Dreamed - and stopped: the budget did not overpower the construction of the Leader superdestroyer
Meanwhile, in the event of a "big war", destroyers of this class would be practically irreplaceable.
The Leader atomic super destroyer project since 2013 has excited the minds of the Russian patriotic public. And no wonder - 13,000 tons of displacement, about 130 missiles for various purposes in launchers (that is, fully equipped and ready for battle), stealth technology, the marine version of the S-500 Prometey complex, coupled with the powerful naval AFAR Polyment ", Anti-submarine defense of the most advanced level, missile-cannon systems of melee air defense ... In general, there was, why dizziness ...
It was assumed that a series of new destroyers will replace three types of ships in the Russian fleet: destroyers of project 956 Sarych, large anti-submarine ships of project 1155, and missile cruisers of project 1164 Atlant. And this was logical - superiority over the destroyers of the old series was implied by itself, the anti-submarine capabilities of the ship due to new sonar stations should have surpassed the capabilities of specialized BODs, and the striking power should have been almost at the level of the Orlan nuclear missile cruisers, one of which is the cruiser "Peter the Great". Add to this the high autonomy that the nuclear power plant provides, and we get a real universal fighter in the far sea zone, capable of standing up for himself, and other ships in the order to protect from any of the known threats.
The only drawback of this ship (except that it was not embodied even in the drawings) was the high price. It is estimated that it was estimated at 100 billion rubles. The figure is quite impressive, especially if we assume the construction of a whole series of such ships. Of course, against the background of the huge amounts hidden in the Russian NWF, even a series of several dozen such ships would not look very burdensome for the country, but, as you know, it’s better not to look at it ... But this minus outweighed all the other pluses, and against the background of the economic difficulties that the country is experiencing, this is quite expected.
As it became known from the reports of the Northern Design Bureau (JSC Northern PCB), which was entrusted with the implementation of this project, funding for it completely ceased in 2016. At that time, only a preliminary design was completed and approved - the simplest and not the most expensive part of the development of new equipment.
In addition to project 23560 "Leader", funding was discontinued for project 22350M. True, the second project, which belongs to the class of “large” frigates, was deprived of funding in 2019, and its fate is not yet obvious - it is possible, and even very likely, that work on it will resume in the near future. The grounds for optimism are given by what the experts call this project a possible replacement for the Leader - cheaper, not so ultimatum, but surpassing the characteristics of many existing surface ships. In any case, it is known that no final decision on this project has been made - either positive or negative.
For some understanding, we simply give the numbers of the number of "main caliber" missiles on the frigate of project 22350M. It is estimated that there will be 48 in six launchers. This is more than on the ships of the base project 22350 Admiral Gorshkov, where there are 16 of them in two universal firing complexes (without anti-aircraft missiles), and more than on the modernized ships of this series, where there are 24. But against the Leader with its 130 ready to salvo rockets somehow, you see, is weak?
There probably isn’t much point in discussing why this happens - the problems not only in the Russian but also in the global economy are visible to the naked eye, and it is very difficult to decide to build a whole series of very expensive super destroyers. More precisely, it is almost impossible, unless you are clearly aware of how much this type of ship may be needed by the Russian fleet.
And with this, as usual, we have a problem. Unity on the question of which fleet we need is not even among the military and experts, what can we say about a wide audience. The ever-controversial issue of building aircraft carriers smoothly flows into the same discussion of large ships in general, the need for an ocean fleet, as such, and so on.
But let's try to talk on this subject in relation to the destroyers mentioned above - is there really anything for which the state should tighten its belts a little?
First of all, we state: ships of such power and cost, if justified in the Russian fleet, are only in the case of a "big war", that is, a conflict with an enemy of approximately equal strength. For everything else, like missile strikes against militants or objectionable regimes, it is much more rational to use something cheaper, or even immediately an aircraft carrier - one normal aircraft carrier in its potential is quite comparable with the Russian air forces in Syria, for example.
As for the real war, somehow clashes between Russia and NATO are not visible. No, there is a potential for this, and above all, geopolitical and economic, but there is also confidence that no one can successfully pass over this abyss. Nevertheless, such a probability cannot be completely ruled out - in the end, the concept of limited nuclear exchange has not yet been refuted by anyone and, apparently, is part of the modern strategic planning of both parties.
But more importantly, in recent years, a third global player has emerged in the world, capable, under certain conditions, of becoming a military adversary of Russia - China. Yes, now it seems almost unrealistic, but the PRC is controlled by only one party, which means it is capable of a very rapid geopolitical reversal.
