The Russian Pacific Fleet
Moscow Defence Brief Jan 2013
Moscow Defence Brief Jan 2013
Organizational structure of the Pacific Fleet
The Soviet Pacific Fleet was formed in 1932 to bolster the Soviet Union’s defenses in the Far East. At present the Russian Pacific Fleet is one of the largest operational-strategic formations in the Russian Armed Forces, and the second-biggest fleet of the Russian Navy after the Northern Fleet. Its area of responsibility includes the Pacific and Indian Oceans, as well as the eastern part of the Arctic.
In 2010 the Pacific Fleet (PF) was incorporated into the new Eastern Military District. Former PF commander Admiral Konstantin Sidenko is now the commander of that district. The new commander of the fleet itself is Vice Admiral Sergey Avakyants.
A distinguishing feature of the PF is that its nuclear submarines are based in Kamchatka, while all the large surface ships and diesel subs are based in Primorsky Krai (near Vladivostok). As of late 2012, the fleet consisted of the following units and formations:
The Pacific Fleet Submarine Command (Rear Admiral Nikolay Yefremov) is based in Kamchatka. The Command includes:
the 25th Submarine Division (Captain 1st Rank Vladimir Dmitriev), which is the northeastern group of the Russian Navy’s nuclear forces, and which operates Project 667BDR (Delta III class) nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines.
the 10th Submarine Division (Captain 1st Rank Eduard Mikhaylov), which operates Project 949A (Oscar II class) and Project 971 (Akula class) nuclear-powered submarines.1
The Primorskaya Combined Flotilla (Rear Admiral Vadim Kulit2) is based in Primorsky Krai (Vladivostok). The flotilla includes:
The 36th Surface Ships Division (Captain 1st Rank Igor Smolyak), which operates all of the fleet’s large surface ships (guided missile cruisers, destroyers and large anti-submarine ships).
The 100th Landing Ships Brigade — tank landing ships and boats (Strelok Bay).
The 165th Surface Ships Brigade — anti-submarine and guided missile corvettes, minesweepers.
The 19th Submarine Brigade — Project 877 (Kilo class) diesel-electric submarines, based in Uliss Bay.
The Primorskaya Flotilla also includes the 38th Area Protection Ships Division (i.e. detachment; anti-submarine corvettes and mineswepeers) based at Sovetskaya Gavan station.
The Pacific Fleet’s ships and submarines undergoing repairs in Vladivostok and Bolshoy Kamen are assigned to the 72nd Brigade of Ships under Construction and Undergoing Repairs.
The Northeastern Troops and Forces Command3 (Rear Admiral Viktor Liin) is based in Kamchatka. It includes:
The 114th Surface Ships Brigade (anti-submarine and guided missile corvettes, minesweepers).
The 520th Coastal Missile and Artillery Brigade (Redut and Rubezh coastal defense missile systems).
The 3rd Marines Regiment.
An air defense missile regiment (S-300PS SAM systems).
A radar regiment.
The 7060th Naval Aviation Airbase (Yelizovo airfield).
In addition to the 7060th Airbase in Kamchatka, the Pacific Fleet’s air strength includes the 7062nd Airbase near Vladivostok (the Nikolayevka, Kamennyy Ruchey, and Knevichi airfields). The two bases operate Tu-142MZ and Il-38 anti-submarine aircraft, An-12 and An-26 transports, Ka-27 and Mi-8 helicopters, and specialized aircraft.
The Pacific Fleet’s coastal defense forces consist of the 155th Marines Brigade in Vladivostok and the 72nd Coastal Missile Regiment (Redut and Rubezh coastal defense anti-ship missile systems) in Smolyaninovo.4
The fleet’s support units include:
Two radio-electronic warfare units.
A reconnaissance center, which operates a reconnaissance ships division (i.e. detachment), two radio reconnaissance squads, and a squad of saboteur divers.
A communications center with several large radio stations.
Two anti-saboteur squads.
The fleet’s radar units operate sonar stations and over-the-horizon radars.5
The main support and logistics unit of the Pacific Fleet is the 703rd Supplies Center, which operates arsenals and weapons depots, supply and logistics formations, a support ships unit, and several engineering units. The fleet’s search-and-rescue units operate S&R ships based in Primorsky Krai and Kamchatka.
Finally, the fleet has a Hydrographical Service, with units in Primorsky Krai, Sovetskaya Gavan, Nikolaevsk-on-Amur, Sakhalin and Kamchatka.
