Russia launched a powerful new frigate -- but there are still lingering problems for the program's future

United Shipbuilding CorporationAn Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate built by Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation
  • Russia commissioned its newest frigate, Admiral Makarov, just before the end of 2017.
  • The ship is an Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate, but plans for the class’ full implementation are running into difficulty.
  • The Russian Navy in currently reliant on corvettes for most of its missions due to complications with larger ships, but is slowly trying to add more frigates to the fleet.

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 defence missile/gun systems and 24 Shtil-1 anti-aircraft missiles make up each ship’s air-defence 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.

Admiral Makarov Russian navy jackVesti News/YouTubeA screenshot from a Russian news report showing a Russian sailor hoisting the Russian Navy Ensign during the commissioning ceremony for the frigate Admiral Makarov, December 27, 2017.

“Russia has realised 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.

Ship building problems in the Russian Navy

The Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate is essentially a thorough modernisation 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 modernisation 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.

“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 realised they really needed new ships more quickly than those were going to get approved.”

Admiral Makarov Russian FrigateRussian Ministry of DefenceThe Russian frigate Admiral Makarov in the Baltic Sea during trials

Russia then turned to and modernised 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.”

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