Russia in the occupied Crimea lays helicopter: threat or “Surf” in the pool (Defense Express, Ukraine)

Russia begins construction of the first amphibious assault ship — helicopter project 23900. The ship laid at the shipyard “Zaliv” in Kerch occupied, he has already received the name “John Smith” and is intended for the black sea fleet of the Russian Federation.

Defense Express has prepared a special material, which analyzed the main features of helicopter 23900 project, as well as threats and consequences of the emergence of the Black sea Russian ship of this class.

Instead Of “Mistral”

The development of Russia’s own amphibious assault ship is closely connected with the refusal of France to sell Russia the famous “Mistral”. In 2011, the Kremlin has placed an order for the purchase of two French ships with the condition of manufacture in Russia of two analogues under license with transfer of technology. The total amount of the contract was estimated at 1.2 billion euros. The first two ships had to be placed in the Pacific fleet.

However, the aggression of Russia against Ukraine and the imposition of sanctions in 2015, led to the termination of the contract, and the following year both “Mistral” was purchased by Egypt. At the same time, the Kremlin initiated the development of a private helicopter, which later evolved into the project 23900, also known under the label of “Surf”.

Through constant refinement of the project, which was first demonstrated in 2015, the exact specifications of the ship is not known. It is believed that the new amphibious assault ship will have a displacement of 25 thousand tons and a length of about 220 meters. That is, the project 23900 will be more than the “Mistral” (22 thousand tons, 199 meters).

The cost of building two helicopter carriers is estimated at $ 1.4 billion, and production time will last until 2027. It should be noted that the shipbuilding plant “Zaliv” has never built warships with large displacement. During Soviet times, he created patrol ships (frigates), but it is also necessary to emphasize that in the 70-ies the company was engaged in construction of super-tankers and even launched the industry’s only atomic ledokolnyy lighter (specialized vessel for the carriage of goods — approx. transl.)

For the Kremlin, the establishment of amphibious assault ships is of great importance not only from the point of view of the renewal of the fleet, but also to promote opportunities to create ships of this class on its own. For that purpose around the view that even the Soviet Union had in its composition the same ships.

But helicopter of the Soviet Union was built, it was the anti-submarine ships of type “Moscow” (project 1123 Kondor) and Kyiv (project 1143 “Merlin”). They were intended primarily for anti-submarine tasks and did not have significant amphibious capabilities. Yes, and they were built as the only Russian aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov”, in Nikolaev.

At the same time, “the fiddle” in the marine landing in the USSR “played” amphibious ships project 775, which was made in Poland and are now in the navies of Russia, and have already disposed of the ships project 1174 “Nosorog”, which appeared in response to the American ships of Tarawa.

The latter, which was built in the 70-ies, yet could be referred to as amphibious assault ships. Soviet “Rhino” had on Board four helicopters, equipped with docking camera and took on Board up to five hundred Marines, and eighty armored vehicles.

The Possibility Of “Surf”

During combat operations, amphibious assault ships intended to perform so-called vertical maneuvering, which is provided by the simultaneous landing of Marines with heavy weapons ashore from landing craft and “light forces” behind enemy lines with helicopters. At the same time, helicopters provide fire support to the marine corps.

It is assumed that the size of the new amphibious assault ship “Surf” allows you to place, in different proportions — two battalions of marine infantry (nine hundred fighters for a short time) and up to seventy-five armored vehicles and six landing craft (project 11770 and 02510).

The air group of the ship is estimated at twenty helicopters of various types: percussion Ka-52K, anti-submarine Ka-27 and transport Ka-29, each of which is capable of airdropping up to sixteen fighters. For landing on shore can use up to six boat project 11770, which provide landing to ninety-two men or to two units of infantry fighting vehicles or armored personnel carriers.

Thus, a universal landing ship of the project “Surf” maybe in the first wave could disembark more than five hundred and fifty Marines. And, considering the approximate distribution of cars in the wing (10 transport Ka-29, 2 — anti-Ka-27 and 8 — percussion Ka-52K), and about one hundred and sixty Marines from the helicopters in the rear.

For comparison, in the USA most advanced amphibious assault ship is the ship of America, the first of which was launched in 2012. It has almost twice the displacement and takes on Board almost a thousand, seven hundred Marines, and the air wing consists not only of helicopters and convertiplanes Bell-Boeing V-22 and stealth fighters F-35B.

American ship in the first wave to land to one thousand two hundred Marines in the coastal area and nearly three hundred to the rear. And provide not only fire support from the air, but also to protect units from air attack.

That is not even built ship is significantly inferior in their capabilities to the ships of America. Of the 12 planned units three have already been floated.

“Surf” in the pool

As already announced in the Kremlin, the main area of action of the first helicopter type “Surf” — “John Smith” will not be limited to the Black sea. His task, along with the missile cruiser “Moscow” is the interaction in the Mediterranean sea. Given the conditions today, we are talking about their possible participation in the local proxy conflicts, such as those now taking place in Libya and Syria.

However, in the case that a proxy conflict is going to touch the interests of Turkey, these plans may remain only on paper. According to the Montreux Convention, signed in 1936 and regulates the passage of ships through the Bosphorus, there is a restriction of the passage of ships, which are intended “primarily for transport and use at sea aircraft”.

During the Soviet era aircraft-carrying missile cruiser was used only in the Pacific and Northern fleets, so they only once passed through the Bosphorus, but only in one direction. In fact, the black sea fleet was based, only two anti-submarine cruiser-helicopter carrier. The official position of the Soviet Union, which then agreed and Turkey, was the assertion that it is anti-submarine ships with the ability to accommodate aircraft, and therefore they can pass freely through the Bosphorus.

That is, depending on their own interests, Ankara may quite freely, at its discretion, to interpret the provisions of the Montreux Convention, or even, in the case of threats to block the passage of any warships Russia.

As for the possibility of Russian “Ivan Rogov” in a more global-scale conflicts, the Black sea, the Soviet admirals were called “puddle” in which the ships of this class just to do nothing. Primarily due to the fact that it is almost across the sweep anti-ship missiles coastal defense, but also becomes the arena of air combat action and strategic aviation. As of today, this statement can be safely used for the Mediterranean sea.

Interesting is the fact that the decision to deploy the helicopter carriers in the Black sea has already received public criticism even in Russia. In particular, the former commander of the black sea fleet, stationed on the post in the 90-ies, Igor Kasatonov said bluntly that these ships, if necessary, for the Far East.

Regarding the threat to Ukraine, the only ship on the black sea fleet of the Russian Federation, which will be a minimum of seven years, as they say, “the weather will do”. Because now around Ukraine the Russian army has deployed twenty-eight battalion tactical groups, and completes the formation of the two armies and army corps.