Russia has a powerful new frigate — and a problematic navy
Just before the end of 2017, the Russian Navy commissioned its newest frigate, the Admiral Makarov. The ship, which will be based in Sevastopol, is an Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate, a multi-purpose ship that is certainly loaded for bear.
Each frigate in the Admiral Grigorovich class is armed with eight Club-N land-attack cruise missiles, a variant of the Kalibr missiles used to strike ISIS targets deep inside Syria. Two Kashtan CIWS air defense missile/gun systems and 24 Shtil-1 anti-aircraft missiles make up each ship's air-defense component, as well as one A-190E gun at its bow.
The frigate boasts a range of 4850 nautical miles, a top speed of 30 knots, an endurance of 30 days, and a crew of 193.
The bulk of the Russian Navy's current fleet are corvettes, small craft armed with long-range missiles that cannot stray too far from the coast for long. Frigates have traditionally been the backbone of most of the world's navies, and Russia still hasn't given up on having large surface warships like it did during the Cold War.
"Russia has realized that capabilities matter far more than platforms," Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses, told Business Insider.
"The Russian Navy is quite able to carry out its key missions, such as coastal protection and (increasingly) conventional deterrence with cruise missiles in addition to the SLBM role in nuclear deterrence," Gorenburg said in an email.
The Admiral Makarov will be the third Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate in the Russian Navy. Russia originally planned to have of six of the frigates in total, but recent events have put the program's schedule in an uncertain state.
Shipbuilding problems in the Russian Navy
The Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate is essentially a thorough modernization of the Krivak IV-class frigate, a ship that was built for and exported to the Indian Navy from 1999 to 2012.
There were originally no plans for any more modernization of the Krivak series, but the Russian Navy began to have problems with the building and integration of the Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate — the ship intended to be the center of the Russian Navy's modern frigate fleet.
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"It was just taking to long to finish," Gorenburg said. "There were issues with some of the systems — it was a kind of brand new construction — and so they realized they really needed new ships more quickly than those were going to get approved."
Russia then turned to and modernized the Krivak IVs, which they knew could be built and fielded faster, creating a new class in the process.
Construction of the ships hit a snag when Russia illegally annexed Crimea and war broke out in Ukraine. The ships needed a specific gas turbine engine that came from a Ukrainian company, which, after the annexation and breakout of war, was prevented from selling them.
As a result, Russia announced that it would sell two of the three Grigorovich-class frigates under construction to India, who will be able to buy the engines separately themselves.
Russia maintains that it will eventually have a total of six frigates for the Black Sea Fleet, after a domestic gas turbine engine is produced.
"There are still some problems in the shipbuilding industry, but they are not as bad as five years ago," Gorenburg said in an email. "On the whole, the Navy is going to be quite successful at building effective small ships while putting off big ships (destroyers, aircraft carriers) for the indefinite future."