Staunton, August 6 – The gap between what Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders promise for both military and civilian shipping and what Russia’s troubled shipyards are actually capable of producing is growing, leading to a situation Aleksandr Ivanin describes as “a fleet of ambitions and promises” rather than realities.
The military journalist says that Aleksey Rakhmanov, the head of the Unified Ship Building Corporation, has compounded this problem by claiming during meetings with Putin that the yards have or can produce far more than in fact is the case (nvo.ng.ru/realty/2020-08-07/1_1103_ship.html).
Indeed, the corporation has not even been able to move its offices from Moscow to St. Petersburg on schedule, something Rakhmanov blames on the coronavirus rather than on the all-too-obvious foot dragging on the part of his people, precisely the kind of delays that infect all of his work, Ivanin says.
Over the last four years, the military journalist continues, Rakhmanov has made statements that can only be described as fantasies. In June of this year, for example, he spoke about plans to build in the Northern Wharf shipyards a 3500-passenger cruise liner. But anyone who asked about that at the yard was told that no one there had heard anything about it.
Moreover, the shipbuilder and his superiors in Moscow have frequently spoken about a breakthrough that they earlier claimed more than once had been made. People have lost count as to how many times over the years Russian yards supposedly have returned to the fleet the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier or delivered this or that new ship.
The consequences of these repeated but unfulfilled promises are especially alarming when it comes to the Russian navy, Ivanin says. According to plans, Russian yards are supposed to deliver eight atomic submarines, three additional underwater vessels, ten large surface vessels, six frigates, and 34 corvettes of various sizes.
The yards won’t meet any of those targets, the journalist continues, and in many cases, it won’t just miss doing so but will completely fail. That will leave the navy ever less well-equipped given that older ships are being decommissioned in expectation of the arrival of replacements, although the navy is likely going to have to stop doing that.
Ivanin details the current output of the yards under Rakhmanov’s control in each of these categories and says that the failures of the Unified Shipbuilding Corporation are now so great that the Russian navy is seeking to find alternative ship builders, although few of them are large enough to be able to meet the construction goals Putin has announced.
(The only exceptions are for smaller ships that are to go to the FSB border control forces. There are ship yards in Russia capable of delivering these. But there would have to be major investments in infrastructure for any of those yards to be able to work on the larger and more complex vessels the navy wants.)
The state of naval shipbuilding in Russia is thus anything but rosy, Ivanin says, in large part because those at the top of the United Shipbuilding Corporation “don’t know” what their subordinates are doing or are capable of doing. Instead, such people focus almost exclusively on PR moves like shifting corporate headquarters from Moscow to St. Petersburg.
But as of now, they haven’t proved capable of doing even that.