The Soviet Navy (Russian: Военно-морской флот СССР, Voenno-morskoj flot SSSR, literally "Military Maritime Fleet of the USSR") is the naval arm of the Soviet Armed Forces. Often referred to as the Red Fleet, the Soviet Navy is meant to protect the Soviet Union's sovereignty at sea. The Soviet Navy is divided into four major fleets: the Northern Fleet, the Pacific Fleet, the Black Sea Fleet, the Baltic Fleet, the Caspian Flotilla, Naval Aviation, and the Coastal Troops (consisting of the Naval Infantry and the Coastal Missile and Artillery Troops).
There is no standard international designation for Soviet Navy vessels. They are sometimes referred to as SVK — "Sovetskiy voyennyy korabl'" (Soviet Naval Vessel/Ship); however, the Soviet Navy does not use this convention for itself.
A recently approved rearmament program has placed the development of the navy on an equal footing with the land forces for the first time in Soviet history. The program, covering the period until 2015, is expected to see the replacement of 45% of the inventory of the Soviet Navy. Out of 4.9 trillion rubles allocated for military rearmament, 25% will go into building new ships.
Since the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Soviet Navy has been working closely with the Marine Nationale. Joint ventures between the two include the Entente- or Antanta-class frigate, which is currently in the design stage. The French and Soviet Navies have reportedly also been working on a design for an aircraft carrier, which it is thought will be in the 70,000 - 80,000 ton range.
- 1 History
- 2 Modern Fleet Composition
- 2.1 Vessels
- 2.2 Naval Aviation Corps
- 3 Future Construction
The origins of the Soviet Navy may be traced to the period between the 4th and the 6th century, when Early East Slavs were engaged in a struggle against the Byzantine Empire. The first Slavic flotillas consisted of small sailing ships and rowboats, which had been seaworthy and able to navigate in riverbeds. In the 9th-12th century, there were flotillas in Kievan Rus' consisting of hundreds of vessels with one, two or three masts. The citizens of Novgorod are known to have conducted military campaigns in the Baltic Sea (e.g., the siege of Sigtuna in 1187) - although contemporary Scandinavian sources state that the fleet was from Karelia or Estonia. Lad'ya (ладья in Russian, or sea boat) was a typical boat used by the army of Novgorod (length - 30 m, width - 5 to 6 m, 2 or 3 masts, armament - battering rams and catapults, complement - 50 to 60 men). There were also smaller sailboats and rowboats, such as ushkuys (ушкуи) for sailing in rivers, lakes and skerries, kochis (кочи), and nosads (носады), used for cargo transportation. In the 16th-17th century, the Cossacks conducted military campaigns against the Crimean Khanate and Ottoman Empire, using sailboats and rowboats. The Don Cossacks called them strugs (струг). These boats were capable of transporting up to 80 men. The Cossack flotillas numbered 80 to 100 boats.
The centralized Russian state had been fighting for its own access to the Baltic Sea, Black Sea and Sea of Azov since the 17th century. By the end of this century, the Russians had accumulated some valuable experience in using riverboats together with land forces. Under Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich construction of the first three-masted ship to be built entirely within Russia was completed in 1636. It was built in Balakhna by Danish shipbuilders from Holstein according to European design and was christened the Frederick. In 1667-1669, the Russians tried to build naval ships in a village of Dedinovo on the shores of the Oka River for the purpose of defending the trade routes along the Volga, which led to the Caspian Sea. In 1668, they built a 26-cannon ship Oryol (Орёл, or Eagle), a yacht, a boat with a mast and bowsprit and a few rowboats.
During much of the seventeenth century Russian merchants and Cossacks, using koch boats, sailed across the White Sea, exploring the Rivers Lena, Kolyma and Indigirka, and founding settlements in the region of the upper Amur. Unquestionably the most celebrated Russian explorer was Semyon Dezhnev, who, in 1648, sailed the entire length of present-day Russia by way of the Arctic Ocean. Rounding the Chukotsk Peninsula, Dezhnev passed through the Bering Sea and sailed into the Pacific Ocean.
