Russia Can’t Afford New Carriers, Despite Plans for Naval Revamp

The Russian Aircraft Carrier Admiral Kuznetsov

The other day we showed you pictures of Russia’s prototype 5th gen fighter, the Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA. We mentioned that it’s a nice concept, but it remains to be seen if Russia can produce them in a timely manner. The former superpower has had serious trouble getting its nearly 20 year-old Su-34 design into service.

Well, here’s another example of Russia’s military tech ambitions being checked by reality.

From AFP:

The Russian military admitted Dec. 10 that it lacked the funds to deploy a powerful new armada of aircraft carriers as promised and that no more would be built for at least another decade.

“The state armaments program for 2011-2020 does not envision the construction of aircraft carriers,” an unnamed senior official in Russia’s defense ministry told the Interfax news agency.

He said current funding plans allowed the military to come up with new designs but not proceed with actual construction.

“Only then – after completing the advanced designs – can we examine the expediency of building aircraft carriers,” the official said.

It goes on to say that despite president Dimitri Medvedev’s call to modernize the Russian navy, no new carriers will be built before 2020.

The former Soviet Union had five aircraft carriers at the height of its power but Russia currently only has one, Admiral Kuznetsov.

This compares to the United States’ 11 operational and six reserve aircraft carriers, and the U.S. has another three under construction, according to the U.S. Congressional Research Service.

Medvedev made his country’s re-emergence as a naval power one of the planks of a new military policy that he announced with much fanfare in October 2008.

“We are not going to spare our financial resources,” Medvedev said while attending exercises in the Barents Sea.

Navy Cmdr. Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky said that same year that Russia intended to build six new aircraft carriers – three each for its Pacific and Northern Fleets.

Now, it appears those plans have been shelved, giving way to higher priority items such as the development of its new ICBM technology, according to the article.

These are the routine events that make one doubt any sweeping Russian pledge to modernize its military. They even make one skeptical as to whether Russia will be able to build and sell export versions of its most advanced new weapons like the PAK-FA in significant numbers, as some fear.

Remember, India, the only foreign buyer for that aircraft is designing a large portion of the jet. Maybe being able to co-produce the latest Russian designs is becoming a prerequisite to actually buying them.

If that’s the case, the number of foreign buyers could be pretty limited considering the resources it takes to develop in a 5th generation design skill set.

Then again, such a deals might do some serious good for the local economies and knowledge bases. We already see this around the world to some extent, when U.S. arms makers agree to have some portions of their products built in whichever nation is buying them.

Here’s the whole article on the carriers.

  • Justin H

    They could always buy Britain’s HMS Invinsible…

  • Jacob

    Russia trying to procure aircraft carriers would be like Germany’s attempt to build battleships prior to WWI. All that money put into building the fleet and training the sailors, and the only thing they were good for was sitting in port because it still wasn’t enough to challenge British naval superiority.

    • May I remind you of the battle of Jutland where Germany won a tactical victory:

      • elizzar

        good point – but britain won the strategic victory re: jutland, in that effectively the german navy never ventured out in numbers again, and any blockade attempt of the uk didn’t materialise. the failure was the ‘old-school’ british admirals wanting another trafalgar, coupled with a conservatism that prevented the adoption of new technologies and procedures – ie. they wanted to re-fight a previous war on their terms, rather than seeing the reality of the ‘now’.

    • dave

      Let’s rephrase that.
      “Russia trying to procure aircraft carriers would be like Germany’s attempt to build battleships prior to WW2. All that money put into building…wasn’t enough to challenge British naval superiority.”

    • Curt

      Operation Albion pretty much ended the war in the East and was only possible because Germany could use the High Seas fleet in the Baltic. The High Seas fleet also came within about 40nm of engaging and most probably sinking the entire 6th Battle Squadron (USA) in 1918 without the British Fleet being aware of the sortie. Just because the Germans did not effectively utilize their naval power does not mean it would not have been potentially extremely valuable if they had.

  • STemplar

    Sounds like re-prioritizing based on economic reality. Pretty much what everyone else is doing. We are the lone exception at the moment. Fiscal reality will intrude on us shortly. Although we are just clinging to programs that are overly expensive and whose need is dubious. We have plenty of budget even with prudent cutting that we could spend less and be able to project more power in my opinion.

  • Justin H

    An unnamed defense ministry official said Dec. 10 that Russia needed to have at least four aircraft carriers to be considered a truly functioning power at sea.

    “The defense ministry will not give up on this idea,” the official told RIA Novosti.

