New “Admirals” of the Black Sea Fleet

By Pavel Rumyantsev. 

On 9 July 2016, the ‘Admiral Grigorovich’, the newest frigate under Project 11356 completed her passage from the Baltic Sea to Sevastopol and took her place at the moorage wall. For the first time since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Black Sea Fleet of Russia received a new large battle ship.


The ‘Admiral Essen’, the second ship under this project was also included in the fleet and now is being prepared for passage to the Black Sea, while the third ship - the ‘Admiral Makarov’ frigate - has started her trials and will be put into service in the fall 2016. What are these ships and which capabilities do they offer for the Russian Navy?

Transition Period Complications

For the beginning, let’s take a retrospective look. The early 2000s marked a severe crisis for the Russian shipbuilding industry. Neither state support nor the condition of the shipbuilding industry itself allowed to build new heavy battle ships; the future of the Navy was associated with corvette-class light ships only while the shipbuilding industry basically managed to survive due to export orders. Thanks to the orders, manufacturers specializing in shipbuilding for the Navy managed not only to survive and operate, but also to develop new shipboard weapon systems.

By 2005, enhanced army financing allowed to consider the future of the Navy, including development of new ships for operations in the oceanic zone. For the time being, the Russian Navy is facing acute shortage of such ships. In 2006, Project 22350 ‘Admiral Gorshkov’ next-gen flagship frigate reached the keel-laying phase. The ships of this class were supposed to be main “workhorses” for the Navy and to be built using the flow-line production method. Initially, it was planned to build an enormous series of such ships (up to 20!) by 2020-2025. Unfortunately, harsh reality had made its amendments to these ambitious plans. Actually, all weapons, radio and electronic aids and most of shipboard systems needed to be designed from scratch, and though there were no obstacles to build hulls for new frigates, but actual terms for developing new weapons significantly exceeded any preliminary estimates.

By 2010, it was clear that the next few years would not be enough to put into operation even the ‘Admiral Gorshkov’ flagship, while the terms for putting new frigates into service would be delayed for a substantial period of time, and the number of new ships in the series, substantially smaller than estimated figures.

Simplified Versions of Frigates for Internal Seas: Outcome of Military-Technical Cooperation between the Russian Federation and India

In those conditions, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation made a decision to build a “parallel” series of simplified version of frigates for internal seas (first of all, for the Black Sea Fleet) where operational capabilities of Project 22350 frigates were too excessive. There was the prototype for such a frigate - by that time the Russian shipbuilding industry had a vast experience in building frigates under Project 11356 ‘Talvar’ for the Indian Navy. These frigates are successors of the famous “singing frigates” – a large series of Project 1135 anti-submarine ships constructed in the USSR, which, unlike their predecessors, were equipped with more powerful and advanced weapons. The Talvar-class ships might be easily modified to meet the requirements of the Russian Navy and were equipped with appropriate weapons, radio and electronic systems in comparison to the Admiral Gorshkov-class frigates.

On December 18, 2010, a keel was laid for the ‘Admiral Grigorovich’ frigate under Project 11356R/М. Later, for the following year and a half a keel was laid for two additional frigates of this class, and for the second set of three frigates in 2013. New frigates were constructed very quickly and as early as 2014 the first two ships - the ‘Admiral Grigorovich’ and ‘Admiral Essen’ - were launched. Keel-laying for the third set of three frigates was also planned. However, in 2014 a sharp turn occurred in the fate of these ships because Ukraine supplying gas-turbine power plants for these ships unilaterally curtailed the military-technical cooperation with Russia. As a result, only the first three ships were equipped with appropriate power plants and their commissioning was delayed for more than a year. The construction of the second set of three frigates has been suspended while these ships are still waiting for the final decision that will seal their own fate. Eventually, the ships are likely to be put into service because there are no other options to deal with them. Attempts to sell unfinished frigates to India failed because the Indian side offered for them a ludicrous price similar to that for a scrap. In case the final decision will be made to complete the construction of the second set of three frigates under Project 11356, works will be started in 2018 only, after launching a plant for manufacturing shipboard gas-turbine power plants in Russia.

Despite this sad result, the completed construction of the three newest frigates may be considered to be a major success for today’s Russian Navy. The frigates constructed under Project 11356 are excellent ships for their intended applications.

“Simplified” Versions of the Project 11356 Frigates are Considerably Better than the Sovremenny-class Destroyers

The Shtil-1 surface-to-air missile (SAM) system provides anti-aircraft defense of the ‘Admiral Grigorovich’ frigate. The frigates constructed under Project 11356 may carry three modules of this SAM system with 12 cells in each module. The Shtil-1 system uses new 9М317 surface-to-air missiles similar to missiles used for the Buk-M2 SAM system. The system receives target data from the Fregat-M2M ship borne radar. The SAM guidance system features the unique design that resembles the design of the system installed on U.S. ships equipped with the Aegis integrated combat, information, and control system – at the main flight phase, a missile is controlled via radio correction commands and at the final phase the semi-active homing guidance will be enabled via special illumination radars. Each side of the frigate is equipped with two illumination radars. So far, a new modification of the 9М317 missile with an active homing device has been developed. We may believe that in the future new modifications of missiles will be installed on the frigates under Project 11356. Moreover, the Shtil-1 system is fitted with an optical-electronic sight that ensures successful completion of a mission, even in conditions when the enemy employs very intense electronic countermeasures.

The Shtil-1 system provides fire power potential that is six times higher in comparison to its predecessor, the Uragan SAM system the Sovremenny-class destroyers are armed with. The system is able to launch one missile per two seconds while the Uragan system with its single-beam launchers is able to provide the rate of fire equal to one missile per 12 seconds. For short-range air defense in the nearest vicinity of the ship, it is armed with two AK-630М anti-aircraft six-barreled machine guns.

The frigates under Project 11356 can hardly be referred to as state-of-the-art products of today’s shipbuilding industry; their shipboard weapon systems were developed in the early 2000s. However, we should note that with their combat capabilities these frigates drastically surpass the Sovremenny-class destroyers that have two times higher displacement. Like battle ships for internal seas, they make up a powerful naval force. Even three frigates of this class put into service along with new ships of other classes and submarines that may be supplied for the Black Sea Fleet in the nearest future will dramatically enhance combat capabilities of the fleet.

This will allow not only to dominate in the Black Sea region, but also to provide continuous presence of the Russian Navy and to protect the interests of the Russian Federation in the Mediterranean Sea.

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