A tragic event took place in St. Petersburg the night before. At the shipyard, the almost completed corvette of project 20385 "Provorny", which was supposed to be delivered to the fleet next year, caught fire. Judging by the footage from the place of the fire, the ship burned out almost completely, canceling out the previous 10 years of unhurried work. The inglorious death of the "Agile" is a huge loss for the Russian Navy. This misfortune reflected in itself all the problems of the domestic navy and the shipbuilding industry, which I would like to talk about.
The smoke of the Fatherland is bitter and unpleasant for us
First, it is necessary to explain why the corvette turned into a real fiery torch. Many questions immediately arose as to what would happen to the ship in real combat conditions if a missile hit it. Do you have to deliberately drown it in order to extinguish it?
You won't have to. It would seem, why burn so much on an unfinished warship, which was designed taking into account the requirements of survivability? The fact is that the hull and superstructure are made according to stealthtechnology to reduce its visibility, as well as the total mass, therefore, a lot of composite materials and light alloys were used. They burned. But the corvette put into operation is protected by fire extinguishing systems and the actions of a trained crew. At the shipyard, ships under construction or being repaired are in the most vulnerable position, since the corresponding systems are deactivated. Here, one "crooked" worker who violated safety regulations, or a deliberately acting pest is enough to start a fire.
And this is not only our problem. Let us recall how the American universal amphibious assault ship Bonom Richard recently burned out. The fire blazed for several days, from 12 to 17 July, destroying 60% of the ship. As a result, it turned out to be more profitable to dispose of the burnt-out helicopter carrier than to restore and build a new one.
Small but remote
Now it is necessary to explain why the loss of the little "Agile" is a big blow to the defense capability of our country. Unfortunately, ordinary Russians for the most part do not understand the true meaning of the Russian Navy. These are not just "beautiful boats" that sail to the shores of Syria and are shown at a parade once a year. No, this is the most important component of Russia's "nuclear shield".
Our potential adversaries are the United States and NATO as a whole. The Americans have already proved in practice that the use of atomic weapons against peaceful cities does not pose any problem for them at all. Likewise, nothing stops the Pentagon from a nuclear strike on Russia, except for the fear of receiving a retaliatory strike. The combined power of the North Atlantic Alliance may allow it to knock out a significant part of the land and air components of our "nuclear trials" - airfields where strategic missile carriers, silos with intercontinental ballistic missiles, and nuclear arsenals are based. They will not destroy everything, of course, but the "weight" of the retaliatory strike will be significantly reduced, making the task for the American missile defense system easier.
The naval components of the "nuclear triad" will remain - nuclear submarines equipped with ICBMs, the main protection of which is their stealth. Unfortunately, we do not have many SSBNs, and the secrecy factor is not so absolute. The US Navy and NATO bloc have powerful anti-submarine forces that are capable of large-scale hunt for Russian nuclear submarines. The Russian Navy will be tasked with safely withdrawing the Boreis to the areas of combat deployment, from where they can effectively shoot. And this is a non-trivial task, which, alas, is incomprehensible to anyone except professional military personnel and experts who popularize this topic.
First, it is necessary to withdraw the SSBNs from the base, but the submarine can be destroyed by the enemy's underwater "hunters" even at this stage. Admiral Valentin Selivanov, the former Chief of the Main Staff of the Navy, who talks about the problems of the Pacific Fleet of the Russian Federation, will not allow lying:
They can be on duty there to meet our strategic missile carriers leaving the base: it will be difficult to find them in the ocean, but much easier off the coast. There are no stationary anti-submarine weapons there: there are great depths on the approaches to Kamchatka. Therefore, the grouping of corvettes is increasing. Of course, two ships are not enough there. We need a lot of funds, including aviation.
To protect our nuclear submarines in the near sea zone, we need numerous corvette-class anti-submarine ships. Without them, "Boreas" can die almost at the pier as ingloriously as "Agile" burned down. By the way, business does not end in the near sea zone. The area of SSBN combat deployment should be covered by a large naval group capable of fighting off aircraft, URO ships and numerous multipurpose nuclear submarines of the enemy. To effectively counter the AUG of the US Navy, oddly enough, it needs its own aircraft carriers and helicopter carriers with their carrier-based fighters, AWACS aircraft to issue target designations to missiles and anti-submarine helicopters. The USSR understood this perfectly, and therefore built a series of TAVRKs, the top of which was to be the nuclear aircraft carrier of the Ulyanovsk project.
