, then with space everything is not so simple.
Most maritime experts poorly represent features of the operation of spacecraft. Therefore, with respect to them, an opinion was established on their rapid destruction in the event of a global war. This is not entirely true. Reliable means of fast and guaranteed destruction of all enemy's satellites did not exist during the Cold War. By and large, there are none today.
The destruction of low-altitude optical reconnaissance satellites with circular orbits in 300-500 km is quite achievable today for American interceptors GBI and even for marine SM-3. But here the satellite of radar and electronic reconnaissance, the orbits of which are located above the 900 km, is already a problem. And in the maritime intelligence, it is these AESs that play the main role. Only the US GBI system has the potential to destroy them. In addition, the USSR, having a developed network of spaceports and launch vehicles, could for some time continue to launch new satellites instead of intercepted ones, providing, if not continuous reconnaissance, then at least periodic ones. This was quite enough for a rough target designation of the submarines, which, having entered the target area with the help of their hydroacoustics, completely provided additional intelligence on their own.
In the future, it is possible to create maneuvering AESs that can periodically change the parameters of the orbit, creating difficulties for interception. In addition, such satellites can be "low-living", performing the opening of enemy forces at sea for only a few days. Their quick interception on the first turns may be impossible, and after the end of their work the interception simply does not make sense.
One of the arguments of the supporters of aircraft carriers is the flexibility of their application. During the Cold War, aircraft carriers many times applied their weapon, albeit mostly along the coast, but during the same time the submarine was fought only a couple of times. The aircraft carrier looks like a multipurpose vehicle that can find work in a local conflict and in a global war.
Submarines can not boast of this. Just a couple of cases of “work” against surface targets and incomparable in scale attacks of coastal targets with the help of cruise missiles.
However, the value of an aircraft carrier as a flexible multipurpose vehicle for Russia is considerably less valuable than for the United States. For the entire post-war history we did not have conflicts where the participation of such ships was clearly required. Even in the current Syrian conflict, an option was found for actions that did not require an aircraft carrier to enter the combat zone.
On the other hand, the development of the submarines led to the fact that they also received the possibility of using them in local conflicts without real naval targets. This is the shelling of coastal objects using cruise missiles. So the role of the submarine in local conflicts has objectively grown, and universality has increased.
Evaluation of the events of the past, of course, is of great importance, but it can be of practical use only when planning the future. What has changed since Soviet times? Our economic opportunities have become more modest, the Navy is smaller. The superiority of NATO at sea has increased and the trend towards the reverse process is not visible. Therefore, the experience of the Soviet Navy today may be even more important than ever.
Since the importance of dominance at sea for Russia remains secondary, and economic opportunities are extremely limited, there is reason to concentrate our modest forces on the main thing. First of all, in preparation for the defense of the country from aggression. And only then think about promoting their interests in peacetime and in possible local conflicts.
The author of the article supposes that this is exactly what the naval leaders, who nurture the public with breakfasts about the construction of ocean destroyers and atomic aircraft carriers, argue that year. While the needs of the Navy in nuclear submarines and diesel-electric submarines are not satisfied, it’s not worth talking about aircraft carriers. However, politicians are forced to somehow calm the public, thirsting for beautiful images in the form of Russian aircraft carriers cutting through the water surface. Hence, the promises to start their construction "just about, tomorrow" in the absence of real action. But the construction of nuclear submarines and especially the diesel-electric submarines intensified quite tangibly (although still not enough).
This is how the Russian Federation has a chance to sink ships of more powerful fleets. To find the submarine before the launch of the missiles is very difficult. And after the start, it is senseless to look for it and, most likely, no one
One more important circumstance: submarines equipped with cruise missiles make it possible to elegantly bypass an extremely difficult agreement for the Russian Federation on the limitation of medium and short-range missiles. The SLCM launched by conventional diesel-electric submarines from the Black and Baltic Seas fire through the whole of Europe and with a high degree of probability hit the American missile defense facilities in the Czech Republic, Poland or any other EU country. The same fate can quickly comprehend radar surveillance systems located in Greenland and Alaska. The SLCMs are not invulnerable weapons, but their interception is extremely complicated and will require extreme exertion of forces from fighter aircraft and other NATO air defenses, which, presumably, in the event of war with the Russian Federation and without this, there will be a lot of work.
The aircraft carrier remains the main force of the fleet, and its role is important, but specifically for Russia it does not concern. Protecting coastal communications is better with coastal aviation, and in the open ocean, our tasks are far from “gaining dominance” and require the secrecy and inevitability of the threat, and at the same time whenever possible in many points of the world's oceans. The task is ideal for the submarine. In any prospective conflict, our submarine forces can become a wild headache for the enemy. And, most importantly, the production of the submarine fleet, we never stood idle and did not stop. The organization of mass submarine construction requires minimal investment, which cannot be said about an aircraft carrier, for which it is still necessary to create a production site from scratch and to master a number of technologies that are completely absent in the country.
Submarine construction did not stop even in the 90s. Given that the construction of aircraft carriers in the Russian Federation has stopped, and the construction of large NK is frozen. The photo submarine "Cheetah", SMP, 1999 g. Http://forums.airbase.ru
Nevertheless, the author does not call for changing aircraft carriers on submarines. Russia’s aircraft carrier is also needed, because it will not always be possible to equip the new Hamim in the right area for each case. However, our aircraft carrier is a ship of “peacetime” and a local war, which, in the event of a global military threat, will not go to the ocean to gain dominance at sea, but will remain a coastal floating aerodrome. Therefore, it is not worth investing heavily in economic and scientific efforts in this area. We are quite enough 1-2 aircraft carriers, nothing more.
The USSR submarine fleet had a chance to become an important player in a future war. While the fleet "aircraft carrier", most likely, would be engaged in hiding in the skerries because of the fear of large and loud losses when trying to break into the ocean. With the exception of those ships, which the outbreak of war would have taken at sea: they would have fought honestly and, most likely, would have died in the end, taking with them a certain number of enemy ships.
That is why the assessment of the Soviet period in the history of our fleet should be changed. The bet on the submarine fleet was not flawed or erroneous. Only in this way could one expect to inflict perceptible damage on the sea to a deliberately stronger enemy. Another question is that in the construction of the submarine fleet was not without traditional Soviet excesses, and perhaps the very process of development of the submarine fleet was not chosen optimally. But in the strategic plan, reliance on the submarine fleet as applied to our geographical, climatic and economic opportunities has been and remains correct.
Kuzin V.P., Nikolsky V.I. USSR Navy 1945-1991. M .: IMO, 1996.
Filing of the almanac "Typhoon" for 1993-2003.