Posted 24 мая 2021, 07:38

Published 24 мая 2021, 07:38

Modified 24 декабря 2022, 22:37

Updated 24 декабря 2022, 22:37

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It's only about money: why we don't have modern aircraft carriers

24 мая 2021, 07:38
If we assume that the country will start to steal at least a little less, including in shipbuilding, the saved money will be enough for several aircraft carrier strike groups with support ships.

Victor Kuzovkov

Unbelievable, but true - in Russia they are seriously talking about the construction of new aircraft carriers for its own Navy. Seriously, in this case, it only means that the discussion has moved from social networks, where various "experts" usually argue fiercely on this score, to official structures. In this case, Vladimir Pospelov, a member of the board of the Military-Industrial Commission, spoke about this.

In an extensive interview published on the RIA Novosti portal, Vladimir Pospelov talks a lot and in some detail about some aspects of the state armaments program (GPV) for 2024-2033, including the priority directions of the development of the Russian Navy in this period. ... Among other things, he also touched on the topic of the possible construction of aircraft carriers. And although there were no sensations, the decision to build aircraft carriers has not yet been made, the text contains several very important and very specific parameters, both the possible ships themselves and the program as a whole, which are still considered, to put it mildly, ambiguous.

First of all, it was finally said directly that "in the framework of the preparation of a new GPV, it is necessary to assess the feasibility of creating aircraft carriers and their cost". From which it can be assumed that if the feasibility is recognized as high, and the cost, on the contrary, acceptable, then the construction of full-fledged aircraft carriers can really be included in the rearmament program of the Russian fleet.

Also, for the first time at this level, a quantitative assessment was made for the first time - we need three such ships, according to the expert. We are talking about the lead ship of the series, and two serial ones. Which, by the way, does not mean that our fleet will be limited to three aircraft carriers - probably so many ships can be built or at least laid down at Russian shipyards during the specified period (from 2024 to 2033), while outside this program the series, in theory, it can be continued. However, let's clarify - this is just an assumption that does not contradict the words of Vladimir Pospelov, but does not directly follow from them. Therefore, it is better for now to limit our fantasies to just three aircraft carriers.

In addition, the main parameter of our potential aircraft carriers - displacement was also announced. According to the expert, "it should be at least 70-80 thousand tons of displacement". In this case, the estimated cost of building one such ship will be about five hundred billion rubles. True, this is what is called the "initial price", which may increase even more in the course of a more detailed assessment of the project.

Is this a lot? The figure probably looks very impressive, but the construction time is quite significant - for the lead ship of the series it is about ten years, and for the serial ones they are unlikely to turn out to be much shorter. That is, if we talk about one ship, then this is 50 billion rubles a year, and if we talk about the whole series, then we will get 150 billion annually - the figure is not so small, but, we will agree, it is not very large on a national scale. Of course, some nuances are possible here, because funding will not be uniform at different stages of construction, but it is unlikely that at some point the load on the federal budget will become completely unbearable.

A separate issue is carrier-based aircraft, and this is also noted in the interview. True, it is mainly about a carrier-based fighter. We agree - this is very important, because there is no point in building aircraft carriers if the aviation based on it will deliberately yield to potential opponents and will not be able to fulfill the tasks assigned to it. But another thing is also true - in addition to a carrier-based fighter, a carrier-based long-range radar detection aircraft will have to be created, because without it, the combat stability of an aircraft carrier armed with even the most advanced fighters is unlikely to be sufficient.

Moreover, if the main carrier-based fighter can be quite easily made on the basis of an almost finished fifth-generation fighter Su-57, then the AWACS aircraft will have to be created literally from scratch, since neither Russia nor the USSR had experience in creating such machines. And it’s good if it’s possible to find a normal flying platform for it, that is, an aircraft “in metal” that meets basic requirements and is capable of taking off from an aircraft carrier and landing on it, being burdened with a sufficiently massive radar antenna and a powerful fairing. It can be assumed that at the moment there is simply no such aircraft, and the entire complex of carrier-based AWACS aircraft will have to be made literally from scratch.

It is assumed that the new aircraft carrier will significantly increase the air wing in comparison with the existing "Admiral Kuznetsov". At the same time, the goal is not to achieve an indicator of one hundred vehicles or more (including drones), like our American colleagues. Taking into account the fact that the displacement of our ships is also smaller, this looks quite logical.

Separately, the issue of the building base necessary for solving such a serious problem is mentioned. It was noted that at the moment not a single Russian shipyard is able to pull off such construction. But in the future, it will be possible to build aircraft carriers of the specified size and displacement at the Zvezda shipyard in the city of Bolshoy Kamen (Primorye). And after the reconstruction, the famous "Sevmash" can be involved in solving this ambitious task. True, "Sevmash" is considered a very busy enterprise, which supports practically the entire program of rearmament of strategic nuclear submarine forces, and the need to involve this enterprise in the construction of aircraft carriers raises certain doubts.

At the moment, Russian shipbuilding design bureaus have already proposed three preliminary designs for promising aircraft carriers of various types and sizes. Which in itself is quite symptomatic - it is unlikely that the leadership of such serious organizations will authorize work on such large-scale projects, even preliminary ones, without being informed that they may be in demand by the industry and the fleet. Two of them are suitable for the above dimensions - the aircraft carriers "Storm" of the Krylov State Research Center, and the "Manatee" of the Nevsky Design Bureau.

If we leave aside the performance characteristics of the proposed projects, but for now they simply do not exist in nature, just as there is not even a clear technical assignment from the customer, it can be noted that the purely dimensional characteristics of the ships fully correspond to the basic requirements for modern aircraft carriers. In addition, in both cases, it is planned to equip ships with nuclear power plants, which makes it possible to use both steam and more modern electromagnetic catapults. That is, if we assume that we already almost have a ready-made carrier-based fighter of a good level, and are able to solve the problem of AWACS aircraft, then with a high degree of probability we will get powerful, modern aircraft carriers capable of solving any tasks that may be assigned to them.

To summarize the above, we get something like the following:

First, the endless chatter about the need or futility of building full-fledged aircraft carriers for the Russian fleet seems to be finally ending. In any case, never in recent history has a conversation on this topic been at such a high level, and has not been as substantive as it is now. And this is very encouraging.

Secondly, just as encouraging is the fact that the announced information looks quite competent and even, in some way, ambitious. The fact that the representatives of the Military-Industrial Commission clearly announced the estimated tonnage of aircraft carriers at the level of 70-80 thousand tons, finally puts an end to the endless whining of our "guardians for the people's money" who are always lobbying for the construction of half-aircraft carriers with a displacement of 40-45 thousand tons. in principle, not capable of carrying a sufficiently powerful air wing and solving a wide range of tasks as a strike ship. Also, the announced number, namely three pieces, suggests that we will get a truly working tool, capable of projecting force where it is needed, and not another “parade pennant” in the singular, necessary only to satisfy the vanity of some parquet admirals.

It is good news that the Su-57 fighter is actually almost ready for combat service. Yes, of course, creating a deck version of this aircraft will take both time and money. But there is no particular doubt that this is a completely solvable task, and if you start right now, then by the time the first aircraft carrier is launched, it will most likely be solved.

In general, somehow it turns out that the point is really only about money. Which, as you know, are always in short supply. But if we assume that they will begin to steal at least a little less, including in shipbuilding, the money saved will probably be enough for several aircraft carrier strike groups. With support ships...