Streetwise Professor

June 20, 2009

Reality Rears Its Ugly Head

Filed under: Financial crisis,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 12:23 am

From Gazeta, Russia has realized that its plans to develop 6-7 carrier groups was a pipe dream:

Development of 6-7 carrier task groups in 2012 the Navy  Commander Vladimir Vysotsky announced a year ago is postponed.  Deputy Defense Minister (for Armaments) Vladimir Popovkin said  yesterday that their development would be premature at this point.  “Before going to the trouble, let us first decide what we need  carrier task groups for. What strategic interests far from home do we have? There is more to a carrier task group than the aircraft-
carrier alone. Aircraft-carriers need escorts. And the Russian  Navy only includes four fleets nowadays,” Popovkin said.

Last July, Vysotsky said that carrier task groups centered  around nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and capable of supporting  strategic nuclear submarines would be developed for the Northern  Fleet and Pacific Fleet. He promised that work on the colossal  project would begin in 2012.

Ruslan Pukhov of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and  Techniques appraised postponement of carrier task force  development as abandonment of global military aspirations by  Russia. “Everything we see plainly shows that Russia has focused  attention on conflicts in nearby foreign countries… like the one  in South Ossetia,” Pukhov said. “You don’t need aircraft-carriers  unless you plan to attack someone.”

Pukhov said as well that the plans to build aircraft-carriers  had appeared in the period of financial prosperity owed to high  oil prices.

According to the expert, even should the Defense Minister  change its mind again and concentrate on the aircraft-carrier  construction program, the Navy cannot expect the first of them  before 2020. “We only have two shipyards capable of construction  of so colossal and technologically complicated a ship. They are  the Northern Shipyards and the Baltic Factory, both in  St.Petersburg,” Pukhov said. “Considering that both are located in  the very center of St. Petersburg and allowing for shallow depths  of the Baltic Sea, we really have only one facility for the  project, namely Sevmash in Severodvinsk. Before putting aircraft-  carriers into its lap, however, we’d better wait and see how it  fares with the Admiral Gorshkov.” (Repairs of this heavy aircraft-  carrying cruiser have been under way this last decade, pending
completion of the negotiations with India.)

What is it about 2020 anyways?  Just near enough to seem possible, just far enough away that by then people will forget the visions proffered in 2009.

And, if the experience with the Gorshkov is the litmus test, 3020 is probably a more realistic date.

I wrote at the time that this plan was announced that it was a complete fantasy.  It was strategically idiotic, and practically unattainable given the state of Russian shipbuilding.  Interesting to see that even Putin et al can’t fight reality forever.

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17 Comments »

  1. Darn right the Kremlin birdbrains don’t have an extra rouble to spend on expansion of their naval fleet because the source of their wealth and ambitions, their oil fields are being depleted and they haven’t got the expertise to explore for new sources nor keep the infrastructure going. And, good luck finding western suckers with deep pockets to help them since they don’t honor contracts.

    From Paul Goble’s site:

    As “Kommersant” reported yesterday, Putin was disturbed to discover that there was no one place where he and other Russian officials could get information on mineral deposits and no country-wide network of experts looking for additional deposits of oil and gas, key elements for Russia’s future.

    http://windowoneurasia.blogspot.com/2009/06/window-on-eurasia-moscow-discovers-it.html

    Putin Inc is an abysmally dumb group of economic managers. But, then, eventually all of these newer oil thugs like Putin and Chavez shoot themselves in the foot.

    Comment by penny — June 20, 2009 @ 2:01 pm

  2. Excellent.

    In the age of drones, intelligent cruise missiles and supercavitating torpedoes, aircraft carriers increasingly resemble sitting ducks.

    I also hope Russia stops wasting money on exploring for oil and natural gas fields, it is becoming increasingly unprofitable. And it should start cutting its hydrocarbons exports ASAP.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — June 20, 2009 @ 6:44 pm

  3. Others wrote the same thing as AK two years ago while clowns like La Russophobe were running around showing that the Kremlin was hellbent on a new arms race with the West. I guess they don’t mind being wrong either way.

    Comment by Vic — June 20, 2009 @ 10:33 pm

  4. S.O., get real, aircraft carriers are portable landing fields, a very handy and strategic thing to have.

    Let’s hope the world is lucky enough that your book “Green Communism” changes the hearts and minds of the siloviki and they cap their oil and gas wells and morph to windmill and solar panel manufacturing. How far off is the publication date?

