The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine revealed a number of serious problems in the Russian armed forces, for example, an acute shortage of drones, which, as it were, exist, but mostly in single copies and depend on the use of imported components. With the navy, the situation is even more serious: there are too few combat-ready surface ships on the Black Sea, and there are questions about the effectiveness of their air defense system (PLO?). Having outlined the problems of the Russian Navy, which we talked about in detail earlier.
It is necessary to be aware that after the collapse of the USSR and the rupture of industrial ties with Ukraine in 2014, Russia has largely lost its competence in the construction of large-tonnage surface ships. All our shipyards are filled with orders for many years to come, while the construction process itself has the property of continuously stretching, shifting the timing of launching warships to the right. One corvette “Agile”, which burned down last year in St. Petersburg, was built for eight whole years. Undoubtedly, the most severe sectoral sanctions imposed by the West on Russia for launching a military special operation in Ukraine will only aggravate the already difficult situation in the shipbuilding industry. Then what is left for us and how will the country solve this whole complex of the most difficult problems?
There are really only two options. The first is to rely on one’s own strength, bite the bullet and consistently carry out import substitution, eliminate corruption schemes, expel pests and amateurs from the industry, optimize production processes, and so on. This must be done in any case, but we must understand that even so we will not quickly build a combat-ready navy. In the best scenario, this will take one and a half to two decades, and the war between Russia and the collective West has actually begun, and our ships are ingloriously sinking at sea.
For this reason, perhaps one should temper a little pride and seek external help from China, which is objectively in the same boat with us and has learned how to quickly build very decent warships, selling them, including for export. Let’s see what of the products produced at Chinese shipyards, under certain conditions, could be useful to the Russian Navy.
The primary task of the navy is to protect the near sea zone, primarily from enemy submarines, and this requires specialized PLO corvettes. About how difficult the situation with ships of this class in Russia, we told in detail earlier . Moreover, they even took the liberty of proposing to create a series of small PLO corvettes based on the Karakurt RTO, increasing its displacement by one and a half times. The idea seems to be quite sound, but the problem is that journalists and caring commentators talk about it privately, and not functionaries of the RF Ministry of Defense.
Another working option could be the purchase in China of a batch of Type-056 / 056A PLO corvettes in the export version. These ships of the near sea zone have a total displacement of 1,500 tons, a speed of up to 28 knots and are made using stealth technologies . The design, as some Russian admirals like it, is modular, which makes it easy to modify them to customer requirements. The armament of the corvette is represented by one 76-mm gun mount, four YJ-83 anti-ship missile launchers with a firing range of up to 160 km, an HQ-10 short-range air defense system with ammunition for 8 anti-aircraft missiles and two 324-mm triple-tube torpedo tubes, as well as a towed sonar.
Simplicity and the optimal combination of price and quality have allowed China to rivet 72 corvettes (22 in the Type-056 version and 50 in the Type-056A version). A huge series that Russia cannot even dream of!
Chinese corvettes have already pleased customers from Thailand, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Pakistan and Kazakhstan have also shown interest in acquiring them. What prevents Russia from ordering, for example, 10 “super-Karakurts” in the PLO version at its shipyards and another 10 Type-056A PLO corvettes in China? Chinese shipbuilders will easily build them according to the requirements of the Russian Navy, which is what the notorious modular design has. The Russian fleet will receive much-needed corvettes in the foreseeable future without the need to torture a ship with a displacement of 1,500 tons every 7-8 years. We are already at war and are suffering painful losses, there is no time for pride and sentiment.
No less important than corvettes belonging to the patrol ships of the near sea zone, frigates are patrol ships of the far sea zone. Russia has developed a very successful frigate of project 22350 of the Admiral Gorshkov type, which meets all the requirements. There is only one problem, still the same: ships take too long to build! After the fire at the almost built Provorny near the Severnaya Verf berth, it became known that the Russian Defense Ministry had transferred an order for 6 frigates to the Amur Shipbuilding Plant. The step is right, but still, new frigates of project 22350 as part of the Russian Navy should not be expected quickly. What could China give Russia?
For the needs of the PLA, a series of Type-054/054A URO frigates was built. It is interesting for us that this ship also has “Russian genes”, since the Northern Design Bureau from St. Petersburg participated in its design. The total displacement of the ship is 4035 tons, the speed is 29 knots, the hull is made using stealth technologies, the power plant is French licensed. Guided missile weapons are located in a 32-cell vertical launch installation, which can also launch anti-submarine guided missiles Yu-8, anti-aircraft – missiles of the HQ-16 complex (a copy of our 9M317 “Shtil”). The 76mm gun mount on the nose is a copy of the Russian AK-176. The radar equipment of the Chinese frigate is also licensed copies of Russian counterparts or variations on a theme. The ammunition load of anti-submarine rocket launchers is 36 missiles with a caliber of 240 mm. The Ka-28 anti-submarine helicopter or a Chinese equivalent is based on the deck.
In general, this is a fairly serious multi-purpose ship with obvious Russian “genes”. The series is also impressive in its scale: the PLA has already received 32 URO frigates, and ordered 40 units in total. In this case, we are interested in the fact that Beijing is ready to build them to order. In particular, two Type-054A/P frigates in the export version have been laid down at Chinese shipyards for the needs of Pakistan. So why shouldn’t Russia, as an unofficial ally and a “shield” that China uses to hide from the United States, order a series of 6-8 Type-054A/P frigates from China, adapted to the requirements of the Russian Navy? We note in particular that no one proposes to abandon the construction of project 22350.
If everything is more or less clear with frigates, then there is no clarity at all with multi-purpose domestic destroyers. There is not even a clear understanding of what it should be. The semi-destroyer-semi-cruiser of the Leader project turned out to be too complicated and expensive. When the laying of the first “super-Gorshkov” project 22350M, which fits into the destroyer’s displacement, is unknown. How much it will be built, one can only guess, but, apparently, for a long time.
In this case, Russia may be interested in a series of destroyers type 052D, of which the PRC Navy should receive 25 units (24 are already in service). With a full displacement of 7500 tons, they have a maximum speed of 30 knots and carry powerful missile weapons in 64 universal launch cells, have an effective air defense and anti-aircraft defense system, as well as an anti-submarine helicopter. 4-6 such destroyers, made according to Russian standards, would undoubtedly be very useful in the Northern and Pacific fleets.
There is nothing reprehensible in ordering warships abroad, the only question is who to contact with this. If NATO bloc, then it will all end the same as the French Mistrals deal. If Russia deals with sovereign China, with which Russia is objectively now in the same boat, then there are chances for timely fulfillment of the order. The only question is a political decision and constant monitoring of the quality and compliance with the requirements of the Russian Navy in the course of work.
With the help of Chinese shipbuilders, Russia can quickly acquire a completely modern and combat-ready ocean fleet.