Alas, but today we have 0 aircraft carriers, 0 helicopter carriers and minus 1 anti-submarine corvette in the ranks. This means that the given combat mission with a high degree of probability will not be completed. The conclusion is that the surface fleet - from a small corvette to a gigantic aircraft carrier - is the most important component of the "nuclear triad." But, as you know, “we don’t need aircraft carriers,” so let's talk about corvettes and the near sea zone.
"Universals" against their will
The "Provorny", which burned down the day before, belongs to a series of Project 20380 (20385) corvettes of the "Guarding" type. This is the most numerous series of ships of the main classes in modern Russia. And this is largely a necessary measure. The problem is that after the severing of ties with Ukraine, the domestic shipbuilding industry lost the ability to quickly build large surface ships. The maximum that the resource is enough for is the slowly building frigates of Project 22350 and a couple of UDCs laid down in Kerch last year. Therefore, you have to squeeze the maximum out of the corvettes, endowing them, among other things, with functions unusual for them.
Project 20380 corvettes are essentially small frigates, which are required to be able to fight not only with submarines, but also with enemy surface ships, as well as provide missile and artillery support for amphibious assault forces. Corvettes of the 20385 series of the "Thundering" type became a further development of this project, even more successful. They are larger than their predecessors, equipped with 8 UKSK with the ability to use missiles "Caliber", "Onyx", "Zircon", they carry anti-submarine, sonar and radar systems, as well as an anti-submarine helicopter Ka-27PL, they have increased the ammunition of the Redut air defense missile system. These are really good ships in the near zone, but they are expected to work efficiently even in the far zone, they are even entrusted with air defense tasks atypical for corvettes, which can only be explained by an acute shortage of surface ships in the Russian Navy.
At Severnaya Verf they managed to build the lead ship of the Thundering series, and the second, Agile, which burned out yesterday, was to be handed over to the Pacific Fleet next year. One of the same type "Buyny" was laid down this year at the "Amur Shipyard", 3 more corvettes will be laid there in the coming years. This is all you can count on for now. In this regard, the fire on the almost completed "Provorny" is a real tragedy, which brings us to new unpleasant questions.
In no hurry
Most of all, the incredible time frame for the construction of corvettes causes bewilderment. "Thundering" was founded in 2012 and commissioned in 2020. "Agile" was laid down in 2013 and was planned to be commissioned at the end of 2022. Almost 10 years, Karl! And this is for a small boat with a total displacement of 2430 tons. During this time, you can build an "unnecessary" aircraft carrier with a displacement of 100 thousand tons, or even two. Some kind of disgrace.
It is obvious that the domestic shipbuilding industry is in a deep systemic crisis, and Severnaya Verf, in particular, is not coping. Recall that in addition to the slowly building corvettes there are also engaged in project 23500 and 23500M frigates, which should become the main "workhorse" of the Russian Navy in the far sea zone. Such delays, and even more so, fires on almost built ships, are simply unacceptable. In this regard, it seems advisable to diversify the risks and transfer part of the orders for frigates and corvettes to another shipyard. For example, to the Kaliningrad "Yantar", which has the necessary capacities. Here is what the general director of the enterprises I.S. Samarin:
During a recent visit to the plant of Aleksey Krivoruchko, we, among others, raised the question of the possibility of additional loading of Yantar. Today we have a load for one or two years, and by the end of 2022, slipways are vacated. In principle, we can continue to build a series of ships or carry out individual orders. Therefore, we offered ourselves to the Ministry of Defense as an executor of a contract for two frigates, or it could be corvettes.
Anti-submarine corvettes and multipurpose frigates of project 22350 / 22350M are too needed by the Russian Navy for the country to depend on one shipyard, which is not able to build ships quickly enough and cannot save them before delivery to the customer. Order distribution can speed up the naval saturation process and reduce risks.