The special military operation of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine has demonstrated that the Russian army is able to act effectively even against a highly motivated enemy that is many times larger in number. However, it also made it possible to identify serious problems facing the Russian Navy.
So, despite the absence of an officially declared war, Turkey blocked the Bosphorus and Dardanelles, effectively cutting off Russian warships in the Mediterranean from the naval base in Sevastopol. From the Black Sea area they can now neither leave nor enter. At the same time, Spain and Cyprus denied the Russian Navy the right to use their ports for entry, replenishment with fuel and other supplies. The path to the Baltic and Barents Seas is not close, and de facto our Mediterranean squadron now relies only on a base in Syrian Tartus.
This situation reveals a serious problem with the operational supply of the Russian fleet in the far sea zone. Obviously, without fuel, water and food, no long-distance campaign is simply impossible, and without replenishment with ammunition, active combat operations are impossible. And with this, objectively, everything is not very good with us today. To understand the challenges facing the Russian Navy, it is worth looking at how our potential adversaries solved the problem.
The maximum supply problem in the far sea zone manifested itself during the Second World War, when the Americans and the Japanese had to fight among themselves in the vast Pacific Ocean. It turned out that without a clumsy tanker with fuel, a battleship, cruiser or aircraft carrier quickly turns into a useless floating pelvis.
The idea of creating a universal high-speed and at the same time armed transport, combining the functions of a tanker, dry cargo carrier and refrigerator, was expressed by Admiral Arleigh Burke, after whom, by the way, a series of destroyers was named.
In 1963, the lead ship of the USS Sacramento series of universal supply ships was launched, and four were built in total, two each for the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. With a length of 242,3 meters and a width of 32,6 meters, each of them has a displacement of 53000 tons. For one flight, the transporter is capable of delivering 22640 tons of fuel, 1210 tons of fresh water, 1000 tons of food, 6000 tons of food and up to 200 personnel. In addition, a camping hospital can be organized on one of its decks. At the same time, supply vessels are not so defenseless, being equipped with launchers for Sea Sparrow missiles and two Vulkan-Phalanx anti-aircraft guns.
Exceptionally useful resupply ships capable of reloading on the move in as little as 4 hours and allowing the US Navy to perform a wide range of missions in the far sea zone.
Navy of the USSR and the Russian Federation
In the 70s of the last century, for the needs of the Soviet Navy, a series of six tankers of Project 1559-B "Sea Space" was built. With a length of 162,4 meters and a width of 21,4 meters, they had a total displacement of 22 tons. They made it possible to transfer fuel, water and a small amount of dry cargo to warships directly on the move in a traverse way: 460 tons of fuel oil, 8250 tons of diesel fuel, 2050 tons of aviation fuel, 1000 tons of drinking water, 1000 tons of boiler water, 450 tons of lubricating oil and 250 tons of food and dry cargo.
This was a very big step forward, expanding the capabilities of the Soviet Navy in operations in the far sea zone. Of the six specialized supply vessels, only three remained in service today - Dniester, Ivan Bubnov and Boris Butoma. The latter, by the way, accompanied the flagship of the Pacific Fleet, the missile cruiser "Varyag" and the BOD "Admiral Tributs" during their transition to the Mediterranean Sea, where they are currently located.
You can also mention the Soviet integrated supply ship (KKS) of project 1833 "Berezina", which was launched in 1977. With a length of 209,6 meters and a width of 25,1 meters, it had a total displacement of 24565 tons. The transporter could transfer 2500 tons of fuel, 1600 tons of water and 900 tons of dry cargo for the needs of the fleet. At the same time, he was also not defenseless, having on board artillery installations, RBU-1000-2 rocket launchers, Osa-M air defense systems and 2 Ka-27 helicopters.
Unfortunately, we are forced to speak of him in the past tense. After the collapse of the USSR, the far sea zone became of no interest to anyone. First it was disarmed, then turned into a floating warehouse. The case ended naturally: in 2002, the Berezina was sent for scrap to China.
In other words, in fact, for the entire Russian Navy, which is distributed over five seas, today there are only three age tankers of Project 1559-B "Sea Space" capable of performing these tasks. And now, because of the special military operation that has begun in Ukraine, our warships have been denied the opportunity to be supplied in foreign ports. Sailed. On the one hand, this situation leads to the conclusion that it is necessary to create our own PMTO network abroad. On the other hand, it is obvious that it is necessary to start building new specialized supply vessels. The Russian Navy will now clearly be forced to operate more actively in the far sea and ocean zones.
But where to build them now, when all Russian shipyards are overwhelmed with orders for years to come?
Tankers of project 1559-B "Sea Space" were once built at the Baltic Shipyard, but the more advanced "Berezina" of project 1833 was built at the Shipbuilding Plant named after 61 Communards, the current Nikolaev Shipbuilding Plant. There, in Nikolaev, the city of shipbuilders, there is also the Zorya-Mashproekt enterprise, which manufactures power plants designed for Russian frigates. In addition, until 2021, the Black Sea Shipbuilding Plant existed there, where the largest ships in the USSR were launched - from aircraft-carrying cruisers and dry cargo ships to floating docks and icebreakers.
In a good way, it would be necessary to return the city of Nikolaev, under which Russian troops are now stationed, to the sphere of influence of Moscow and make it work for the needs of the Russian Navy. Now we have a unique opportunity to correct a historical injustice in our favor. At the Nikolaev shipyards, warships can be laid down and built, which so far can only be dreamed of. Not using it would be a big mistake.