Forces: The Incredible, Inevitable Shrinking Russian Fleet


March 18, 2006: Russia recently did a study of their navy and found that, because of the age of their ships, and the lack of maintenance since the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, the fleet would be reduced to sixty seaworthy warships and submarines in ten years. Because of its geography, the Russian navy is divided into four widely separated fleets (North, Pacific, Baltic and Black Sea). Assuming that the fleet is divided equally into four parts, in a decade, the Baltic Sea Fleet would be inferior to the nearby Swedish and Finnish fleets. The Black Sea fleet would be inferior to the nearby Turkish navy.

The study backs what the admirals have been saying since the late 1990s. Without a lot more money spent on ship construction, the mighty Russian fleet will soon disappear. At the moment, Russian legislators are not willing to buy the large subs and warships built by the Soviet Union. However, cheaper, and smaller, coastal defense, ships are under construction. These include corvettes and patrol boats. Fortunately, this is a worldwide trend that even the United States is into. But there is still some support for nuclear submarines, which the Soviet Union spent hundreds of billions of dollars developing the technology for in the last half century. But building new nuclear boats is going to cost the Russians at least a billion dollars each. Russia has never had great need for a powerful fleet high seas fleet, and has never done very well with the warships it did have. So getting the money to rebuild a large fleet will be a tough sell, and unlikely to succeed.


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