Staunton, December 4 – The Russian navy is on its way to losing its status a blue water force capable of projecting power around the world and becoming a coast guard one able to defend only “the nearby water zone” if defense ministry plans are carried out, according to Russian shipbuilder Aleksandr Shishkin.
In today’s Vzglyad, he points to the words of Yury Borisov, deputy defense minister, last week about Moscow’s plans for the next decade, plans that call for coastal defense ships and numerous strategic submarines but no major projects for the construction of major surface vessels (vz.ru/society/2017/12/4/897894.html).
Borisov’s remarks, Shishkin says, came as a shock to many given Putin’s commitment to ensuring that Russia was to be capable of projecting power anywhere in the world and have a blue water navy second to none and also given recent naval parades highlighting the challenges on the seas Russia now faces.
In the course of his detailed article, the shipbuilder describes what Russia has and what it doesn and why Moscow’s decision to focus only on coastal defense with ships able to control only waters up to 500 nautical miles from Russia’ s shores allows other powers to gain the upper hand in many theaters.
Shipbuilding by its very nature requires long lead times, and thus, the decisions Moscow is making now will determine its fleet size a decade from today. What Moscow must recognize is that the average age of its major surface ships has now passed the 25-year mark. (In 1917, the figure was 25.3 years.) That means most need to be replaced or at least seriously refitted.
Only 17 percent of the surface fleet is under ten years old, Shishkin says; and if Moscow carries through which its plan to focus on coastal defense ships, that share will drop further, exactly the opposite of what the country requires to meet its security needs now and into the 2030s.
Some may think that this cutting back in naval construction reflects problems in the economy, the shipbuilder says; but he points out that the government is constantly saying that the crisis is over and that the economy is on the rebound. If that is the case, then it should be building more ships; if it isn’t, then the cutbacks in surface naval construction reflect decisions to divert funds to more immediate projects at the expense of longer term ones.
But one thing Russians in the government and in the society should recognize is this, Shishkin says. If the current plans remain in place, Russia will fall from a tie with China as a naval power to a lower position, possibly a much lower one if other countries start building and Russia does not.