23:29 GMT +320 May 2019
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    Russia's Black Sea Fleet - Top of the agenda again

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    The Yantar (Amber) shipyard in Kaliningrad, Russia's Baltic exclave, has to date built three more Project 11356 Talwar-class (Krivak-class) frigates for the Indian Navy and now plans to launch construction of similar warships for the Russian Navy's Black Sea Fleet, after winning a Defense Ministry contract.

    The Yantar (Amber) shipyard in Kaliningrad, Russia's Baltic exclave, has to date built three more Project 11356 Talwar-class (Krivak-class) frigates for the Indian Navy and now plans to launch construction of similar warships for the Russian Navy's Black Sea Fleet, after winning a Defense Ministry contract.

    The possibility of building Project 11356 warships for the Russian Navy was discussed back in the early 2000s, when the first three Talwar-class frigates were under construction. At that time only meager funds were allocated to the defense budget and Russia's leaders were divided on the navy's long-term development.

    By the mid-2000s, the Russian military agreed on the need to build frigate-class warships for the navy, so that they could support the less powerful corvettes already under construction.

    (Editor's note: Corvettes and frigates are multi-purpose guided-missile warships, the former operate in coastal and maritime areas and the latter on the oceans).

    Construction of the latest Project 22350 (Admiral Sergei Gorshkov class) frigates was launched. However, this innovation project had dual implications. On the one hand, these warships boast impressive specifications. On the other hand, construction is slow going at a time when the navy needs new ships soon.

    Large-scale construction of Project 22350 frigates cannot be launched before 2014-2015 because substantial experience of operating one or two lead ships, which are due to be commissioned in 2011 and 2012-2013 respectively, is required before construction of a large frigate series can begin. Consequently, while many naval ships need to be replaced today, warships are only set to be commissioned in the late 2010s.

    The situation is particularly acute for the Black Sea Fleet. It mainly comprises frigates and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) ships dating back to the 1970s. The service life of the fleet's flagship, the Moskva guided-missile cruiser, can certainly be extended thanks to its considerable modernization potential. Although built in the early 1980s, there is every chance the vessel will be redeployed away from Sevastopol, to the Pacific theater.

    The Black Sea Fleet is expected to become one of Russia's most active fleets, projecting its naval power out into the Mediterranean Sea and across the Indian Ocean. Given these circumstances, the immediate renovation of the Black Sea Fleet is no longer merely desirable, it is essential.

    Against that backdrop, the "Indian" project, based on the Soviet-era Project 1135 Burevestnik (Storm Petrel)/Krivak class frigates, has proved a real godsend. The shipbuilding industry has proved that it can produce a desirable, versatile vessel that performs excellently, in under three years. This would seem to be a perfect solution to the problem. However, the new frigate's operating systems no longer match the Russian Navy's requirements. Notably, the 3S-90 Uragan (SA-N-7 Gadfly) surface-to-air missile (SAM) system has a single-channel deck launcher that lacks sufficient air-defense density by today's standards, and there are issues with its radio-electronic equipment and combat-control systems.

    Upgraded Project 11356 frigates will feature new-generation equipment, including 3R-14-UKSK-X* (UKSK) multi-purpose ship-borne firing systems and the Sigma combat-control system.

    Consequently, the modified Project 11356 frigate will be somewhat smaller than her sister ship, displacing only 4,000 (rather than 4,500) metric tons. She will also have a 100-mm multipurpose artillery system, while her sister ship is fitted with a 130-mm gun. Unlike the Project 11356 frigate, the Project 22350 stealth frigate's design features a greater range of components that work to reduce its radar visibility.

    Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky, Commander of the Russian Navy, said the Black Sea Fleet is to receive five new frigates by 2015. This will make it possible to replace all operational frigates that have outlived their service life, in addition to the Kerch ASW ship.

    A great deal depends on the successful implementation of this program, including replacements for other Russian fleets, currently operating rapidly aging warships. Other shipyards may be involved in the construction program, if the Yantar shipyard delivers on this order successfully.

    The success of the "Indian contract" proves the Yantar shipyard's ability to build top-quality ships quickly, suggesting that this project has every chance of success. The only problem is making sure the project has regular funding.

    The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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