October 30 is the Founding Day of the Russian Navy. On this day in 1696 the Boyar Duma, following the initiative of Peter the Great, passed a decree to begin construction of a regular navy. Today, the Russian fleet has more than 200 surface warships. Here is the list of the mightiest.
Battlecruiser Pyotr Velikiy
Pyotr Velikiy is the fourth Kirov-class battlecruiser of the Russian Navy. It is the flagship of the Northern Fleet. The battlecruiser is nuclear-powered warship and the largest and heaviest surface combatant warship (i.e. not an aircraft carrier nor an amphibious assault ship) in operation in the world.
Its main purpose is to strike an enemy aircraft carrier groups and destroy both surface and shore targets. It is also used to provide complete anti-aircraft and anti-submarine defense.
Aircraft Carrier Admiral Kuznetsov
It is designed to engage large surface targets and support and defend strategic missile-carrying submarines, surface ships and naval missile-carrying aircraft of the Russian Navy. The carrier is equipped to maintain 28 aircraft and 24 helicopters.
Missile Cruiser Moskva
The Moskva is the lead ship of the Russian Navy’s Project 1164 Atlant class of guided missile cruisers. It is designed to strike large surface ships, particularly aircraft carriers. In addition, the ship can carry out air defense using remote control and provide fire support.
Varyag is the flagship of Russia’s Pacific Fleet. It is a Slava-class cruiser (according to NATO classifications). It was completed in 1989 and has operated in the Russian Pacific Ocean Fleet since 1990. The ship has a top speed of 60 km/h and can autonomously navigate for 30 days.
The Sovremennyy-class destroyer as it is called in NATO is the flagship of the Baltic Fleet. The primary role of this guided missile destroyer is to attack enemy warships while also providing sea and air defense for warships and transports under escort. It complements the Udaloy-class destroyers in anti-submarine operations.
Tatarstan is the flagship of the Caspian Flotilla. It uses stealth technology which is provided by its outer coat made of aluminum-magnesium alloys. The main purpose of Tatarstan is to search and locate surface vessels, submarines and air targets. It provides protection for the marine economic zone.
Soobrazitelnyy is the second ship of the latest class of corvettes of the Russian Navy, the Steregushchy class. The ship is the first of its class to be fitted with the Redut system intended to increase its anti-aircraft capabilities with respect to the Kashtan CIWS system previously used. It is a part of the Baltic Fleet and it received the honorary title of “Guards” in 2012.
The second Hague Conference which took place 110 years ago, from June to October 1907, determined in many respects the rules of war for the entire 20th century.
The conference involved delegations from 44 nations and resulted in 13 conventions, including on the laws and customs of war on land, and on the pacific settlement of international disputes, on the rights and duties of neutral powers in case of war etc. Some of the conventions have remained in force to the present day.
Both Hague Conferences (the first conference was held in 1899) introduced a series of prohibitions concerning weapons and the rules of warfare, including prohibiting the use expanding bullets, the use of projectiles with poisonous gases and the discharge of projectiles from balloons.
However, throughout the 20th century the world saw several new types of weapons that were prohibited. Here is a look at the five most deadly weapons banned by international conventions.
Expanding Bullets (“dum-dum”)
Expanding bullets are officially prohibited in warfare, but are still in use for hunting and by some police forces. They are designed to expand on impact, sometimes as much as twice the diameter, resulting in much larger wounds to the target. Due to their stopping power, they are often used for hunting.
The first expanding bullets were produced in the early 1890s and were given the name “dum-dum,” after a British military facility located near Kolkata, India. There were made of soft steel and had a hollow-nosed designed to mushroom on impact. In the majority of cases, the wounds they produced were deadly or resulted in disability.
The Hague Convention of 1899 prohibited the use of expanding bullets. However, expanding bullets were used during World War I by the Russian and German militaries.
Expanding bullets of different calibers (Photo: Wiki/Derek280)
Today, regular military forces do not use expanding bullets. International law prohibits their use in any armed conflict. This has been disputed by the United States that insists that expanding rounds can be used when there is a clear military necessity. However, the adoption of an amendment to Article 8 at the Review Conference of the Rome Statute makes the use of expanding bullets a war crime.
At the same time, since expanding rounds are prohibited only in military conflicts they are still used by law enforcement agencies in many countries. They allow for quickly neutralizing an attacker and prevent collateral damage in crowded areas.
This deadly weapon became globally known during the Vietnam War, but napalm was also used in World War II. Napalm is a flammable liquid, a mix of a gelling agent and either gasoline or a similar fuel. Napalm is very cheap and easily produced. Napalm easily catches fire and sticks to surfaces and skin, inflicting severe burn wounds.
This is a June 8, 1972 file photo of South Vietnamese forces follow after terrified children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc, center, as they run down Route 1 near Trang Bang after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places (Photo: AP PHOTO/ NICK UT, FILE)
During the war in Vietnam, the US military used napalm to burn down whole villages and forest areas, destroying enemy hiding places. Napalm was used in aviation bombs, flamethrowers, and incendiary charges. Its use often resulted in casualties among civilians and friendly forces.
The UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) banned the use of napalm against civilian populations in 1980. However, a number of countries have not ratified all of the protocols of the CCW.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) was adopted in 2008 in Dublin. As of July 2017, 108 countries have signed the treaty and 102 parties have ratified the document.
Major producers and users of cluster bombs, such as the US, Russia, China, India, South Korea and Israel, have not acceded to the treaty, citing the high efficiency of this type of weapon. At the same time, these countries observe the restrictions on the use of cluster munitions, including the ban on their use in heavily populated areas.
A cluster bomb
Aviation cluster bombs are the most popular type of cluster munition. A cluster bomb consists of a hollow shell and dispensers containing bomblets weighing up to 10 kilograms. Each dispenser can contain up to 100 bomblets, including anti-personnel, anti-tank, incendiary, etc.
After a bomb is discharged the bomb’s shell explodes at a certain altitude and the bomblets blanket a vast area. Cluster munitions are very effective against dispersed targets. One of their main disadvantages is that not all of the submunitions detonate after reaching the ground without locating a target. Modern cluster bombs usually have a self-destruct mechanism reducing the risk of unintended civilian deaths and injuries.
White phosphorus munitions were formally prohibited by a 1977 amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions for the Protection of War Victims, banning weapons that “cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.”
A phosphorus shelling (Photo: AP)
White phosphorus munitions were used in World War I by German and British forces, by the German air force during World War II, by the US military in the Korean War and other conflicts. According to media reports, they were also used by Ukrainian forces during the conflict in Donbass and by the US-led coalition in Syria.
White phosphorus is highly flammable and self-igniting upon contact with air. White phosphorus munitions are used against personnel and military equipment. They can cause injuries and death by burning and smoke inhalation.
Different types of land mine have been used by militaries around the world since the beginning of the 20th century. A land mine is usually concealed under or on the ground and designed to destroy or disable enemy targets, ranging from personnel to vehicles and tanks.
The use of land mines is highly controversial because they can remain dangerous many years after a conflict has ended. According to expert estimates, several million land mines are left after conflicts in different parts of the world.
Sergeant Anthony Jacks placed a claymore mine during a combat shooting on September 20, 2009. (Photo: Wiki/SGT. SCOTT BISCUITI)
A number of public campaigns were organized against the use of land mines. They were banned by the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, also known as the Ottawa Treaty. However, a number of countries, including the US, Russia and China, have not signed it.
Moreover, land mines are often used by terrorists and guerilla movements.
A shipyard in Severodvinsk has held the keel-laying ceremony for the Ulyanovsk, the seventh of the Yasen-class nuclear-powered attack subs built for the Russian Navy. RIA Novosti military observer Andrei Kotz took the opportunity to take stock of some of the most formidable, intriguing, and unusual attack and missile sub designs in the world.
The Ulyanovsk, laid down on Friday at the Sevmash shipbuilding plant in Severodvinsk, northern Russia, is expected to be completed and commissioned in 2023. When finished, it will be the seventh Project 885/885M Severodvinsk-class attack sub to be built. The Severodvinsk, the project’s lead vessel, entered into service in 2014. The modernized Project 885M Kazan was launched earlier this year and will be commissioned next year. Four more subs — the Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Arkhangelsk, and Perm, are under construction.
With its complement of a multipurpose cruise missile, torpedo, and anti-air armament, the Yasen-M-class attack sub is considered by experts as something of a ‘universal sailor’. It’s ten vertical launch silos can be armed with Oniks anti-ship, Kalibr anti-ship, anti-sub, and land attack cruise missiles, as well as a sea-launched variant of the long-range Kh-101 cruise missile. The sub also features six 650 mm and two 533 mm torpedo tubes, and the Igla-M infrared SAM missile system.
Fitted out with modern hydro acoustic equipment and quiet propulsion systems, the vessels will strengthen the Russian Northern and Pacific Fleets, covering the same patrol areas as their Borei-class ballistic missile sub cousins.
The nuclear-powered submarine Severodvinsk, the first of the Yasen-class of attack subs.
Taking the opportunity to look back on some of the most interesting, intriguing and formidable Russian and foreign attack and missile sub designs in the world, Russian military observer and RIA Novosti contributor Andrei Kotz wrote that the selection can basically be narrowed down to five categories: ‘The Biggest’, ‘The Most Heavily Armed’, ‘The Quietest’, ‘The Most Compact’, and ‘The Most Mysterious’.
The Soviet Project 941 Akula-class heavy nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine has the distinction of being the largest submarine ever created. Built from 1976-1986, the vessels, capable of remaining submerged for up to 120 days at a time, were designed to serve as the backbone of the naval component of the USSR’s nuclear triad capability.
