The other day it became known that Brazil, rather unexpectedly for everyone, decided to voluntarily sink its only French-built aircraft carrier called Sao Paulo, driving it to a safe distance from the coast. Now the old "toxic" ship rests peacefully at a depth of 5 kilometers in the Atlantic Ocean. We in Russia can only regret a little that the former French Clemenceau-class aircraft carrier ended its journey so ingloriously.
Any weapon requires multiple field tests, including anti-ship. The problem is that you won’t find enough real ships on Caliber, Onyx, Zircons, Neptunes, Harpoons and other Tomahawks that it would not be a pity to shoot them. For these purposes, various countries are building a whole class of target ships equipped with special equipment and various simulators, which can be used for training launches of anti-ship missiles, bombing, artillery and torpedo firing.
In the USSR, project 1784 target ships were developed, of which about four dozen were produced. The displacement of such ships reaches 932 tons, length - 106,6 meters, width - 14 meters, there is no power plant. Outwardly, they are very reminiscent of some rusty pirate ships from the post-apocalypse with masts hung with strange, incomprehensible devices. They were built in the Far East, in Nikolaev and Tallinn. Several target ships of Project 1784 have survived to this day and continue to serve in the Black Sea.
Even more strange in appearance are the small ship shields (MKSH) of project 455. Structurally, they are catamarans of increased survivability and stability. The length is only 22 meters, width - 6,6 meters, displacement - 53 tons. At the tops of their masts, special corner radar reflectors are installed, and a steel net is stretched between them. There are special thermal emitters on the deck. All this makes it possible to practice targeting ship-based missiles and test artillery firing radars.
Of the modern target ships, one can recall the project 436 bis, which includes 436BA and 436BR. In fact, this is an enlarged copy of the 455 project: a steel catamaran with a displacement of 142 tons, a length of 68 meters and a width of 8 meters. Corner reflectors in the amount of 11 pieces are installed on the tops of the masts, and a steel net is stretched between them. Interestingly, these Project 436 bis target ships were used to protect the Crimean Bridge. It was assumed that the Ukrainian ammunition, using a radar guidance head, would take the reflector placed on the mast as the main target and hit not the bridge, but the barge that was structurally designed for this.
In general, this thing is useful, a specialized target vessel. But there is nothing better than to shoot a real ship from among those decommissioned. We once used the decommissioned Japanese cruiser Tsushima and the destroyer Ognevoy for these purposes. During the RIMPAC exercises near the Hawaiian Islands in 2018, the Americans did not spare their old landing ship USS Racine, firing a total of 15 missiles from destroyers and coastal missile systems at it. An Australian anti-submarine aircraft also dropped an anti-submarine torpedo, but the ship remained afloat. Only the Los Angeles-class submarine of the US Navy was able to finish it off with a Mk 48 torpedo. But even after the fatal blow of the USS Racine, another hour remained afloat.
Invaluable practical experience that clearly shows what weapons are really worth, and what is only attributed to them, and what should be paid attention to when designing warships.
"Aircraft Carrier Killers"
That is why it is worth regretting that the Brazilian aircraft carrier was simply sunk peacefully, and did not become a unique target ship on which Russian anti-ship missiles could be tested in practice.
It is probably not an exaggeration to say that our entire naval doctrine is built around "aircraft carrier killers", which refers to various types of anti-ship missiles. Now our everything is the Zircon hypersonic missiles, which are considered irresistible by the existing sea-based air defense / missile defense systems. There are also Onyx anti-ship missiles and Caliber-NK missile launchers, which are carried, for example, by the Project 22350 frigate Admiral Gorshkov, currently located somewhere in the western part of the Atlantic Ocean. There, he conducts training firing with Zircons, demonstrating his determination to sink the US Navy AGU.
How great it would be if Moscow agreed with Brasilia in a timely manner that the restless Sao Paulo would not only be quietly sunk, but would become a target for Russian missiles. The displacement of the French aircraft carrier Foch R 99 of the Clemenceau class, as Sao Paulo used to be called, is over 32 thousand tons, length - 265 meters, width along the waterline - 32 meters, along the flight deck - 51,2 meters. The ship was equipped with two steam catapults and could carry up to 40 aircraft. It is clear that he is far from the American "Nimitz", but it was a real warship, and not some kind of imitation.
Sao Paulo had to go to the cut because of the strong wear and tear. His hull took on water, the ship lost its own course. In Turkey, it was not accepted due to the fact that asbestos, recognized as toxic, was widely used during construction, which was used by the French for fire safety. The Brazilians drove the decrepit aircraft carrier to a safe distance from the coast and sank at great depths. But what an absolutely unique experience of full-scale use of Zircons, Onyxes and Calibers would have turned out if our Ministry of Defense had agreed to “finish off” the ship with Russian anti-ship missiles!
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the opportunity to demonstrate the power of our missiles to the whole world has been missed. The old Kerch BOD was also peacefully disposed of in 2020, although it could have been a target for Onyxes and Calibers in the Black Sea.