The project of the promising Russian universal naval ship (UMK) "Varan", presented by the Nevsky Design Bureau, was subjected to serious and in many respects fully justified criticism. This "non-aircraft carrier" is too expensive, there is nowhere to build it, and there is nothing to protect it with. Despite the general negative attitude, I would like to suggest looking at this issue from a different angle.
First of all, it should be noted that Russia still needs aircraft carriers, otherwise the USSR would not have built its Ulyanovsk. Another question is whether we can afford them today. Let's take a look at all the main arguments against.
First of all, we are rightly pointed out that the shipyards that built ships of this class during the Soviet period remained in Ukraine in Nikolaev. Theoretically, Sevmash, which has modernized Vikramaditya for India, can cope with such a task, but this can negatively affect the construction time of the Ash and Boreyevs, which I would not like to allow. Further, after the severance of industrial ties with Independent Russia received a lot of problems, being left without power plants, which led to the disruption and postponement of the deadlines for many programs. However, we note that for frigates of projects 22350, this problem has already been solved. Also a problem is the lack of carrier-based AWACS (EW) aircraft and tankers, which we did not build due to the lack of aircraft carriers.
Finally, last but not least, the problem. This is the need to organize an escort from the escort vessels for the aircraft carrier. If necessary, Russia can scrape together a sufficient number of ships of the first rank for 1 AUG, but this will naturally weaken all other fleets, where the cat cried for large surface ships. And all this construction, of course, will require huge financial investments, which is very difficult against the backdrop of the sequestration of military spending. The conclusion is bleak: at this stage, our country should focus on solving more priority tasks, first mastering the construction of destroyers, then cruisers, and only then - aircraft carriers.
Everything is correct. But this problem can be looked at in another way.
In Russia now there are no shipyards capable of building large ships? Well, they won't come out of nowhere by themselves. This means that we must begin to build them ourselves for the future. Expensive? Listen, we are told that there is no money, and therefore we must hold on. In fact, there is money in the country, you just need to be able to correctly prioritize. Why on earth are we saving money on defense and national security? Building an aircraft carrier is really non-trivial technological a task that will require the preparation of an appropriate boathouse and specialists, the participation of dozens, hundreds of enterprises. Well, that's good, isn't it?
For example, a series of two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers is under construction in the UK. More than seven hundred local companies participate in this program, employing over 10 thousand workers. These enterprises pay taxes, develop advanced solutions for the technical tasks assigned to them, and their employees receive salaries. Metal is melted, electronic components are made, software is created. Just one aircraft carrier becomes a real driver of development economicsespecially during the recession after a pandemic. Investing money in it is not money down the drain, it is an investment in the country's defense capability, in its industrial and technological development. Money down the drain - this is billions of dollars for giant sporting events that took place, and then everyone forgot about them.
Move on. No propulsion systems? Listen, but the same British contrived to do without nuclear reactors, making an integrated electric propulsion system, connecting two gas turbines and four diesel engines. Is it really impossible for our engineers to do something like that? And why not, by the way, still consider the option with a nuclear power plant? They say that they are bulky and will take up a lot of space inside the ship, which will lead to an increase in tonnage.
If you look at potential opponents, the United States somehow managed in 1961 to commission the cruiser USS Long Beach (CGN-9) with a nuclear engine with a total displacement of 16 tons, as well as the world's only nuclear frigate CGN-602 Bainbridge, complete the displacement of which was only 25 tons. Despite their modest size, the presence of nuclear reactors did not prevent them from performing normally for many decades. For comparison, the displacement of the promising UMK "Varana" would be 7982 tons.
Russia is one of the world leaders in the field of nuclear technology. Why not start work on shipborne nuclear power plants? Then they can be used on missile destroyers of the Leader project put on the table. A large batch will lead to a reduction in production costs. Is it expensive? Well, it's better to feed your own army than someone else's, isn't it? And at the same time to develop high-tech industry. As for the "Leaders" - this is the question of which ships of the first rank could be put in the guard of an aircraft carrier. To optimize costs, some of the destroyers could be built with nuclear, and the rest with conventional power plants.
As for the deck wing. If we talk about the Varan project, then it should be attributed to light aircraft carriers, which can accommodate only 24 multipurpose aircraft, 6 helicopters and 20 UAVs. He is far from the American "Nimitz", however, the Russian CMD could perform certain tasks, and he is not alone. Currently, two large UDCs of comparable displacement are already being built in Kerch. At the same time, Russia again returned to the project of a vertical take-off and landing aircraft (VTOL), as Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov explained:
This is definitely the future. For all types of aircraft carriers, a new fleet of aircraft will be required. It is for this that various technologies are used, which make it possible to provide shortened take-off and landing, or simply vertical take-off.
VTOL aircraft is included in the state armaments program. After launching them into series, they could be based on both UDC, as well as on the UMK in the event of its construction. So Russia would receive three light aircraft carriers at once. But these are far from all the prospects for naval aviation. Recently, we have been actively developing unmanned aviation. This is the super-heavy shock S-70 "Okhotnik" and the heavy reconnaissance and shock "Altius". Domestic UDC and UMK could become a floating platform for the delivery and use of UAVs.
In other words, the program for the construction of aircraft-carrying ships can be viewed as a heavy burden, or as an opportunity to rebuild and develop the national industry. The main thing is to prioritize correctly.