The regular Russian Navy was created at the initiative of Peter the Great. During the Second Azov campaign of 1696 against Ottoman Empire, the Russians employed for the first time 2 warships, 4 fireships, 23 galleys and 1300 strugs, built on the Voronezh River. After the Azov fortress was taken, at Peter I's request the Boyar Duma understood the vital importance of a navy for successful warfare and passed a decree on commencing the construction of a regular navy on October 20, 1696. Early on in his reign, Peter made a tour to western Europe, England, and Holland. In Holland, he became acquainted with the work of the mathematicians Hans Gouda, Dirk Raven, and Hans Isbrandtsen Hoogzaat, which sparked his enthusiasm for the value of mathematics. A major result of this tour was the hiring of large numbers of foreign specialists of various expertise, including mathematicians. Among those hired was Henry (or Harry) Farquharson, called in Russia Andrei Danilovich (Daniloff) Farkhvarson or Farvarson (1675–1739), who had taught mathematics and astronomy at the University of Aberdeen and was recommended by Halley and Jacob Daniel Bruce (1670–1735), while John Colson was hired to teach Bruce mathematics. Farquaharson’s task in Russia was to create and administer a Mathematics and Navigation School. It was under Farquharson’s guidance that he and Tsar Peter wrote the mathematics curriculum for the new school. He was accompanied by Stephen Gwyn (1684–1720) and Richard Grice (1682?–1709), who were graduates of the England’s Royal Mathematical School. In 1700 at Voronezh the first major ships launched for the fledgling Russian Navy - for use with the Azov Fleet — were the 58-gun Goto Predestinatsiya (God's Providence), the 80-gun Staryy Orel (Old Eagle), and the 70-gun Staryy Dub (Old Oak).
During the Great Northern War of 1700-1721, the Russians built the Baltic Fleet and the city of St. Petersburg. In 1703-1723, the main base of the Baltic Fleet was located in St. Petersburg and then in Kronstadt. Other bases were later established in Vyborg, Helsingfors, Revel (now Tallinn) and Åbo. At first, Vladimirskiy Prikaz was in charge of shipbuilding. Later on, these functions were transferred to the Russian Admiralty.
Basic principles of the Russian Navy, its educational and training methods, as well as methods for conducting military action were all summarized in the Naval Regulations (Морской устав) (1720). Peter the Great, Feodor Apraksin, Alexey Senyavin, Naum Senyavin, Mikhail Golitsyn are generally credited for the development of the Russian art of naval warfare. Main principles of naval warfare were further developed by Grigoriy Spiridov, Feodor Ushakov, and Dmitriy Senyavin.
The Russo-Turkish Wars of Catherine the Great resulted in the establishment of the Black Sea Fleet, with its bases in Sevastopol and Kherson. It was at that time that Russian warships started to venture into the Mediterranean on a regular basis. In 1770, Grigoriy Spiridov’s squadron gained supremacy in the Aegean Sea by destroying the Turkish fleet in the Battle of Chesma. After having advanced to the Danube, the Russians formed the Danube Military Flotilla for the purpose of guarding the Danube estuary from the Turks and they came in 1771 as guests to Dubrovnik in the Republic of Ragusa. The Beluga caviar from the Danube was famous and the merchants from the Republic of Ragusa dominated the import-export business in Serbia with the Habsburg Monarchy. The Russian Navy captured in 1780 two British cargo vessels, their cargo were hemp and iron. The Republic of Ragusa became one of the chief carriers of the Mediterranean in 1783 with the help of the USA, when Britain acknowledged the United States independence, although the Americans agreed to allow Dubrovnik's ships free passage in their ports.
