Russia keeps modernising its naval forces in order to create a blue water navy that is capable of challenging the US Navy on the high seas. In an earlier report we mentioned the bad state of the Russian surface fleet. Most of its surface combatants that form its blue water navy are very old and will probably retire within a decade. Frantic efforts to modernise old Kirov battlecruisers can be seen as a last effort to preserve Russia’s influence on the world’s oceans.
Over the past two decades Russia has been working to preserve her naval strength and several new warships have joined the Russian navy. Most of these surface warships however were all corvettes and frigates more aimed to protect Russia’s coastline and to form a green water navy capable of operating around 200 nautical miles out of the shoreline. Indeed, what Russia has been missing over the past years were large surface warships that can form a blue water navy. Central in a blue water navy are destroyers, cruisers and aircraft carriers.
The construction of new destroyers has been debated many times in the Russian media. There are many dates and programs being put forward over Russia’s new destroyers just as it is the case with the Russian plans for building a new aircraft carrier. Things are however moving as Russian leaders become aware that a new class of ocean going destroyers is needed in order to project power around the world. A new destroyers class, called the Leader-class, is currently being developed.
Details about the construction of the Leader-class are vague and sometimes confusion but here is what we already know about this class. First it should be noted that the Leader-class destroyers are still in development. During 2015 the final design of the new destroyer should be finalized by the Northern Design Bureau, the creator of practically all of the major surface warships in the Russian fleet.
Construction of the new destroyer itself is not planned until 2020 at the earliest. Funding of the new Leader-class destroyer will probably arrive after 2020 and will be linked on a bigger shipbuilding program aimed to rebuild a massive Russian Navy by 2050.
The construction of the first vessels should happen in the 2023-2025 timeframe. As such these new destroyers will serve as an intermediate model to bridge the next 25 years until the new Russian blue water is finally ready.
The Leader-class will replace the old Project 956 Sovremennyy-class destroyers as well as the Project 1155 Udaloy-class anti-submarine destroyers. So far only twelve destroyers are reported to be build. Six will be commissioned in the Northern Fleet, with the other six commissioned in the Pacific Fleet. In earlier reports the Russian Navy did spoke however of 14 to 16 destroyers to be build.
The Leader-class will also be a multi-purpose destroyer. The main weapons on board of these destroyers will be Caliber integrated missile system which is exported under the name “Klub” and includes 3M-14 anti-ship and cruise missiles. These missiles are designed for the destruction of targets at great distances.
It is also possible that the destroyer will also carry the P-800 Onyx anti-ship supersonic cruise missiles. Also probably a main weapon system on board the Leader-class will be the S-500 anti-aircraft system, specially redesigned to be used on board of warships.
The most interesting fact to follow up will be the propulsion system on board of these destroyers. Two designs are being developed, one with a normal gas turbine and one with a nuclear power plant used for propulsion. Of all the Russian surface warships, only the Russian cruisers of the Kirov class are using a nuclear power plant. A nuclear power plant will give these destroyers an endless reach, only curbed by the endurance of the crew. One can question however how wise it is to place a nuclear power plant on board of a surface warship who in the event of a conflict will be in the forefront of the fight.
The Russian Navy is in need of a modernisation but how and when has always been a subject to much speculation, even within the Russian Navy itself.
Nevertheless is Russia eager to build a navy capable of operating on the world oceans and for that it needs destroyers. During 2015 the design of the new Leader-class destroyers will be finished and construction of these new destroyers will begin after 2020. Only twelve ships are currently reported to be constructed but it is possible that this number will go up to possibly 16.
Details remain vague for weapon systems and propulsion to be installed. We can however say to a fair degree that these ships will be better armed and more reliably powered than their predecessors of the Sovremennyy and Udaloy classes.