    Comment by penny — June 21, 2009 @ 8:24 am

  5. VIC:

    You’re a shameless liar. We’ve never said a word about the Russian navy, and Russia has spent at a rate THREE TIMES HIGHER than the US on the military in the past few years. It still practices univeral conscription and wields a massive nuclear strike force it is spending massively to improve. And apparently under your dark little rock you didn’t notice, it recently invaded Georgia and annexed part of its territory. You’re unspeakable filth.

    SWP:

    See, Russia isn’t going into the WTO because it doesn’t WANT to. It isn’t building carriers because it doesn’t WANT to either. It COULD, of course, but it just doesn’t want to. Doesn’t WANT to bring its population into the top 100 of the world for lifespan, either. It’s all very simple, Russia never makes mistakes except maybe and excess of good faith and brotherly love.

    Comment by La Russophobe — June 21, 2009 @ 10:37 am

  6. Only the most freakishly incompetent idiot would claim it is “excellent” that the government of Russia has humiliated itself, revealing itself to be a hallucinating paper tiger. That is the kind of crazed, senile statement that used to issue in “defense” of the USSR, which likewise couldn’t build a carrier strikeforce.

    It’s quite true that the US can blow any Russian ship out of the water any time it wants, because the entire Russia navy is a ridiculous joke. But anyone who thinks US carriers are “sitting ducks” for Russians is totally inane, breathing the Kremlin glue. America has succcessfully projected its power across the Atlantic to wipe out Iraq, one of the then toughest militaries on the planet. Russia can’t even dream of doing that, and its soldiers stand in awe.

    The fanatical statements from the lunatic Russophile set that SWP is so easily able to draw out are hysterical and invaluable insights into the pathetic character of modern Russia.

    Comment by La Russophobe — June 21, 2009 @ 10:47 am

  7. Re-aircraft carriers. They are only useful for bullying small weak countries, where their use as portable landing fields is indeed very useful. The problem is in dealing with nations that have developed or bought means of coping with them at low cost. There are five elements to such a defense: stealthy diesel subs using supercavitating torpedoes, hypersonic cruise missiles launched from air platforms and missile boats, lots of cheap drones used as said air platforms; and a force of fifth-generation land fighters (which are far superior to naval versions) and modern air defense. Against such a phalanx, towards which China and Iran are building up (amongst many others), I do not think the USN’s CBG’s can perform well. There’s only so much pressure even a good system like Aegis can withstand. As such I support scrapping most of them and using the money to build arsenal ships, small stealth ships and subs instead.

    Re-Iraq as “one of the then toughest militaries on the planet”. I can only lol.

    Re-“Green Communism”. I’m pretty sure I said that it isn’t called or about “Green Communism” but about a future history of the 21st century.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — June 21, 2009 @ 12:30 pm

  8. S/O – You wrote the other day, and I quote, “You can gauge how reliable and trustworthy I am simply by reading my posts, most of whose assertions are meticulously sourced.” Sure, nobody expects you to craft your comments as meticulously as you do your posts, but still, could you please give us an idea where this grand theory of yours about vulnerability of aircraft carriers comes from? The closest I can think of is this article by one David Crane, but apparently he is about as much a defense expert as Mike Averko is a political analyst.

    Comment by peter — June 23, 2009 @ 5:45 am

  9. S/O-

    The demise of aircraft carriers has long been predicted. During the immediate post-WWII period, nuclear weapons were believed to doom aircraft carriers, just as they were thought to make conventional ground forces obsolete. “Sitting ducks” as it were. Both predictions turned out to be very wrong, but led to numerous bad decisions re force structure. Attempts to elevate strategic bombing over all other elements of military force led to the Revolt of the Admirals. The revolt, and related issues, led to the development of supercarriers.

    FYI, the development of smart weapons has increased the power of CVs by an order of magnitude, and perhaps more. And you are back on drugs again if you think they are only useful for bullying small, weak nations. Evidently the Chinese take a very different view. They are an essential element of power projection and strategic mobility. The Chinese are obsessed with not only defeating CVs, but in developing their own. Diesel subs are dangerous in littorals, far less so in blue water. That said, the USN has been remiss in its attention (or lack thereof) to ASW. Supercavitating torpedoes, hypersonic cruise missiles, etc., are far more the stuff of Popular Mechanics stories than a real threat.

