More Russian Corvettes
Russia has recently launched a second of their very attractive Project 20380 corvettes which New Wars posted on earlier. Hardly an LCS alternative considering the source, they could certainly be an LCS Rival in a future conflict. Ilya Kramnik at RIA Novosti tells “Why Russia needs new corvettes“:
Although with a gross tonnage of 2,000 tons this ship meets the classification criteria for that class of vessel, it far exceeds it in terms of firepower. Eight anti-ship missiles, a deck-based helicopter, a wide array of sonar and anti-submarine equipment, a 100mm gun, and an impressive complement of close-range air-defense systems all led experts to consider it more of a frigate, the next stage up in naval classification.
There are good grounds for elevating the Soobrazitelny and its successors to that status. Instead of the Kortik air defense gun and missile system these ships will carry an integrated weapons complex with eight loading bays, each of which can hold 1-4 missiles depending on their type.
The new warships are also equipped with the Sigma combat information and control system, which simultaneously tracks and engages targets on land, on water, under water, and in the air. Much like the U.S. Aegis system, this allows a coordinated defense including clear communications, shared target information and real time control over the combat force’s firepower.
While Moscow is no longer the threat to the West she once was, many are worried that advanced technology like the planned T-50 fighter might get into the hands of rogue states or those just unfriendly to the West. I also see much potential for export from these powerful little warships, which the author rightly concedes is on par with Western frigates. That is where the LCS comes in. Here are the Project 20380 specifications:
- Length-94 meters
- Beam-11.1 meters
- Draft-3.7 meters
- Displacement-1900 tons full load
- Speed-26 knots
- Range-4000 nm @ 14 knots
- Armament-1 x Arsenal A-190 100mm
2 x MTPU pedestal machine gun 14.5 mm
1 x Kashtan CADS
2 x AK-630 CIWS
6 x 3M54 Klub or 8 x 3M24 Uran
4 x 400mm torpedo tubes
SS-N-29 / RPK-9 Medvedka-VE anti-submarine rockets
Helo pad only
This is why I prefer corvettes over frigates, since most plans for the latter involve ships no better armed than the small warships, but at far greater expense as with the LCS, which at $700 million each is armed basically like a patrol ship. Small warships like this are the real future frigate or destroyer, and could very possibly meet the LCS one on one in a future conflict.
The Russian Navy is building corvettes because they have to. If there was money to spare it would probably go for more nuclear submarines, battlecruisers, and supercarriers to rival the US. Instead they are building corvettes and buying light carriers from France. Through no choice of their own then, they may soon have a Navy perfect for the type of future threats at sea not only Russia is facing but the world, which involve low tech foes such as pirates and smugglers, or missile boat navies like China and Iran.
These are a growing menace, while the rich navies would much rather be competing with one another on the oceans with exquisite wonder vessels, the impoverished Somali pirates are spreading everywhere. Here is a recent report saying “Navies struggle with ‘swarming’ pirates“:
“The navies operating off Somalia have to contend with the question of why, with such sophisticated capabilities, they cannot stamp out a threat based essentially on men in motor boats.”
And what does the international community have to contend with the threat, except a shrinking number of essentially useless frigates:
“…according to Adm Hudson, there are altogether about 20 warships to cover an area 10 times larger than Germany.”
Some are amazingly capable like the Dutch frigate Tromp that keeps popping up in the headlines. The problem is, capability is no substitute for availability. The Russian ships however, as with other corvettes and OPVs are available, affordable, and perfect for the type of shallow water warfare where the Navy will concede it needs to be. Also they can be afforded in enough numbers to make a difference, but you can’t buy too many$700 million frigates, at least without giving up something else, which usually involves your fleet numbers. That is working against, not helping your goal.