UDC for the Russian Navy
On November 17, the updated characteristics of two universal landing ships (UDC) were announced, which are planned to be laid down in May next year at the Zaliv shipyard in Kerch (ref. 2). As expected (link 3), their displacement will be significantly higher than previously announced - 25 against 15 thousand tons. Thus, if everything goes according to plan, in six months the Russian Federation will begin to build the largest warships in its history (according to Sevmash, “Boreev”, Dadv = 14700 tons - reference 4).UDC of the unrealized project 11780 (photo from the Nevsky Design Bureau site)Origin
The term "UDC" comes from the USSR. In Soviet military literature, ships of the Tarava type began to be called, the first of which became part of the US Navy in 1976 (Ref. 5). In the original they were called "landing assault helicopter carriers" (landing helicopter assault or LHA). Having played the words on the next series of “landing helicopter carrier-docks” (LHD) of the “Wasp” type (ref. 6), on “America” (2014) (ref. 7) they returned to LHA. Oddly enough, but the Russian-language term more accurately reflects the essence of the matter.
The universal landing ship is a hybrid of a helicopter carrier and a dock ship. The ancestor of the dead end branch of the landing helicopter carriers (LPH) was the Tethys Bay, rebuilt in 1956 from a small (escort) aircraft carrier of the Casablanca type. Then followed the re-equipment of the three heavy Essexes and, finally, the construction from scratch of seven LPHs of the Iwo Jima type (decommissioned in 1992-2002).
Americans used dock landing ships (LSD) back during the Second World War. True, at that time they took on board a limited amount of the Marine Corps (MP) and were, rather, a landing craft base, which primarily served to deliver landing barges (ramps) and boats to the landing area  (p. 49). Later, the size and amphibious capacity of LSD and its derivatives LPD increased significantly. Together with UDC, they make up the amphibious triad of the US Navy.Capabilities
Having assumed the responsibilities of helicopter carriers and dock ships, the UDC acquired the ability to provide over-the-air landing with vertical coverage. According to the concept of development of the US Marine Defense Forces "Expeditionary Force of the 21st Century", to reduce threats to landing ships from the enemy’s existing countermeasure systems and restrict access (A2 / AD), an over-the-horizon landing assault level should be carried out at a distance of at least 65 nautical miles (120 km ) from the coast (ref.
. Vertical coverage, in this case, implies a parallel airborne operation in the rear or on the flanks of an army group defending the coast.
The displacement of universal landing ships makes it possible to accept and deploy a marine corps unit that is capable of fighting independently for expanding the bridgehead (of course, with the support of carrier-based aircraft) in comfortable conditions by military standards. In the United States, such a unit is an expeditionary battalion (detachment) of the Marine Corps (MEU), numbering up to 2,200 people (partially placed on LSD and LPD). MP battalions of other countries are much smaller (about 450 people).
It should be noted that under certain circumstances, over-the-air landing may be difficult or simply impossible. Removal of 120 km is good in cases where the enemy has only coastal artillery. However, here too, the time required by the fastest landing craft (LCAC, 40 knots) to get from the UDC to the coast is more than an hour and a half. If on the coast there is a Bastion DBK with a range of 300 km (in export version) and overseas Sunflower radars, the LCAC travel time from an even more remote carrier increases to unacceptable four hours.
The above, of course, does not mean that UDC is insolvent and useless. They are needed by the Russian Navy to control remote areas of the oceans and can be successfully used in anti-terrorist operations like the Syrian (especially in the absence of air bases on the theater of war), as well as in any other armed conflicts with the support of long-range and carrier aircraft.Prestige
A full-sized UDC (40-45 thousand tons), like a nuclear aircraft carrier, is one of the most expensive types of military equipment and is currently available only to the richest and most industrialized country in the world - the United States. Therefore, looking at the American giants, one after another they began to design and build their economy options, which significantly expanded the geography of the owners of new class ships.
Almost simultaneously, in 2003, in France and South Korea the first three UDCs were laid down on a 1: 2 scale to those serving under a star-striped flag. In 2005, their ship was laid in Spain. Two French Mistrals (21,950 tons each according to Jane's Fighting Ships) were put into operation in 2006, the South Korean Tokto (19,300 tons) a year later, the Spanish Juan Carlos I (27,500 tons) ) - in 2010 (a special feature of the latter was the springboard, which allows it to be used as a light aircraft carrier).
The day after the launch of the "Spaniard" on the same slipway in Ferrol, the hull of the first of two UDCs of the same project for the Australian Navy was laid (completed in Australia in 2014-2015). In 2013, France laid the foundation of two Mistrals for the Russian Navy, which were resold to Egypt three years later. In 2017, construction began on the first Chinese UDC (launched in September of this year), in February 2018, the Turkish Anadolu (clone of Juan Carlos) and the Italian Trieste (own development).
As you can see, the concept of UDC moderate displacement has become very popular. Thanks to it, a number of maritime powers have the opportunity to replenish their Navy with prestigious aircraft carrier-type ships for an acceptable fee. Exaggerating a little, we can say that today UDC play the same role as battleships during the "dreadnought fever."
