Words of Advice:

"Never Feel Sorry For Anyone Who Owns an Airplane."-- Tina Marie

If Something Seems To Be Too Good To Be True, It's Best To Shoot It, Just In Case." -- Fiona Glenanne

Flying the Airplane is More Important than Radioing Your Plight to a Person on the Ground
Who is Incapable of Understanding or Doing Anything About It.
" -- Unknown

"There seems to be almost no problem that Congress cannot, by diligent efforts and careful legislative drafting, make ten times worse." -- Me

"What the hell is an `Aluminum Falcon'?" -- Emperor Palpatine

"Eck!" -- George the Cat

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Russo-French Naval Exercise

The Russian Navy Blog has run a five-part series about an exercise between the Russian and French Navies, as written up by the liaison officers from each navy. It is a five-part series; if you are interested in naval matters, it is worth your time.

Parts I, II, III, IV and V.

I haven't done much blog-surfing about the sale by the French to the Russians of at least one Mistral-class landing ship. I expect that they have their collective panties petty well bunched up by it. But I am not as concerned.

First off, the Russian Navy is a mere shadow of the Soviet Navy. The Russians have done very little in the way of constructing replacement ships since the collapse of the USSR. They have had at least one submarine which has been under construction since the mid-1990s. The Russian Navy has maybe 140 ships, down from over 700 in 1985 (the US Navy has about 280 ships, as opposed to the mid to upper 500s during the period from after Vietnam to the end of the Cold War). The Russians do not have the force structure, nor the at-sea experience, to project power over any great distances.

Second, even when the Soviet Navy was at its Cold War peak, their surface ships spent very little time at sea. Most of their at-sea time was spent in anchorages (Socotra was one of the better known) where their ships anchored to permanent buoys. The "far abroad" component of the Soviet surface fleet probably was, in a war, a one-off deal, in that they best that they could hope for was to fire off their anti-ship missiles before they were all sunk. The best, if not the only, way to become competent in dealing with weather and operating at sea is to send the ships out to sea. Running drills pierside or at anchor just isn't the same.

Third, even if the U.S. was firmly opposed to the Mistral sale, there is very little that can be done to stop it. In case anyone is unclear on the concept here, there is a rather serious economic downturn going on. The Russians are paying cash for one ship, which is already built, and the French will build three more for the Russians. That's good work for the French shipyards (and no doubt that there are Russians who are not happy at that).

The categorization of the Mistral class in the press as an "amphibious landing ship" is a bit off. Yes, it can carry and launch some landing craft, but the main focus of the ship is to function as a helicopter carrier. It could, therefore, easily become an ASW helicopter carrier, which may mean that the Russians might have one or more of them stationed in their Pacific fleet as a counter to the Chinese submarine construction program.

The Mistral deal might not make those in the former Soviet Republics feel comfortable. There is little that can be done about it, unless those nations are willing to play a part in a new arms race with the Russians.[1] Given that none of the Baltic nations spend more than 2% of their GDP on their respective militaries, they are not very likely to be interested in starting an arms race with the Russians.[2] So expect a lot of private outrage from the Baltics and the Black Sea nations, a hell of a lot of squawking from the far-right blogs and nothing else.

[1]Bringing the three Baltic states into NATO was a conservative red-meat move by the Bush Administration, which was riddled with people who were stuck in a Cold War mindset. It, moreover, was a foolish move. It angered the Russians, whose fears of invasion from the West needed little rekindling after the Kosovo air campaign and the admission of Poland into NATO in 1999. And I very much doubt, if push comes to shove, that most NATO nations will not want to fight a war with the Russians over the Baltic states.

[2]Russia spends roughly 2.5% of their GDP on their military, the US spends 4.8% of its GDP on the military.


BadTux said...

The Russian shipyards basically disintegrated because the Russian government showed no urgency about paying the people working there, and those people either left or they're pretending to work ("you pretend to pay us, we pretend to work") and rarely show up. Putin has remedied some of that but the damage is done -- the skill set isn't there anymore.

The notion that Russia's military is a threat to anybody doesn't pass the laugh-and-giggle test. They have a few dozen nukes in silos, and a bunch of left over gear from the 70's and 80's, and that's about it. None of their gear would survive more than a few minutes in combat against any of the NATO powers. Folks trying to revive the Cold War might as well use Canada as the new enemy, after all, Canada's military is right next door while Russia's military would have to literally walk on water to reach the continental US...

- Badtux the Militant Penguin

Comrade E.B. Misfit said...

All true, Badtux, but you'd never know it if you listened to the Cold War Retards, er "retreads" such as John Bolton.