  • Drake1

    Supposedly Russia and India will close a deal on PAK-FA this month, but its future is far from certain. Maybe instead of buying Russia’s old junk, India can do a joint deal on carrier construction.

    • Intersted

      PAK-FA is domestic oriented aircraft for Russian airforce made with “Russian only” technology.
      Future FGFA aircraft will be designed from Russian-Indian cooperation. It would be export oriented fighter jet which should be based on PAK-FA’s airframe and its basic technologies..

      Modernized Ex-Gorshkov aircraft carrying cruiser is not junk. It’s younger than Nitimtz-class carriers.

      • Drake1

        What’s your point on PAK-FA apart from being anal or something? They are closing a deal on sharing the development costs and sharing the technology.

        Considering the cost to refurbish the carrier and its remaining service life, many Indians felt like it was a questionable deal.

        • Intersted

          No. No. No. India does not have rights for PAK-FA developments and technology. PAK-FA made with Russian components only. PAK-FA is domestic Russian 5th generation fighter jet program.
          FGFA is another story. Yes, they are closing a deal with it. India wants to get these fighter jets(FGFA) into its own air force. FGFA would be produced from Russia-India cooperation, even with with a some Indian made components.

      • Drake1

        The Indian Air Force’s requirements do differ rather substantially from the Russian Air Force’s, and are reported to demand a twin-seat configuration as well as possibly a different wing and control surfaces. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd is expected to become responsible for some 25% of the total development workload for the FGFA programme, involving modifying the PAK FA single-seater airframe to a twin-seater configuration as well as the mission computer, navigation system, cockpit displays and ECM dispensers.

      • Intersted

        “Considering the cost to refurbish the carrier and its remaining service life, many Indians felt like it was a questionable deal.”

        These programs are badly comparable. Indians never had problems with a Sukhoi Su-30MKI deals.

        • Drake1

          Where did I say India had trouble with Sukhoi Su-30MKI deals, or India does not have rights for PAK-FA developments and technology?

          Stop putting words in my mouth.

  • Maxtrue

    Again, the following is a significant step forward as the Russians step back from their more conventional aspirations……

  • crackedlenses

    Maybe we will go back to waging limited wars due to limited economic capability like it was done in medieval times. Maybe living off the country you’re invading will come back into style…..

  • jako777

    .QUOTE ;
    …”skeptical as to whether Russia will be able to build and sell export versions of its most advanced new weapons like the PAK-FA in significant numbers………
    …….Remember, India, the only foreign buyer for that aircraft is designing a large portion of the jet. Maybe being able to co-produce the latest Russian designs is becoming a prerequisite to actually buying them”…..

    Just few remarks although I could have made 50….
    1.)Russo-Indian FGFA is export oriented, not so much Russian PAKFA ….
    BTW the answer is YES they’ll be able to build ( possible foreign avionics Israel,France ) enough FGFA for export. ( they’ill be produced in India which has extremely low production costs )

    2.)Well if 25% of design ( by India) of FGFA “is designing a large portion of the jet” than I’ll make no comment on such nonsense….
    BTW India will buy only 50 PAKFA (as gesture of cooperation) just like Russia will also buy 50 FGFA

    In general this article is incompetent and ill informed.
    I’m happy that West is full of prejudice when it comes to Russia.
    Oh, boy will you bump into GREAT surprise one day…. and with China also…

    • IknowIT

      Da, comrade Jako. Your post makes little sense, yes?

    • Intersted

      “Well if 25% of design ( by India)”

      25% of Indian money, not design

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Evening Folks,

    It looks like the year 2010 will go down as bad years for the Bear and the Dragon. This announcement on the carriers was not unexpected the only real surprise was the admission of being broke.

    The Russian Federation has been having real trouble with ship building. In 2007 Russia sent ten Kilo II Submarines to China along with the four already sold to China there should be 14 on the water but only 12 have been scene. Where are the missing two?

    Of the ten that came down in 07 and 08 at least four have had serious problems with batteries and electrical, rumors of other serious problems with these boats have surfaced.

    Russia is in a long negotiation process with France for amphibious warfare ships. The indicator is that the problem is price and France wants to be paid.

    In March of 09 China and Russia came to agreement for China to buy 48 Su.-30’s it was canceled by Russia in Nov, of 09. This is an indicator that Russia lacks the capital to get the Su. 30 line going again.

    I can go on with other example such as the cancelations of the Toplo M and Bulava programs, the “new” Russian ICBM force of old Soviet RS-24’s,50 in Silos, 18 Mobile RS-24’s will make up the total force. Russia is no longer even a regional power.