The bookmark in Kerch of two UDCs for the Russian Navy will launch the third attempt to create in our country full-fledged MDS (naval landing forces) rapid response. The two previous cases that ended in failure are well known, so it makes no sense to dwell on this in detail. It is worth recalling that the first time the project 11780 was not implemented due to disagreements between the High Command of the Navy and the General Staff of the USSR Armed Forces (more precisely, between Admirals Gorshkov and Amelko) (Ref. 11), in the second - ordered in France and almost ready Mistral came under anti-Russian sanctions, as a result of which, as mentioned above, were part of the Egyptian Navy.The Bay
At the Zaliv shipyard, where UDC is supposed to be laid, warships of large displacement have never been built. The most notable positions in the portfolio of the enterprise’s military orders during the Soviet era were the watchmen of the project 1135/11351 (3200/3600 tons full). Now under construction are two patrol ships, pr. 22160 (about 2000 tons) and five missile regiments, pr. 22800 (800 tons).
At the same time, in the Gulf, they can rightfully be proud that it was there that the largest vessels in the history of the USSR and Russia were built - six tankers of the Crimea type with a displacement of 180 thousand tons, containing more than 1 million barrels of oil. Given that the Mistrals are, in fact, marine transport vessels designed according to the rules of civil shipbuilding (ref. 12), and that the technologies transferred to us are likely to be used in the project of the Russian UDC, the experience of the Kerch shipbuilders can be very useful.
The Gulf dry dock with a 354x60 m camera (ref. 13) is ideally suited for the construction of ships with a length of 220 m and an estimated width of about 40 m, however, only one of the planned two can be placed in it. In this case, a 400-meter open slipway (ref. 14) cannot be used, since its transport trolleys and the launching device (transverse slip) are designed for objects weighing up to 2000 tons and a length of about 90 m - such as 22160 (ref. 15).
Most likely, non-standard technological schemes will be used to speed up the construction. It would be best to build a UDC in cooperation with the Baltic Plant (St. Petersburg), which in 2012-2014. for 9-10 months, the Mistral fodder was collected. Even taking into account the lengthy (two-month) towing for the final assembly (docking with the bow) in Kerch, this would significantly shorten the production cycle. Another possible scheme is to divide the dry dock into two chambers using the intermediate shutter provided for this purpose, with the aim of simultaneously laying one order in full length and the bow of the other. After launching the first building, the second can be quickly built up with pre-assembled blocks.
It must be added that the beginning of the construction of the UDC should be preceded by the approval of a technical or draft technical design. Since no more than six months remain before the bookmark, this is possible only on the condition that the design will be carried out on the basis of a detailed initiative study of the Nevsky Design Bureau.
It is possible that in the event of the successful completion of a series of universal landing ships, of which there must be at least four (by analogy with the Mistral plans - ref. 16), a decision will be made to begin construction of a new project at the Kerch shipyard.TTX
In the message by reference 2, only the main characteristics of promising UDC are given without any justification and detail. Let us try to at least partially fill this gap.
Displacement of 25 thousand tons is not specified. If given full, the standard should be about 20 thousand tons, if normal - about 22 thousand tons. With a conditional design norm of 1000 tons of standard displacement per aircraft (which is exactly confirmed by the Mistral and Kuznetsov technical characteristics) Russian UDC will be able to base 20-22 aircraft. Since "more than 20 heavy helicopters" appear in the message, 25 thousand tons are still Dnorm (with a corresponding D total of about 28 thousand tons).
The composition of the air group can be predicted based on what was planned on the Mistral - one two-link squadron of attack and transport-combat helicopters (8 Ka-52K and 8 Ka-29). It seems reasonable to leave the strike (assault) squadron as it is with the addition of a transport unit and a pair of rescuers with a total of 8 Ka-52K, 12 Ka-29 and 2 Ka-27PS (Ka-27/29 will be replaced in the future by the Lampreys).
The new ship will undoubtedly be able to carry 900 declared marines, but only as a second-wave military transport and over short distances (according to habitability conditions). This is easy to understand if you divide 900 marines into squads (9 people each), each of which has an armored personnel carrier or infantry fighting vehicle in the state. Such an amount of armored vehicles (100 units) is far beyond the capabilities of the 25,000-ton UDC. Its real full-time airborne landing capacity is most likely to be as follows: one battalion of the Marine Corps (450 people, 30 of which are tankers), a tank company (10 main tanks), up to 50 armored personnel carriers / infantry fighting vehicles.
In addition to the obvious need to create an MDS of a new (global) level, there is another important meaning in the bookmark and operational construction of UDC. Ten years ago, when the Mistral negotiations began, Russia was still weak - both militarily and militarily (not counting the Strategic Missile Forces), and shipbuilding was the clearest manifestation of this weakness. The fact that the shipbuilding industry has come out of the crisis cannot be said even now, but the fact that the most difficult times are left behind is beyond doubt.
There is no doubt that the planned UDC will receive the names Vladivostok and Sevastopol - those that were wiped off M33 / N33 orders at the STX France shipyard. In addition, there is confidence that the Kerch first ranks will be better than the "Mistral" in all respects - military, economic, aesthetic. Raising the flag of St. Andrew on their flagpoles 5-6 years after laying (link 17) will be a signal that we have not forgotten how to quickly build large ships, fully restored our competencies and do not need anyone else's services