Surface Forces: Small Treasures

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February 6, 2019: At the end of 2018 the Russian Navy achieved a rare feat, it put into service the first of two classes of new warships and did it on time. The first of 22 Karakurt (Project 22800) Corvettes entered service in the Baltic Sea. Nine more are in various states of construction in three shipyards. This is a new type of coastal corvette that is more capable on the open seas. Some of them are being built in the Crimean shipyards Russia acquired in 2014 when they basically took Crimea from Ukraine. Russia has been building a lot more small corvettes since the 1990s for a number of reasons. First, the Russian shipyards have proved more effective in building these small (under 1,000 tons) ships. Then there is the great need for heavily armed corvettes to serve as a low-cost patrol vessel that can handle just about anything it runs into during coastal patrols and can even be useful in wartime. Finally, there is a growing export market for this type of ship.

The Karakurts are 800 ton ships that are 65 meters (213 feet) long and have a top speed of 56 kilometers an hour. They are armed with one 76mm cannon, eight launch tubes holding 1.2 ton 3K14 Kalibr anti-ship missiles (range 300 kilometers) or P800 anti-ship missiles (range 600 kilometers), two 14.5mm machine-guns, two AK-630 multibarrel 30mm autocannon for close range defense against missiles and aircraft and 32 57E6 anti-aircraft missiles (range 20 kilometers). There is also a launching pad for large helicopter UAVs. The crew of 30 can stay at sea for 15 days at a time before needing to refuel and resupply. Each Karakurt cost approximately $30 million.

Further south, in the Black Sea, the first of six Project 22160 patrol ship, of the Vasily Bykov class, entered service. This is a larger, 1,300 to 1,700 ton (depending on weapons carried) OPV (offshore patrol vessel). These ships are 94 meters (308 feet) long and normally lightly armed with one 76mm or 57mm rapid fire gun, two 14.5mm machine-guns and a DP-64 or DP-65 underwater swimmer detection and grenade launcher system. The two DP systems come with a sonar that can detect and locate underwater swimmers and the grenade launchers send out miniature depth charges that will kill or incapacitate the underwater swimmers. These two systems are often used for protecting ports or anchorages. The ship also has a helicopter pad and a large space for installing additional weapons like Kaliber cruise missiles or Paket NK anti-submarine/anti-torpedo torpedoes. The Paket system also comes with a sonar that can detect subs or incoming torpedoes. The Paket 324mm torpedoes can attack either. The ship has a top speed of 55 kilometers an hour and there is fuel and provisions on board to keep the ship and crew of 80 at sea for up to 60 days. Potential export customers are already interested mainly because of the variety of weapon and equipment options for this OPV, which can cost up to $80 million each depending on accessories.

The Russian navy, because of budget cuts, has suspended or canceled work on many new larger ships and subs leaving the Navy to apply all its procurement efforts to obtaining smaller ships on budget and on time. Not only are the smaller ships cheaper but they can be built quickly and are easier to monitor for quality control. The shipyards producing these smaller ships know they are fortunate because so many other years have had construction contracts canceled or suspended.

 


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