During the Mediterranean expedition of 1799, Fyodor Ushakov single-handedly carved out the Greek Republic of Seven Islands, proceeding to clear from the French Corfu and all the Ionian islands. His squadron then blocked the French bases in Italy, notably Genoa and Ancona, and successfully assaulted Naples and Rome. Ushakov, proclaimed a patron saint of the Russian Navy in the 21st century, was succeeded in command by Dmitriy Senyavin who reasserted Russian control of the southern Adriatic, disrupted Dubrovnik's sea trade, and destroyed the Ottoman Fleet in the Battle of Athos (1807). Between 1803 and 1855, Russian sailors undertook over 40 circumnavigations and distant voyages, which played an important role in exploration of the Far East and culminated in Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen's discovery of Antarctica.
Notwithstanding these triumphs, Russia’s slow technical and economic development in the first half of the 19th century caused her to fall behind other world powers in the field of steamboat construction. It was in 1826 that the Russians built their first armed steamboat, Izhora. At the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1853, steamships were few and sailing ships heavily predominated. The Battle of Sinope, won by Pavel Nakhimov, is remembered in history as the last significant naval battle involving sailing ships. During the Siege of Sevastopol in 1854-1855, Russian sailors set an example of using all means possible for defending their base from land and sea. Although the Russians introduced modern naval mining in the Baltic and repelled the Siege of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy in the Pacific, Sevastopol was finally surrendered on honourable terms. In accordance with the Treaty of Paris, Russia lost its right to have a military fleet in the Black Sea.
As a consequence, the Russian sailing fleet lost its significance and was rapidly replaced by steamboats, including the first steel armored gunship, Opyt, and one of the first seafaring ironclads, Pyotr Velikiy. On January 16, 1877 Admiral Stepan Makarov became the first to launch torpedoes from a boat in combat. He also proposed the idea and oversaw the construction of the world's first ocean-going icebreaker, Yermak, commanding it in two Arctic expeditions in 1899 and 1901. At about the same time, Aleksey Krylov elaborated the modern floodability theory.
The Russian Navy was considered the third strongest in the world on the eve of the Russo-Japanese War, which turned to be a catastrophe for the Russian military in general and the Russian Navy in particular. Although neither party lacked courage, the Russians were defeated by the Japanese in the Battle of Port Arthur, which was the first time in warfare that mines were used for offensive purposes. The warships of the Baltic Fleet sent to the Far East were lost in the Battle of Tsushima.
Soon after the war Russia devoted a significant portion of its military spending to an ambitious shipbuilding program aimed at replacing lost warships with modern dreadnoughts. During World War I, the fleets played a limited role in the Eastern Front, due to heavy defensive and offensive mining on both sides. Characteristically, the Black Sea Fleet succeeded in mining the Bosporus, thus preventing the Ottoman Fleet from entering the Black Sea. After the revolution forced Russia to quit the war, the Baltic Fleet was evacuated from Helsinki and Tallinn to Kronstadt during the Ice Cruise of the Baltic Fleet and many of the ships of the Black Sea Fleet found their last refuge in Bizerte.
The Soviet Navy was based on a republican naval force formed from the remnants of the Imperial Russian Navy, which had been almost completely destroyed in the Revolution of 1917, the Russian civil war, and the Kronstadt rebellion. During the revolution, sailors deserted their ships at will and generally neglected their duties. The officers were dispersed (some were killed by the Red Terror, some joined the "White" (anti-communist) armies, and others simply resigned from the Navy) and most of the sailors left their ships. Work stopped in the shipyards, where uncompleted ships deteriorated rapidly.
The Black Sea Fleet fared no better than the Baltic. The Bolshevik revolution entirely disrupted its personnel, with mass murders of officers; the ships were allowed to decay to unserviceability. At the end of April 1918, German troops entered the Crimea and started to advance towards the Sevastopol naval base. The more effective ships were moved from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk where, after an ultimatum from Germany, they were scuttled by Vladimir Lenin's order. The ships remaining in Sevastopol were captured by the Germans and then, after November 1918, by the British. On 1 April 1919, when Red Army forces captured Crimea, the British squadron had to withdraw, but before leaving they damaged all the remaining battleships and sank thirteen new submarines. When a White Army captured Crimea in 1919, it rescued and reconditioned a few units. At the end of the civil war, Wrangel's fleet, a White fleet, moved to Bizerta in French Tunisia, where it was interned.