    China is in the same position since they relay on Russian technology for their domestic weapons programs, they are effectively stopped, too.

    In short the Bear and the Dragon are no longer even a regional threat, Japan is hands down the dominate military power in Northeast Asia. So where does this leave the US.

    It make Missile defense harder to justify, the F-35 has not even a potential rival with in its service life. The talks or new armor forces is premature by about fifty years. This leaves all of those big tick projects that are the darlings of the Butternut think tanks like Cato, American Enterprise, and Heritage Foundation in the dust bin.

    Both China and Russia have dropped down the threat level at least a position or more. NKorea who is dependent on China as a benefactor is another big loser. It’s time for China to shut down the NKorean Nuclear program or expect another visit fro an American Carrier Battle Group in the Yellow Sea.

    It is no surprise that today China asked the US to resume Defense Consultative Talks. The time has come for China to listen and the US to talk.

    Byron Skinner

  • Intersted

    “Remember, India, the only foreign buyer for that aircraft is designing a large portion of the jet.”

    I am reading Defensetech all the time, and i see too much ignorant and incorrect data in many articles.
    PAK-FA is domestic (Russian made product) which is made by Russian companies (not only Sukhoi, but also missile manufacturers, radar designers, avionics designers etc. etc.). It does not have Indian technology inside.

  • Justin H

    They want to be able to project air power (fighters), which is something they currently lack.

    • STemplar

      They want to cling to the glory days is what they want to do. Europe and the US are no threat to Russia. Europe is completely dependent for its energy needs. The biggest threat to Russian security in internal dissent. They don’t need carriers or nukes for that. They need to get over the cold war is what they need.

      • Justin H

        Yes, and they want to bully Baltic and former Warsaw Pact states. They still want to believe that they matter and make everybody think they still do.

    • Intersted

      Massive carrier fleet build-up is stupid idea, or at least not very smart. They have a lot of other very expensive programs – new SSN, SSBN, SSK, Bulava SLBM, Sineva SLBM, RS-24 road-mobile ICBM, surface fleet ships (new class of fregates and corvetters,), modernization of Kirov class heavy cruisers, PAK-FA program, rearmament of ground troops and air defenses. Etc. etc.
      They have a one operational aircraft carrying cruiser. It could be enough for power projection. Aircraft carrier is so crazy expensive to use and maintain.

      • Russian Salilor

        Bulava SLBM, isn’t that the one that blows up half the time when launched? Kirovs are a dud without the means to target gather target information too, it ends up being a huge liability.

        • Intersted

          So? They had some quality problems with Bulava SLBM. Every new SLBM design has a problems. However, latest test launches were succesfull. Now its more likely fixed. Next one planned launch from Borei class sub (new generation SSBN).
          Problem with a target information for modezined Kirovs could be solved as well.

  • Roland
  • Tim

    Russian gear is unreliable , twenty years behind western designs . The bear should stay in it’s cave gorging on cheap hookers and it’s stolen Billions . Bye bye Putin , next up the inevietable break up of China by 2025.

    I list Turkey and Pakistan as the biggest strategic threat to world peace over the next ten years .

  • Brian Black

    Russian foreign policy seems to be primarily concerned with it’s continental neighbours rather than with overseas expeditions. Can’t see any use for a Russian carrier fleet.

    Certainly a huge waste of money… but if they fancy putting in a bid for the UK’s QE class carriers, they might be doing us a favour.

  • TMB

    Didn’t Russia sell off a mothballed carrier to India a few years ago? I recall something of the sort where India was supposed to get a great deal on this unused or unfinished carrier but it was falling apart and cost a fortune in repairs.

  • Paul

    When is Putin going to realize that the USSR is LONG since gone and Russia holds little if any influence in the world? Russia would have trouble fending off an attack from Israel let alone the Chinese or the US. Hell the Russian mob is more feared than the Russian military nowdays.

  • mike

    well Russia has already paid for 60 Su-50 Pakfa for 2015 to 2016 and are geting ten of these stealth fighters in 2013 a total of 70 by 2016 there are said to make another 200 after that.So the Airforce and Space Forces are doing a great job my Concern is the Aircraft Carriers can Russian Make any new ones or Just keep Upgrading the Kuznetsov

  • steve

    why do we have a bunch of pale skinned american fanatics decieving themselves and being jealous of russia. lets face facts, no european millitary might can be compared to that of russia and the US might just be a bit above russiain millitary

  • The software is up to date every day It presents Tor proxy

    secure hub in order to make your hacking undetectable.