Russia has the world’s largest coastline to defend and when you have to guard such a huge area, numbers become very important. That’s the reason Russia has maintained a large fleet of fast, well-armed missile boats and corvettes to complement its powerful surface fleet from the 1960’s. They also have a large number of diesel submarines to complement their fleet of nuclear submarines. This fleet of fast attack boats, corvettes and diesel submarines is perfect for littoral warfare. They have the speed, sensors and the ability to operate in shallow and restricted waters with great effect. The Soviet Union maintained an enormous fleet of such ships and the present Russian Navy operates fewer but more capable versions of littoral warfare ships. They are building these vessels in large numbers in order to rebuild and modernize the Russian Navy and replace the obsolete ships.
The Russian policy for littoral warfare ships is drastically different from the American one. Russian littoral ships are heavily armed with guns and anti-ship missiles and their duty is to protect the Russian territorial waters, launch massed attacks against enemy aircraft carriers and support amphibious landings with gun and rocket fire. Whereas the American policy requires the LCS to hunt small boats, submarines and mines. Hence both these nations have totally different ships which they classify as littoral combatants. Russia uses the term ‘corvette’ for its littoral warfare ships and they can be optimized for a variety of combat roles.
The current Russian fleet consists of a mixture of modern and Soviet era corvettes which displace between 500-2500 tons. The Soviet era corvettes are being steadily replaced by modern equivalents. The Russian navy currently operates Surface warfare, Anti-Submarine warfare and multi role corvettes.
The most powerful corvette in the Russian Navy is undoubtedly the Stereguschy class. This 2500 ton multipurpose corvette is heavily armed with anti-ship, anti-air and anti-submarine weapons and is unmatched by any warship in the world in this category. They are officially classified as littoral escort ships, but are suited for blue water operations too owing to their design, sensor and weapons fit. They have powerful air and surface search radars and fire control systems. A bow mounted sonar and towed array sonar enable it to detect enemy submarines. Its weapon load includes
- 1x 100mm gun
- 8x Kh-35 Anti-Ship missiles
- 12 Redut VLS for 12 9M96E (120 km range) SAMs or 48 9M100 (10 km range) SAMs (First ship has Kashtan)
- 2×4 Paket Anti-torpedo and Anti-submarine torpedo system
- 2x Ak-630 Gatling guns
- 14.5 mm machine guns
Photo © TLAM Strike 2010
The most incredible thing Is that this ship is as heavily armed as a 4000 ton frigate and costs less than 200 million $. Its successor, the Gremyashchy class will have 8 Yakhont AShM and 16 Redut VLS which will further increase the firepower. This shows that the Russians are capable of packing the firepower and sensors of large ships into smaller ones without compromising anything else. It has a helicopter deck and a hangar from which a Ka-27 ASW helicopter can be operated. It is incredible that this ship has the Paket ASW torpedo system which can be used against enemy submarines AND torpedoes. Yes, it is a multipurpose ASW and Anti torpedo system and it has received no media attention unlike its single purpose western counterpart.
Russia operates the quiet and deadly Kilo class diesel electric submarines. They have been in production since the 1980’s and the recent versions have been modernized to fire the Klub anti-ship missiles from its torpedo tubes. It’s low-cost and high effectiveness make them a deadly force in the littoral regions. Lurking in the shallow North Sea and Barents Sea waters, they can pose a threat to incoming hostile amphibious forces, carriers and surface warships. These subs have seen large export orders and have become popular due to their reliability, cost and firepower. The latest diesel submarine in the Russian Navy is the Lada class. It’s supposed to be a modified and upgraded replacement for Kilo class. These two classes of diesel submarines will form the backbone of the Russian underwater littoral force for decades to come.
Russia also operate a fleet of 600 ton shallow water ASW vessels. These ships are actually left over from the Soviet era and are pretty outdated. They are armed with torpedo tubes and short-range Anti-submarine rocket launchers. Their sensors include a short-range radar and bow mounted sonar. These ships are due to be replaced in the coming years but are currently serving the purpose of an ASW patrol craft and the heavier and main ASW is now left to the Stereguschy class.
The Buyan class is designed to replace dozens of soviet era missile boats with a class of ship that has 4x the range and firepower. The earlier Buyans aren’t meant for heavy combat. They are usually tasked with offshore patrolling and used in fore support roles during amphibious landings. They have the perfect weapons to do so. A 100 mm gun and a 40 Barrel Grad rocket launcher provide devastating firepower to the ship which can bombard hostile beaches and enemy position with ease. These weapons have a range of 10-20 km, so the Buyans can stay out of the horizon and provide fire support from a safe distance. This ship is an example of how the Russians can build inexpensive ships which can do multiple tasks with maximum efficiency.
The latest version of the Buyan class corvette is the Buyan-M. This is equipped with long-range anti-ship missiles and short-range SAMs unlike its predecessor Buyan which had an entirely gun armament. Their main offensive package consists of a 100 mm gun and 8 Klub/Yakhont anti-ship missiles which is a very deadly combination. It gives them the ability to engage enemy warships more than 200 km away. The drawback of this class of surface warfare corvettes is their vulnerability to submarines due to the absence of ASW systems. They are protected from air attacks by Igla SAMs which has been modified to intercept sea skimming missiles but has a range of just 4 km. But they will be usually accompanied by ASW assets during war.
Russia has cleverly managed to build a large fleet of littoral warfare vessels which are perfectly suited for the Russian territorial waters. Since their waters and doctrine vastly differ from the western ones, their ships are vastly different too. They cannot be compared with the American LCS which have a different role to perform even though they belong to the same category. Overall, Russia has maintained the best littoral warfare capability in the world which will only be enhanced in the coming years.
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6 Replies to “Littoral Warfare : Part 3 : Russia’s Deadly Fleet”
I love your articles dude! I recommended this site to my friendlist. I dunno your country but I’m a defence kid, so I know all the brats out there 🙂 They find this stuff interesting. Please post the Indian LCS article 😀
BTW, Great job 😀
Thank you 🙂 I am working in several other articles at the moment. So I’ll try to publish one on Indian littoral warfare vessels later. 🙂
One of the things that you did not mention was crew size and accommodation. During the cold war, the RUSSIAN NAVAL VESSELS frequently out gunned the U.S. VESSELS, but did so at the cost of endurance, crew comfort and versatility. How will a small, but heavily armed, cramped and uncomfortable ship perform during the 2nd or 3rd or even 4th month on a deployed mission?
The fact that obviously has never been realized in the west is capability of Russians in general, so as their soldiers/seamen to sustain discomfort, lack of basic supplies etc. for a long period.