The Pacific Fleet’s ships and subs
The Pacific Fleet has four Project 667BDR nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines: Ryazan, Podolsk, Georgiy Pobedonosets, and Zelenograd. Although the fleet’s command is doing its best to keep these subs in a good state of repair, all four are nearing the end of their service life. At present, only two of them are fully combat-ready.6
The fleet’s non-strategic submarine force includes Project 949A and Project 971 nuclear-powered submarines.7 Out of the six Project 949A cruise missile subs, which are armed with Granit (SS-N-19) anti-ship cruise missiles (Irkutsk, Tomsk, Krasnoyarsk, Omsk, Tver and Chelyabinsk)8 only the last three are in a combat-ready state. In 2006-2008 Omsk underwent deep repairs at the Zvezda repair shipyard (Bolshoy Kamen); Tomsk has been under repairs at the same shipyard since 2009. Irkutsk has also been there since 2001, undergoing repairs and upgrades; the completion is expected in 2015.9 Krasnoyarsk has been decommissioned and is now being cannibalized for spare parts.
The fleet currently has four Project 971 attack submarines: Bratsk, Samara, Magadan and Kuzbass — but only the first two are currently operational. Kuzbass and Magadan have been undergoing mid-life repairs at the Zvezda shipyard since 2008.10 Another two Project 971 subs, Barnaul and Kashalot, have been sitting for a long time at the Zvezda shipyard and the Amur Shipbuilding Plant, respectively. Their status is unclear, although it is known that Kashalot is being repaired.11
On the whole, the Pacific Fleet is having difficulties maintaining its nuclear subs in a good state of repair. Part of the problem appears to be down to poor management at the Zvezda shipyard in Bolshoy Kamen and the Amur Shipbuilding Plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. It has been decided that all further mid-life repair and upgrade projects for Project 971 subs (including those assigned to the Pacific Fleet) will be conducted at the Zvezdochka Ship Repair Center at Severodvinsk.12
The MoD has an upgrade program for the Project 971 and Project 949A submarines13, so it can be expected that the number of such subs in active service with the Pacific Fleet will rise by 2020.
The Pacific Fleet has eight Project 877 diesel-electric submarines (Ust-Bolsheretsk, Ust-Kamchatsk, Svyatitel Nikolay Chudotvorets, Chita, Krasnokamensk, Mogocha, B-187 and B-394), although not all of them are currently combat-ready. Another two Project 877 subs have been sitting for a long time at the Amur Shipbuilding Plant, undergoing repairs. Their status is unclear.
The core of the fleet’s surface ships strength consists of Varyag (formerly Chervona Ukraina), a Project 1164 guided missile cruiser, which underwent mid-life repairs in 2006-2008; and four Project 1155 (Udaloy class) large anti-submarine ships: Admiral Vinogradov, Admiral Panteleev, Admiral Tributs, and Marshal Shaposhnikov. The ships are in a relatively good state of repair; all four are in active service.
The Fleet also has four Project 956 (Sovremennyy class) guided missile destroyers — but only Bystryy remains operational, and it seldom leaves port. Burnyy has been undergoing repairs for quite a long time now at the Dalzavod facility in Vladivostok14. Bezukoriznennyy and Boyevoy are on the fleet’s books but out of service. Another decommissioned ship still assigned to the Pacific Fleet is Admiral Lazarev (formerly Frunze), a Project 1144 (Kirov class) heavy nuclear-powered guided missile battlecruiser. The core of the ship’s propulsion reactor has been removed, and Admiral Lazarev is now essentially an empty shell. Nevertheless, on several occasions officials have spoken of plans for repairing and upgrading the cruiser.15
The fleet has three Project 775 (Ropucha class) large tank landing ships, which were built in Poland: Peresvet, Oslyabya, and Admiral Nevelskoy. There is also an old Project 1171 large tank landing ship, Nikolay Vilkov, and four assault tank landing crafts.
The Pacific Fleet has 15 small guided missile corvettes, including four Project 12341 (Nanuchka III class) ships and 11 Project 1241 (Tarantul I/III class) ships. It also has nine Project 1124 anti-submarine corvettes (Grisha III/V class), two ocean minesweepers, seven coastal minesweepers, and one inshore minesweeper.
The fleet’s support ships include Marshal Krylov, a Project 1914 missile range instrumentation ship, and five reconnaissance ships: Kamchatka, Pribaltika, Kurily, Karelia, and Uglomer.
There are also several tankers, rescue ships and tugs, weapons transports and floating repair ships, and hydrographical ships.
Most of the Pacific Fleet’s ships and submarines are quite aged; they were built in the 1980s and early 1990s, and many are approaching the end of their service life. The need for new hardware has become especially obvious in recent years as the existing ships are now spending a lot more time out at sea,16 rapidly using up what little lifetime is still left in them.
New ships and submarines are expected to start entering service with the Pacific Fleet in significant numbers in 2014-2015. In 2015 the fleet will receive the first new Project 955 (Borey class) nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, Aleksandr Nevskiy; three more subs of the same class are to follow by 2020. The existing Project 677BDR nuclear missile subs will be decommissioned. After 2015 the fleet is also expected to take delivery of up to four new Project 885 (Severodvinsk class) nuclear-powered attack submarines.
