The Russian Navy Is Evolving Right Before Our Very Eyes

The Russian Navy Is Evolving Right Before Our Very Eyes

David Axe

Security,

The Russian navy’s transformation into a small-ship fleet has been accelerating. More large ships are decommissioning and smaller vessels — both new and upgraded — are taking their place, reshaping what was once a major global force into a new kind of regional fleet.

The Russian navy on Aug. 14, 2019 completed a key test of an upgraded missile corvette. The trial underscores the evolution of the Russian fleet from a force dominated by a few large vessels to one with a larger number of smaller ships.

The upgraded missile corvette Smerch conducted a live-fire exercise in the Sea of Japan, Russia’s state-run news agency TASS reported, citing the press office of Russia’s Pacific fleet.

“Today, in accordance with the plan of shipbuilders’ trials, the modernized small missile ship Smerch has held a series of missile firings against a naval and an air target,” the press office told TASS.

Smerch, a Nanuchka III-class corvette, displaces around 500 tons of water. Smerch launched in 1984.

After recent upgrades, Smerch boasts 30-millimeter and 76-millimeter guns, a battery of small surface-to-air missiles and Uran anti-ship missiles, which are equivalent to the U.S. Navy’s own Harpoon anti-ship missile.

Smerch is one of around 150 corvettes, patrol boats and mine-warfare ships in the Russian fleet. Each displaces just a few thousand or few hundred tons of water. The Russian navy operates fewer than 30 large, oceangoing frigates, destroyers and cruisers.

The U.S. Navy by contrast operates just a couple dozen small surface combatants and more than 100 large ones. The American and Russian fleets are opposites, each reflecting their country’s strategy, history, industry and geography.

The U.S. fleet, backed by a powerful, high-tech industry, favors large ships for their ability to deploy long distances in support of an interventionist foreign policy.

The Russian fleet, on the other hand, relies on outdated shipyards that reliably can produce only small vessels. Fortunately for Moscow, smaller ships are appropriate for Russia’s strategic focus on destabilizing, and occasionally invading, rivals just a short distance away along its own periphery.

The Russian navy’s transformation into a small-ship fleet has been accelerating. More large ships are decommissioning and smaller vessels — both new and upgraded — are taking their place, reshaping what was once a major global force into a new kind of regional fleet.

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