Staunton, December 3 – Despite Vladimir Putin’s much-ballyhooed military build-up, one that he is prepared to pay for by taking away funds for education and healthcare while giving bonuses to siloviki (ehorussia.com/new/node/19817), Russia currently lacks the money for even a single new aircraft carrier, defense officials say.
In an article entitled “Russia Doesn’t Have Money Even for One Aircraft Carrier,” Andrey Riskin, a former naval officer and now deputy editor of Nezavisimaya gazeta, discusses the increasing gap between the Kremlin’s claims and the realities of Russian ship construction (ng.ru/columnist/2019-12-02/100_191202columnist1.html).
A few days ago, Vladimir Putin celebrated the successes of the Russian fleet in the Syrian campaign, but even as he did that, Riskin says, the Novosti news agency reported that sources in the military construction sector said that building a new aircraft carrier would cost 300 to 400 billion rubles (5 to 6.5 billion US dollars) and that there is no money in the budget for that.
Russia’s only existing aircraft carrier is currently undergoing refitting and is in any case quite out of date, the commentator continues. And Russia’s reliance now on small vessels, the so-called “mosquito fleet” approach, will in no case guarantee Russia supremacy on the seas against a serious opponent.
Yes, the new smaller ships are equipped with Kalibr cruise missiles, Riskin says; but a single Arleigh Burke-class American destroyer carries more Tomahawk cruise missiles than the total number of Kalibr cruise missiles carried by all the ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet taken together.
In this situation, the Nezavisimaya gazeta military expert says, it is perhaps not surprising that current Russian naval officers are playing down the importance of aircraft carriers or even suggesting that Russia doesn’t need one. But others now in retirement and freer to express their views disagree, although they too are staggered by the costs.
As retired Admiral Viktor Kravchenko points out, the real cost of having an aircraft carrier is not just the ship itself but all the support vessels that accompany it. When the price of those is added to the price of a carrier, the total comes to far more than Russia is capable of paying now or in the foreseeable future.
Despite this apparently insurmountable obstacle, some Russian shipbuilders have come up with proposals to build new aircraft carriers. But so far, Riskin concludes, their ideas represent only their own “dreams” about such a project.