Thursday, May 18, 2017

What Blue Water Missions Does Russia Need?

In another article on Russia's plan to rely on multi-mission frigates for their navy to have a "blue water" capability, one glaring omission stands. What blue water missions does Russia want to achieve?

I noted the frigate focus (in the most recent data dump):

Does Russia plan a frigate-centric fleet? That's closer to what Russia should have given that a major fleet investment is a source of weakness for the defense of Russia. (And given the land threats to NATO, I'd be content if Russia spent scarce money in a futile attempt to match NATO navies.) But even this frigate plan seems like an overreach for their high end warship given the trend in Russian shipbuilding that is leaving a smaller, older, and smaller tonnage navy (oh, and Ukraine won't sell the engines needed!) in contrast to the Chinese building program that has aimed for a newer and more balanced fleet with high-end blue water ships.

This article discusses it, too. But the only purpose given is for blue water--the deep waters of the oceans away from the shores--missions in the North Atlantic and eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The latter makes sense. It keeps Western ships from the southwest direction at bay from Russian territory. It builds on the conquest of Crimea as the launching pad for deployments in the eastern Mediterranean Sea that is bolstered by intervening in Syria to preserve a naval base option there.

Although countries in the eastern Mediterranean certainly make do with smaller ships tied to nearby bases. Does Russia have so little confidence in their Syria base to provide that resupply point for smaller ships that they want ships capable of longer deployments without resupply?

That leaves us with the North Atlantic as the location for Russian blue water capabilities.

What will they do in the North Atlantic? In the Cold War, the mission was clear: stop American and Canadian troops and supplies from crossing the Atlantic to reinforce NATO under assault by massed Soviet armor trying to conquer West Germany.

What is the point now? Does Russia really think that they need that capability again?

Russian blue water navy ambitions are a vanity item lingering from the glory days of the Soviet fleet that bear no relation to what Russia needs: coastal defense, ballistic missile subs for a nuclear deterrent, and the subs, ships, and aircraft to protect those SSBNs in bastions close to Russian shores.

Anything more is a wasteful drain on Russian resources needed for ground forces and the air power to support them to hold a very long land border that spans a distance from the Baltic Sea to the Bering Strait.

So I'm fine with Russia's plans to invest in their navy.