    And just figure the cost of developing the “phalanx” you describe. And the time to develop it. If CVs were such a paper tiger useable only for bullying the weak, why would anybody make such an investment? You should also note that USN is not standing still, and by the time that China develops the 2010 technology you mention, in about 2040, CVs will have far different capabilities. (For instance, China is incapable of building a 5th gen fighter any time soon. Their aircraft engine capabilities in particular are notoriously weak.)

    Don’t even talk about Iran developing this phalanx. Any credibility you might have had evaporated with such a risible statement. It is well known that Iran develops Potemkin prototypes of “wonder weapons” that upon even cursory examination are clearly anything but wondrous. You may have seen the Iranian state TV propaganda broadcasts in recent days threatening military action in response to outside interference with their internal political troubles. It would have been marginally impressive–in 1975. F-4s and F-14s. Of which, Iran has very few flying due to lack of spare parts.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — June 23, 2009 @ 9:36 am

  10. Re-David Axe. Haven’t read this article, but thanks for citing it. My main sources for this view are various articles I’ve read at Defence Pro and Australia Air Power.

    Re-nukes. Well how were those theories wrong? IF nukes are allowed, then destroying CBG’s becomes really easy. I’d imagine even just a few Tu-95’s would be able to pull it off. The US knows this, which is IIRC its doctrine calls for full nuclear retaliation against military and industrial targets in this scenario.

    Re-China wanting carriers. Why? Because there are lots of small, weak countries in south-east Asia and eastern Africa which don’t have the military-technical resources or the will to develop said countermeasures, but which it would like to bring into its sphere of influence.

    Re-blue water. You have the Dong Feng 21 for that.

    Re-Popular Mechanics dismissal. Frontal infantry assaults and Dreadnoughts were all the rage in 1914.

    Re-USN not standing still. I do note that, and probably new developments in energy directed weapons will render a more effective defense against missiles. On the other hand my general impression is that firepower is growing much more rapidly than the defense and a creature as big and prominent as the aircraft carrier is historically doomed.

    Re-Iran. I don’t watch TV, and yes it is well know that for obvious reasons its military technology is far subpar to that of Russia or China, let alone the US. On the other hand technology is not everything and even more important is how well the military doctrine fits the technology, because technology by itself is useless. I think that in principle its two diesel subs operating in the Gulf, a few hundred small missile boats, ground-based missile outposts off its rocky coast, supported by drones carrying out reconnaissance, could make life hard for the USN and especially for oil tankers in the Persian Gulf in the event of a war with Iran.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — June 23, 2009 @ 3:54 pm

  11. SWP:

    Wow. Check this out:

    Russian GDP down 11% in May, worse than 10.5% in April.

    DOUBLE DIGIT economic contraction for the first five months of 2009.

    Industrial production down SEVENTEEN PERCENT in May.

    Deputy Finance Minister says Russia will need “heroic achievement” to post “only” 8% contraction by the end of the year.

    Gazprom to slash investment by FIFTY PERCENT.

    http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2009/06/23/ap6576377.html

    Comment by La Russophobe — June 23, 2009 @ 10:05 pm

  12. S/O–

    “If nukes are allowed.” Big if. The point is that a true superpower has full spectrum capabilities, and CVs provide that in spades.

    Re Iran. Boy, you were backpeddling even faster than normal on that one. You make a technology-centric argument about the obsolescence of CVs, raise Iran as a specific example, and then say “technology isn’t everything” when you get called on it. Iran tried messing with the USN in 86, inc. the use of small boats and outposts (on oil rigs) and got their asses kicked in a major way. Since Iran has moved backwards and the USN forwards in the years since (esp. with the development of smart weapons) it would be even more lopsided the next time. Yes, small diesel SSs would pose problems, but no doubt the US CVs would leave the Gulf proper, and a mere 2 boats in restricted waters would have a very limited lifespan.

    Re China. No. China is looking to establish its own full-spectrum capability to challenge the US directly.

    Oh. And BTW. I somehow doubt that Putin et al are following your advice re hydrocarbons. Going the opposite way, if anything. And I’m sure that they didn’t abandon their carrier plans because of a Eureka moment re the uselessness of CVs. Its all about the RUBs.

