At a press conference Rogozin – Russia’s straight-talking former ambassador to NATO – told reporters that by next year “production capacity will allow us to build six submarines and an aircraft carrier every year”.
He went on to say that this would increase Russian naval production levels beyond those of the Soviet Union.
A Realistic proposal
The announcement follows a similar one, four years ago, that Russia would build six new aircraft carriers and it’s worth noting that no actual construction has begun since that announcement.
So, it’s not surprising that today’s news has been greeted with skepticism from analysts, who argue that this level of production is way beyond Russia’s capacity – or, for that matter, the capacity of any country in the world. Streetwise Professor points to the US aircraft carrier programme, and notes that construction of the USS Gerald Ford is expected to take 10 years. If Russia took roughly the same amount of time to build a carrier, then it would have to have at least ten of them in construction at any one time.
The Streetwise Professor points to news about delays in the construction of the new Russian Graney submarines as further evidence that Russia simply isn’t ready to ramp up its production of submarines. Indeed, post-Soviet Russian submarine construction has a very checkered history, and the last major submarine project – the construction of the Russian Nerpa submarine, which was recently leased to India, was beset by problems which ultimately led to the deaths of 20 Russian sailors.
Financial incentiveThat Russia plans to build so many new submarines will, no doubt, also be greeted with alarm in some quarters as it plays into the myth of a resurgent, re-arming Russia. A navy that could pump out a new aircraft carrier and six new subs every year would be a force for any major power, including the United States, to reckon with.
But I’m increasingly wondering whether – assuming that production targets can actually be met – the Russian Navy will be the recipient of all of these new submarines. Or whether Russia actually has an eye to meeting the demands of the international market, and plans to set up a cottage industry supplying the world’s navies with state of the art submarines.
Last week I noted that many Asia-Pacific countries were investing heavily in their navies, particularly their submarines, and linked to this interesting article at the Boston Globe.
As well as strong links with India and China, Russia already has deals to supply submarines to Vietnam and to support the development of Taiwan’s navy. Moving further afield, it’s also done a deal with Venezuela to supply submarines.
There’s definitely a market out there for Russian naval technology, and if Russia can ally it to its proven experience elsewhere in the arms trade, this could prove to be a very lucrative market for it indeed.