Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Russia expanding naval base facilities in the Pacific

The expansion and modernization of the two Russian main naval bases in the Pacific starts this week. On Monday Russian Defense minister Sergei Shoigu inspected the naval base of Kamchatka where most of the Russian nuclear submarines in the Pacific are stationed. With the planned deployment of Russia’s newest submarines, the Yasen-class attack submarines and the Borei-class missile submarines, new facilities to accommodate these submarines are being built. These construction works are to be completed by the end of the year when the latest two Borei-class submarines are expected to be deployed in the Pacific.

Construction works at the naval base of Vladivostok, home of the Russian Pacific surface fleet, started on Tuesday. These construction works are done so that the naval base can accommodate the two Russian Mistral class amphibious ships, both being built in France. The first ship, the Vladivostok is to be handed over to the Russian Navy on November 1, 2014 with the second one, the Sevastopol, to be handed over in 2015. The construction works are expected to be finished by the beginning of 2018. By then it is expected that the Russian Navy will have  trained the crews of these two ships and will have a good understanding of how these ships work and how they can be effectively deployed before sending them towards the Pacific.

With these modernizations Russia is now committed to make its own Asian pivot so that it can support and increase its current naval presence in the Pacific. China’s increasing military rise in this area has sparked a naval build up in this area by South Korea, Japan and the United States. These major players have all increased the size of their navies as a response to China’s growing naval presence. In the case of the United States this is done by deploying 60% of its fleet in the Pacific compared to only 40% during the Cold War when the Atlantic Ocean was the main theater for the US Navy.

This build up, if uncontested, will put Russia in a weaker position concerning political influence in the region. The aging infrastructure of its naval bases in this region don’t allow for an increase in the amount of ships Russia can deploy in the Pacific. In order to secure its position as an Asiatic player Russia has to follow the example of its neighbours by increasing its naval presence.

Russia’s time frame for the completion of the modernization of the Vladivostok naval base is 2018. This coincides with earlier statements that Russia is aiming for the year 2020 to have a substantial presence in the Pacific. Russia is also working on the modernization of 2 decommissioned Kirov class battlecruisers, the Admiral Lazarev and the Admiral Nakhimov. These ships are expected to return into service between 2018 and 2020 and are most likely to be deployed in the Pacific.


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