THE RUSSIAN NAVY: A
Washington, D.C.: Office of Naval
Intelligence, December 2015. 60 pp.
The Soviet Union imploded in
December 1991 and, almost immediately, the country’s armed forces
underwent a draconian decline.
Naval personnel were dismissed,
In the past few years, there has been a rehabilitation of
the Navy. A nuclear-propelled battle cruiser sailed into
the Caribbean and made port visits, the lone Russian aircraft carrier began deploying to the Mediterranean. And,
in late 2015, a frigate and three corvettes launched cruise
missiles from the Caspian Sea into targets in Syria, followed by a submarine in the eastern Mediterranean firing similar missiles into Syria. The long-delayed,
advanced nuclear-propelled cruise missile and ballistic-missile submarines also have begun joining the fleet.
In this context, the Office of Naval Intelligence’s “The
Russian Navy: A Historic Transition,” edited by naval in-
telligence specialist George Fedoroff, seeks to provide “a
basic introduction to the Russian Navy and an apprecia-
tion of current developments that will shape Russia’s
navy and its operations in the 21st Century.”
The paperback report of some 60 pages, plus several
pull-out charts and maps, provides an excellent “snap-
shot” of the current Russian Navy. The monograph
addresses: organizations, leadership, missions, naval
strategy, current ships, naval aviation, missiles, mines, tor-
pedoes and a brief history of the Russian-Soviet Navies.
Of particular interest is the final section: “Outlook.”
While predicting that “a modest” number of new class-
es of ships and submarines will be constructed in the next
few years, the monograph predicts that they will incorpo-
rate “the latest advances” in weapons; sensors; command,
control and communications; signature reduction; elec-
tronic countermeasures; automation; and habitability.
Although there are frequent references in the Russian
press and military publications about the future con-
struction of aircraft carriers — with as many as six
nuclear ships being mentioned — there does not appear
to be any observable movement in that direction. With
the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia lost its carrier-
building yard at Nikolayev in the Black Sea area of
Ukraine; though shipyards at Severodvinsk and St.
Petersburg probably could undertake the carrier project.
Also significant are changes in personnel policies as
the Russian Navy moves toward the “goal of a profession-
al, volunteer-based, highly skilled military … augmenting
the traditional obligated service conscription for all males
between the ages of 18 to 27.” In some respects, this
could be the most important impact on capabilities.
Under the Soviet regime, enlisted personnel were three-
year conscripts who could not be retained after their obli-
gated service as sailors. They could be sent to warrant offi-
cer school to become the equivalent of senior U.S. Navy
petty officers. But the personnel turnover and conscript
situation were a major problem and limitation of the
Soviet Navy. This new personnel approach — if successful
— could have a major impact on the Navy’s effectiveness.
Except for the passing reference in the brief discus-
sion of torpedoes, the book’s shortcomings include a lack
of discussion of anti-submarine warfare (ASW).
Similarly, satellites in ASW and ocean surveillance oper-
ations are not mentioned; they are key components of
Russian naval operations. There is short mention of rail-
guns and lasers, two significant areas of Russian activity.
The book is well illustrated with color photographs.
There is a large, four-page pullout chart of Russian fleet
components — ship-by-ship, a chart of new construction
ships and one of fleet bases and leadership. While the last
is useful, the space devoted to providing the names and
“mug shots” of the fleet commanders, deputies and chiefs
of staff is of very marginal — and transitory — value.
This publication succeeds the series “Understanding
Soviet Naval Developments,” published by the U.S. Navy
in several editions from 1974 to 1991. Hopefully, the
Office of Naval Intelligence will publish additional issues
of “The Russian Navy” at frequent intervals. It is an
important document for understanding the Russian Navy
under the forceful and hard-line Vladimir Putin.
“The Russian Navy: A Historic Transition” is available
as a pdf download at www.oni.navy.mil/Intelligence-Community/Russia ;
Norman Polmar is an analyst, consultant and author in the
naval and aviation fields. He is author of the first edition of
“Understanding Soviet Naval Developments.”
New Report Offers
‘Snapshot’ of Russian Navy
By NORMAN POLMAR