In 2012 France began to build two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships (Vladivostok and Sevastopol) under a Russian contract. The ships are expected to arrive at their base in Vladivostok in 2014-2015.17 It is also quite likely that in 2013-2014 Marshal Ustinov, a Project 1164 guided missile cruiser which is currently assigned to the Northern Fleet and undergoing mid-life repairs at the Zvezdochka shipyards, will be reassigned to the Pacific Fleet.18 Another large ship that may be reassigned to the Pacific Fleet is Admiral Nakhimov, a Project 1144 heavy nuclear-powered guided missile battlecruiser. The plan is to repair and upgrade the ship at the Severnoye Machinery Company in Severodvinsk by 2018.19
After 2014 the Pacific Fleet is also expected to take delivery of several Project 22350 frigates (the same class as Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Gorshkov), which are currently being built at Severnaya Verf shipyard in St Petersburg. Two Project 20380 corvettes, Sovershennyy and Gromkiy, are on the ways at the Amur Shipbuilding Plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur; the optimistic dates for their completion are in 2014 and 2015, respectively. The plan is to build a total or seven or eight such corvettes for the Pacific Fleet at the Amur facility.20 Also, in 2014 the fleet is expected to take delivery of Yuriy Ivanov, a Project 18280 reconnaissance ship now on the ways at Severnaya Verf shipyard.21 Several other ships which will be assigned to the Pacific Fleet are now being built in the Far East, including Project 21980 (Grachonok class) anti-saboteur crafts; Project 11770 (Serna class) and Project 21820 (Dyugon class) assault-landing speed crafts; and several support ships and boats.
In recent months the fleet has undertaken large projects to refurbish and upgrade its coastal infrastructure. In 2012 it restored the mooring zone in Vladivostok used by several large PF ships, including cruisers and large anti-submarine ships. The same zone will also be used by the Mistral-class amphibious assault ships once they have been delivered. There are plans to upgrade the Dalzavod plant in Vladivostok, which will repair the Mistral-class ships and conventional submarines. Finally, the fleet is upgrading coastal infrastructure in Primorsky Krai and Kamchatka; it will be used by the new Borey-class and Severodvinsk-class nuclear-powered submarines, as well as surface ships.22
The Pacific Fleet’s combat training programs and other activities
In recent years the Pacific Fleet’s ships and submarines have been spending a lot less time sitting idle at port. Long voyages by nuclear submarines have ceased to be one-off events. For example, Georgiy Pobedonosets, a ballistic missile sub, was out on a mission in 2012. In mid-October it successfully fired an R-29R (SS-N-9) SLBM from the Sea of Okhotsk; the missile was targeted at a training range on the Barents Sea coast. Project 949A nuclear subs also made several outings; Omsk returned from a long voyage in late 2012.23
The Pacific Fleet’s forces regularly take part in Vostok, a large annual exercise held in Russia’s Far East. Every year the event has a new scenario; in recent years these scenarios have involved ambitious elements which were last used back in Soviet times. In addition to other armed services, the Vostok exercise sometimes also involves other fleets of the Russian navy. The 2012 event, which was held near Petr Velikiy Bay, the Tatar Strait and the southern part of the Sea of Okhotsk, involved the firing of shells and missiles at surface targets, the search for an adversary’s submarine, and defense against an air raid. A force of marines landed on the coast of Aniva Bay in Sakhalin.24 Forces deployed in the southeast of Sakhalin Island fired salvos of Redut and Rubezh coastal defense anti-ship missiles (which were brought by large tank landing ships from Primorsky Krai and Kamchatka) at surface targets in the south of the Sea of Okhotsk. The scale of the exercise is best demonstrated by the numbers of hardware and troops involved: more than 40 ships and boats, 20 support ships, 40 planes and helicopters, and up to 7,000 military and civilian personnel.
The Pacific Fleet regularly contributes to the anti-piracy effort in the Indian Ocean. The fleet has already sent seven consecutive missions to the area; the eighth is currently under way. Each mission includes a Project 1155 large anti-submarine ship, a tanker and a tug boat. The ships carry helicopters and a squad of marines.
The fleet also participates in joint exercises with other countries’ Navies. In April 2012 a group of Russian ships led by Varyag cruiser took part in the Russian-Chinese exercise Maritime Cooperation 2012. In the summer of 2012 Admiral Panteleev large anti-submarine ship for the first time took part in RIMPAC-2012, an international exercise off Hawaii. The fleet also holds regular exercises with Indian forces as part of the INDRA event.
In 2012 Russian ships assigned to the Pacific Fleet visited ports in the Seychelles, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, China, Japan and the United States.
To conclude, the Pacific Fleet is a large and capable unit of the Russian Armed Forces — but many of its nuclear-powered submarines are currently out of commission, and most of its hardware is old and obsolete. There is, however, some reason to believe that these problems will be remedied — at least partially — over the next few years.