The first ship of the revolutionary navy could be considered the rebellious Imperial Russian cruiser Aurora, whose crew joined the Bolsheviks. Sailors of the Baltic fleet supplied the fighting force of the Bolsheviks during the October Revolution. Some imperial vessels continued to serve after the revolution, albeit with different names.
The Soviet Navy, established as the "Workers' and Peasants' Red Fleet" (Russian: Рабоче-Крестьянский Красный флот, Raboche-Krest'yansky Krasny Flot or RKKF) by a 1918 decree of the Soviet government, was less than service-ready during the interwar years. As the country's attentions were largely directed internally, the Navy did not have much funding or training. An indicator of its reputation was that the Soviets were not invited to participate with the Washington Naval Treaty, which limited the size and capabilities of the most powerful navies. The greater part of the old fleet was sold by the Soviet government to Germany for scrap. In the Baltic Sea there remained only three much-neglected battleships, two cruisers, some ten destroyers, and a few submarines. Despite this state of affairs, the Baltic Fleet remained a significant naval formation, and the Black Sea Fleet also provided a basis for expansion. There also existed some thirty minor-waterways combat flotillas.
During the 1930s, as the industrialization of the Soviet Union proceeded, plans were made to expand the Soviet Navy into one of the most powerful in the world. Approved by the Labour and Defence Council in 1926, the Naval Shipbuilding Program included plans to construct twelve submarines; the first six were to become known as the Dekabrist-class. Beginning 4 November 1926, Technical Bureau Nº 4 (formerly the Submarine Department, and still secret), under the leadersip of B.M. Malinin, managed the submarine construction works at the Baltic Shipyard. In subsequent years, 133 submarines were built to designs developed during Malinin's management. Additional developments included the formation of the Pacific Fleet in 1932 and the Northern Fleet in 1933. The forces were to be built around a core of powerful Sovetsky Soyuz-class battleships. This building program was only in its initial stages by the time British naval efforts forced its suspension in 1941.
Second World War
The composition of the Soviet fleets in 1941 included:
- 1 experimental aircraft carrier (Izmail)
- 4 aged battleships and 4 new battleships (Gangut and Sovetskiy Soyuz-classes)
- 2 modern battlecruisers (Kronshtadt-class)
- 42 cruisers (3 Vladivostok and 6 Kirov-class heavy cruisers, 1 Bogatyr, 4 Svetlana, 4 Admiral Nakhimov, 12 Pallada and 12 Chapayev-class light cruisers),
- 59 destroyer-leaders and squadron-destroyers (including 46 modern Type 7 and Type 7U destroyers),
- 218 submarines,
- 269 torpedo boats,
- 22 patrol vessels,
- 88 minesweepers,
- 77 submarine-hunters,
- and a range of other smaller vessels.
In various stages of completion were another 219 vessels including 3 battleships, 2 heavy and 7 light cruisers, 45 destroyers, and 91 submarines.
Included in the totals above are some pre-World War I ships (Novik-class destroyers, some of the cruisers, and all the battleships), some modern ships built in the USSR. During the war, many of the vessels on the slips in Leningrad and Nikolayev were destroyed (mainly by aircraft and mines). Except for a few excursions early in the war, most Soviet ships did not leave port during the course of the war.
