Surface Forces: Overdue Minesweepers

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July 6, 2023: Russia is slowly upgrading its minesweeper force with the 890-ton Aleksandrit class ships. The first one entered service in 2016. The seventh entered service in 2023 and 40 are planned. Currently only four more are under construction but it is uncertain if money will be available to build more any time soon because of the cuts to the naval budget. This is a side-effect of the unexpected high costs of the Ukraine War effort. When construction of these ships began in 2015, the plan was to have ten in service by 2025 and 30 by 2050.

Most of the Russian warships are based in the north at bases near the Norwegian border. The other major fleet bases are in the Far East. Near the borders with China and North Korea. Smaller bases are in the Baltic and Black Seas. All are vulnerable to hostile forces laying mines via submarine or aircraft. Current naval mines are designed to be more difficult to detect and disable.

Meanwhile the remaining Cold War era 450-ton Sonya-class minesweepers are fading away. Only 19 of these wooden-hull ships are still in Russian service. A total of 72 were built between 1971 and 1991. Most were exported to Soviet allies and some of those remain in service as well. Sonya’s have a crew of 43 and endurance of ten days. There are no plans to export Aleksandrit class ships because Russian shipyards cannot produce such ships quickly enough to supply Russian needs as well as export customers.

Aleksandrit class ships are sturdier, better armed and equipped than the Sonya’s. The new boats are similar in that they have a crew of 45 and endurance of 10 days.

 

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