This is all the more interesting in the context under discussion, since it was China that became the pioneers in the serial construction of super destroyers. In many ways, the Chinese destroyer of project 055 is an analogue of our never-built Leader - a displacement of 13,000 tons, a similar amount of weapons, a powerful anti-submarine complex, a radar with AFAR and even an aviation group of two helicopters.
The biggest difference between the destroyers of this project is that they are already being mass-produced and currently 6 such ships have been launched. Moreover, the pace of construction is amazing: the laying of the first took place in 2014, the first was commissioned in 2017, and in 2018 three such ships were launched at once! The project is designed until 2030, and you can only guess how many such shock super-ships will be in the Chinese fleet.
Our problem is that for long conversations and doubts, we may miss the time when the fleet can be replenished as usual. Under Russian conditions, the construction of such a ship will take at least five years, and there is great doubt that we will be able to conduct parallel construction of at least 3-4 ships. That is, if the situation suddenly becomes complicated, it will not be time for the construction of super-destroyers, and we will rush to plug holes, finish building unfinished ships of past generations and hope for luck.
The Americans distinguished themselves in this field. Their “Zumwalt” is even larger than the “Leader” or 055. Moreover, it has much more advanced stealth technologies. True, the ship turned out to be very expensive, and the fate of its serial production is in great doubt, but still it seems that a certain gigantomania in shipbuilding is not our invention, but is dictated by some harsh realities of the development of shipborne defenses and attacks.
So, with regard to the “big war”, destroyers of this class can be not only in demand, but almost irreplaceable. First of all, due to stealth technologies and much larger ammunition of missile weapons, we can confidently talk about a higher combat survivability of the ship. Unfortunately, most combat ships, for the most part, have little chance of surviving a potential enemy’s air raid - the missile weapons will be used up so quickly that the first anti-ship missiles will penetrate before the cruise and anti-ship missiles on board are launched against the enemy. Although the nuances, of course, are possible, and in a fairly large group of ships some of them will probably be able to live a few minutes longer, but ... Let's be honest - in confrontation with the American AUG, even our entire Northern Fleet will be, rather, a defensive side, and this defense will not last very long.
The emergence of new hypersonic anti-ship missiles gives some hope, but here much will depend on whether the group can survive the first strike of aircraft and anti-ship missiles of the enemy. And there will be no doubt that he will be coordinated, and at some point on the radars of our ships there will be hundreds of real air targets.
In such a situation, the presence in the grouping of at least a pair of such ships as destroyers of the project 23560 Leader could seriously increase the overall chances of survival: powerful radars, large ammunition, the presence of, including over-the-horizon long-range anti-aircraft missiles with active radar GOS would surely allow it to keep enemy aircraft at a great distance and focus on defeating enemy RCCs. Well, Zircon’s own stock of missiles would have managed to move in the direction of the enemy’s grouping, sharply reducing its chances of repeating a massive air strike.
The Leader also looks much more interesting in a situation of a distant ocean raid on enemy communications. If we exclude its approach to the coastal military bases of a potential enemy, then to fight even with a small formation based on this destroyer, this enemy will have to give up really serious forces. And the dispersal of the forces of the fleet, even for the Americans, is extremely undesirable luxury ...
The saddest thing in this whole story is that, unlike, for example, aircraft carriers, the design and construction of the Leader destroyer does not seem to be some kind of an incredible task for our defense industry. A nuclear power plant is something we can do almost the best in the world. RCC "Zircon" - at the final stage of testing, moreover, in its marine version. According to the emerging information, the S-500 air defense system is also moving towards the beginning of full-scale tests. New modifications of the “Pantsir” short-range air defense system should also enter the troops soon. Both anti-submarine warfare systems and new sonar stations were worked out ...
In general, surprisingly, unlike the Soviet practice, when the ships themselves were built at a satisfactory pace, but there were eternal problems with armaments for them, now we have the exact opposite situation: you just need to build a ship for which everything is almost ready or located at the final stage of testing.
Well, the issue of price is also not as clear as it seems. Oddly enough, the ship has been under construction for more than one year, and money for it does not need to be paid immediately, at once. That is, annual expenses, even during the construction in parallel of 2-3 such vessels, would not have reached the above one hundred billion rubles. And the 5-year-long construction already seems not so burdensome even for not the largest Russian budget ...
And we can only guess how low our economy could fall if, with an eye on its likely decline, such a drastic cut in the military budget is taking place.