    L/R–Caught most of that. Will write a post on the plane back stateside. Thanks.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — June 24, 2009 @ 1:03 am

  13. Re-““If nukes are allowed.” Big if. The point is that a true superpower has full spectrum capabilities, and CVs provide that in spades.”

    That’s a rather limited view of what being a superpower entails. The US is primarily a superpower through virtue of its maritime dominance and nuclear umbrella, which enables it to keep the sea-lanes open to feed its economy and those of their allies. Russia has no equivalent maritime interests because it is nowhere near as dependent on bulk, seaborne international trade; it is a land empire. Realistically, it only has two main interests on the seas: 1) secure littoral waters, especially off the strategically important Arctic (useful for launching SLBM’s into central Russia, and for its hydrocarbons) and 2) to be able to deny the use of the seas to its sea-power antagonists in the event of a Great Power war. Building CV’s is only a matter of costly pretend-prestige which I’m glad they’re abandoning. 1) can be fulfilled with the help of the phalanx I’ve described. 2) is possible with the development of a submarine, stealth craft and arsenal ship fleet and in the last resort, with an advanced nuclear arsenal.

    Re-“Re Iran. Boy, you were backpeddling even faster than normal on that one.”

    I wasn’t back-peddling. What I was getting at is that technology, even old technology, is perfectly fine if it continues to fit a purpose. For example, 50-year old Bear bombers are still perfectly serviceable (as are B-2’s) because when outfitted with modern electronics and cruise missiles, they still fit their original purpose – to bomb key enemy nodes, without suffering excessive rates of attrition. I do not think that is the case with CV’s, which are increasingly useless in littoral waters (where they are supposed to be at their most useful by projecting power!) and even questionable on blue water (if China’s new anti-ship ballistic missile is anything to go by). Or with the Iranian fighter air force, which I agree is next to useless.

    Re-“Oh. And BTW. I somehow doubt that Putin et al are following your advice re hydrocarbons. Going the opposite way, if anything. And I’m sure that they didn’t abandon their carrier plans because of a Eureka moment re the uselessness of CVs. Its all about the RUBs.”

    I agree. Generally speaking governments are very short-sighted in comparison with Sublime Oblivion, even Putin et al unfortunately.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — June 25, 2009 @ 1:48 am

  14. I have also noticed the fetishistic use of the year 2020. It is bandied about by the current regime as the advent of Communism was under the Soviets, notably prior to the final stagnation of the Brezhnev years.

    Comment by Michel — June 25, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

  15. […] 4) Denial of the oceans. The expensive aircraft carrier battle group is the foundation of US maritime superiority, but as many forward-thinking analysts point out their time is dated, because the power of the offense and penetration are growing faster than the power of the defense. As Germany showed in the world wars, even a vastly inferior naval power can substantially neutralize the maritime superiority of states with much bigger navies and prouder maritime traditions. The USSR followed in its footsteps, optimizing its naval forces for denying the Arctic littoral to enemy CVBG’s (where its strategic nuclear subs prowled) and sinking convoys in a third Battle of the Atlantic. This is a logical pattern for Russia to follow, and much cheaper than trying to build outdated white elephants aircraft carriers of its own. It may have realized this. […]

    Pingback by Review of “The Prodigal Superpower” (S. Rosefielde) | Sublime Oblivion — July 6, 2009 @ 10:17 pm

  16. This pathetic scumbag “Peter” really has a thing for some people.

    Comment by Cutie Pie — July 30, 2009 @ 10:37 pm

  17. […] 4) Denial of the oceans. The expensive aircraft carrier battle group is the foundation of US maritime superiority, but as many forward-thinking analysts point out their time is dated, because the power of the offense and penetration are growing faster than the power of the defense. As Germany showed in the world wars, even a vastly inferior naval power can substantially neutralize the maritime superiority of states with much bigger navies and prouder maritime traditions. The USSR followed in its footsteps, optimizing its naval forces for denying the Arctic littoral to enemy CVBG’s (where its strategic nuclear subs prowled) and sinking convoys in a third Battle of the Atlantic. This is a logical pattern for Russia to follow, and much cheaper than trying to build outdated white elephants aircraft carriers of its own. It may have realized this. […]

    Pingback by Review of “The Prodigal Superpower” (S. Rosefielde) « Anatoly Karlin — March 31, 2012 @ 4:46 pm

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