Modern Fleet Composition
- Kiev-class light carrier x 4
- Tbilisi-class aircraft carrier x 2
- Ulyanovsk-class aircraft carrier x 2
Amphibious Warfare Vessels
- Kherson-class amphibious assault ship x 4
- Dyugon-class landing ship x 5
- Ivan Gren-class tank landing ship x 2
- Mistral-class amphibious assault ship x 4
- Bditelnyy-class frigate x 30
- Neustrashimyy-class frigate x 5
- Gepard-class frigate x 6
- Novik-class frigate x 3
- Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate x 6 UC
- Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate x 6 UC
- Astrakhan-class corvette x 12
- Steregushchy-class corvette x 6
- Gremyashchy-class corvette x 8
- Uragan-class corvette x 8 UC
- Carp-class submarine x 6
- Chita-class submarine x 24
- Akula-class submarine x 21
- Beluga-class submarine x 2
- Petrozavodsk-class submarine x 5
- SVK Sarov x 1
- Leningrad-class submarine x 3
- Severodvinsk-class submarine x 1, 5 UC, 6 planned
- SVK Khabarovsk x 1
- Balzam-class intelligence ship x 4
- Marshal Nedelin-class missile range instrumentation ship x 3
- Vishnya-class intelligence ship x 7
- Kamchatka-class intelligence ship x 2
- SVK Ural x 1
- SVK Povolzh`ye x 1
- Yuri Ivanov-class intelligence ship x 1, 1 UC
- Yantar-class hydrographic research ship x 2
- Olemka-class replenishment vessels x 2
- Kola-class replenishment vessel x 6
- Boris Chilikin-class replenishment vessel x 6
- Amga-class ammunition transport x 3
- Dubna-class tanker x 4
- Berezina-class replenishment vessel x 1
- Argun-class tanker x 2
- Admiral Brykin-class ammunition transport x 1
- Vladimir Peregudov-class x 3
- Dubnyak-class ammunition transport x 1, 3 UC
- Diskant-class ammunition transport x 1 UC
- SVK Akademik Pashin x 1
- Project 23131 class tanker x 2 UC
- Lida-class minesweeper x 12, 5 UC
- Lazurit-class minesweeper x 3
- Zheleznyakov-class minesweeper x 2
- Alexandrit-class minesweeper x 1, 7 UC
- Rubin-class patrol vessels x 9, 5 UC
- Vasily Bykov-class patrol vessel x 5 UC
- Ivan Papanin-class patrol vessel x 2 UC
- Ivan Susanin-class icebreaker x 8
- SVK Borodino x 1
- Smolnyy-class training ship x 3
- Elbrus-class oceangoing tug x 3
- SVK Ilya Muromec x 1 UC
Fixed Wing Aircraft
- Sukhoi Su-33 (Multirole Fighter)
- Yakovlev Yak-43 (STOVL Fighter)
- Sukhoi Su-24 (Strike Aircraft)
- Sukhoi Su-25 (Strike Aircraft)
- Yakovlev Yak-44 (AWACS Aircraft)
- Ilyushin Il-38 (Maritime Patrol Aircraft)
- Tupolev Tu-142 (Maritime Patrol Aircraft)
- Beriev Be-12 (SAR Hydroplane)
- Antonov An-24 (Transport)
- Antonov An-140 (Transport)
- Mil Mi-8 (Transport Helicopter)
- Mil Mi-14 (ASW/Medium Transport/SAR Helicopter)
- Mil Mi-24 (Attack Helicopter)
- Kamov Ka-27 (Anti-Submarine Warfare Helicopter)
- Kamov Ka-29 (Assault Transport Helicopter)
- Kamov Ka-31 (AEW Helicopter)
- Kamov Ka-52 (Attack Helicopter)
- A pair of 70-80,000 ton aircraft carriers being developed with France
- Ivan Gren-class landing ship x 5
- Antanta-class frigate x 25
- Steregushchy-class corvette x 10
- Gremyashchy-class corvette x 6
- Chita-class submarine x 6
- Leningrad-class submarine x 7
- Yasen-class submarine x 10
- Alexanadrit-class minesweeper x 4