Russia's Incredible Shrinking Navy: Can Putin Grow It Back?

David Axe

Key Point: Is the Russian Navy sinking? 

The Russia fleet in 2019 will take delivery of 23 new surface vessels, two new submarines and three new aircraft, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced.

The numbers on their face are impressive. But in fact, most of the surface ships are small warships and support vessels. As such, 2019 continues the Russian fleet’s long-term trend toward fewer and smaller ships.

“We have paid and will pay the closest attention to the technical re-equipment of the armed forces, including, of course, the modernization of the Russian navy,” Putin said at a Dec. 3, 2019 meeting of top military and industry officials.

“As part of the state defense order this year, the navy will receive more than 480 basic types of weapons and equipment,” Putin added. “Among them, two submarines, 23 surface ships and support vessels, three aircraft, four coastal missile systems and more than 400 units of various missile and torpedo weapons.”

Putin highlighted the submarine acquisition. The Russian fleet is building new ballistic-missile and attack submarines as part of a broader effort to maintain a force of around 50 subs. The navy will receive one new Borei-class ballistic-missile boat, the Prince Vladimir, Putin said.

Russian defense minister Sergey Shoigu in early 2019 predicted that, in addition to the Borei, the fleet would receive a Yasen-class nuclear-powered attack submarine as well as a Lada-class diesel-powered attack boat.  

But Putin’s comments seem to imply at either the Yasen or Lada is late and won’t deliver in 2019.

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