Streetwise Professor

August 1, 2008

The Emperor’s New Navy

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 9:04 am

As if they were reading SWP, especially Oh Yeah? You and What Navy?, the Russian Navy has announced its plans to “build five or six aircraft carrier battle groups in the near future.

Excuse me while I guffaw.

Thank you. I am able to continue now.

This from a country that has launched two aircraft carriers ever, neither of which was (a) anywhere comparable to an American carrier, and (b) ever really was operable as anything but an LST–long, slow, target. From a country that has never even begun to master the intricacies of carrier flight ops. From a country that has gone well over budget and years beyond schedule just in refurbishing one of its existing carriers (which it sold to India). From a country that has seen its naval shipbuilding capabilities erode dramatically. Five or six carriers? Puh-lease.

A few other facts to ponder. Five or six carrier air wings, even assuming that Russian wings have only 50 aircraft (as compared to the 75 on a US flattop), require 250-300 new aircraft, but the Russian armed forces have received in total only several handfuls of new planes in the past couple of years. Russia has a hard enough time now manning its military, and is contemplating substantial cuts in manpower. Where are the new sailors for the ships in five or six groups–not only for the carriers, but for the cruisers, destroyers, and subs that make up the rest of the group?

Maybe this all depends on how you define “near future.”

The IHT article linked above also says that Russia plans new submarines–which will put further strain on shipbuilding and manning capabilities.

Ominously, the article quotes “Navy commander,” [presumably the admiral, not the poet/actor/lyricist] Vladimir Vysotsky, discussing the troubled Bulava missile: “Despite the fact that there are still some glitches, the missile will all the same learn how to fly. Not just to fly, but also to use all the potential invested in it.” Does Admiral Vysotsky actually want to “use” all the potential of a MIRVed ICBM? Use it on who? The Czechs, for the affrontery of hosting a missile defense site? The Ukrainians, for daring to make overtures to NATO? The US?

Vysotsky made his boast at a recent Navy Day celebration in St. Petersburg. So perhaps it was just intended to impress the vets and gull the credulous. It is certainly not a credible plan. Instead, it is just another in a long line of Russian cheap talk about restoring its military might, and regaining the prestige of the old Soviet days, when they were somebody. Viewed objectively, however, it is more pathetic posing that has about as much chance of happening as I have of becoming Pope. (Note: I’m not even Catholic.)

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