Russia's Military Dream: A Navy Full of Aircraft Carriers (But It Won't Happen)

Mark Episkopos

Key point: Russia has instead procured smaller vessels.

A coterie of new ships at Russia’s annual Navy Day Parade in Saint Petersburg reflects the rapidly changing face of the Russian Navy as it forges ahead with a far-reaching modernization program.

First established in 1939 as an annual Soviet holiday to “mobilize the working masses around the construction of a Workers’ and Peasants’ Soviet Navy,” Navy Day was canceled in 1980 and reinstated in 2006 by presidential decree of Vladimir Putin. However, it was not until 2017 that Saint Petersburg was designated as the permanent site of the main Naval Parade that has since served as a staging post for the Russian Navy to display flagship hardware intermixed with historical vessels.

First, a few notable omissions. Russia’s geriatric, problem-ridden Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier was unsurprisingly missing from the event, as it is reportedly undergoing extensive repairs on the heels of a devastating devastating drydock crane incident late last year. More curious is the absence of the Petr Velikiy (Peter the Great)  battlecruiser, the world’s largest surface military vessel and the star of the 2017 Navy Day Parade. However, the exclusion of Petr Velikiy makes ample sense in the context of a 40-strong parade lineup that sought to reflect the Russian Navy’s gradual transition into a lean, local, rapid-response force.

Occupying a prominent place in the parade’s spearhead was the second Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate, Admiral Kosotonov, coming it at a displacement (vessel weight) of 4,500 tons and armed with Russia’s unique Paket-E/NK anti-submarine/anti-torpedo system. Also present was Gremyashchiy, the flagship of the new Gremyashchiy heavy corvette class that builds on the technical progress of the already formidable Stereguschiy-class.

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