The Dmitry Donskoy
Today, a lone Akula (literally ‘Shark’)-class sub, the Dmitry Donskoy, serves in the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet. In total, six of the 175 m long, 23 m wide subs, displacing 50,000 tons each, were built and deployed. Each of them was capable of carrying up to 20 heavy R-39 heavy intercontinental ballistic missiles, fitted with ten 200 kiloton warheads apiece. In their own time, Kotz recalled, these black monsters and their frightening firepower were “considered by NATO command to be the main trump card of the Soviet Navy.”
Today, the Dmitry Donskoy is used as a floating laboratory. The sub was used to test-launch the RSM-56 Bulava ballistic missiles, the new submarine-launched nuclear weapons deployed on the new Borei class of ballistic missile submarines. On Sunday, the Dmitry Donskoy proudly took part in the grand Russian Navy Day Parade in St. Petersburg.
The Most Heavily-Armed
Credit must be given where it is due, and the US Ohio-class strategic missile submarines carry the distinction of having the largest standard complement of missiles. Each of the 18 subs active with the US Navy is armed with 24 Trident I and Trident II ballistic missiles. Each Trident I can carry up to eight 100 kiloton warheads, while the Trident II carries 14, or eight warheads with a payload of a frightening 475 kilotons.
The USS Michigan Ohio-class guided missile submarine
“Ohio-class subs are the backbone of the US strategic arsenal, and according to Western analysts, more than half of the US nuclear triad’s striking power is hidden within their missile silos,” Kotz noted. “Other advantages of Ohio-class subs are their powerful engines, capable of taking the vessel to underwater speeds of up to 25 knots, as well as its impressive 550 m maximum depth. In this indicator, the vessels are superior to other boats in their class.”
In the early 1980s, the Soviet Navy received the first of the legendary Project 877 Paltus diesel-electric attack subs. Over the years, dozens of the vessels were built and deployed with the Soviet, Russian, Polish, Romanian, Indian, Algerian, Iranian and Chinese navies.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, an upgrade of the popular sub, known as the Project 636 Varshavyanka class, was developed and deployed in the Chinese, Algerian, and Vietnamese navies. In the late 2000s, designers created another upgrade, known as Project 636.3. The Russian Navy has received six of these subs, with two more on the way.
According to Kotz, one of the main advantages of Varshavyanka-class is its “almost completely noiseless [operation] at low speeds,” an advantage which has caused NATO to dub the vessels “black holes.” In fact, the analyst noted, “as far as this indicator is concerned, only the French strategic Triomphant-class ballistic missile subs can compare to the Russian diesels.”
Diesel submarine of the “Varshavyanka” class
“Each of the subs is armed with 18 torpedoes and eight SAM missiles. The torpedoes are launched from 533 mm torpedo tubes which reload automatically every 15 seconds. The outstanding technical and tactical characteristics give the small fleet of Varshavyankas an excellent shot at getting as close as possible to the carrier strike groups of the probable enemy and quickly discharging all of their ammunition. Just one of its torpedoes reaching an aircraft carrier would be enough to neutralize it, leading it to tilt and making it impossible for its planes to take off into the air.”
The Most Compact
The distinction of the smallest nuclear attack submarine currently in service rightfully belongs to the French Rubis-class subs. With an underwater displacement of just 2,600 tons (20 times less than that of the Dmitry Donskoy) Rubis-class vessels are 73.6 m long, and just 8 m wide. In this way, Kotz noted, all six of the subs “can easily fit side by side on a single soccer field!”
The French Navy’s Saphir Rubis-class nuclear attack submarine
“At the same time, these subs are far from being the harmless vessels they may seem to be at first glance,” the journalist stressed. “Each Rubis-class sub is armed with 14 550mm torpedoes. What’s more, they can carry the latest Exocet antiship cruise missiles to attack surface targets. The nuclear reactor and the convenient layout of the interior allows a crew of 57 to retain autonomous navigation for a period of between 45 and 60 days in relative comfort.”
The Most Mysterious
The Russian Status-6 submarine-based nuke delivery drone project easily wins the status of the most mysterious submarine in the world, in Kotz’ view. An image of the elusive weapons system was accidentally snapped by a camera operator in November 2015 during a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and Defense Ministry officials. Since then, the vessel has gone on to cause hysteria among the mainstream Western media, and considerable interest from military experts.
Image of Status-6 plans accidentally leaked on Russian national television in late 2015.
According to available reports, the miniaturized vessel will be stealthy, fast and highly automated, its main task being the delivery of a powerful nuclear warhead to the coastal area of the probable enemy. “In effect,” Kotz wrote, “this sub will really be a big torpedo, capable of destroying coastal infrastructure or even causing a tsunami.”
In March 2016, United Shipbuilding Corporation officials confirmed that work was under way on the unmanned underwater vehicle, which will be large enough to carry its own torpedoes. Carrier vessels for such weapons are also under development, leading many experts to conclude that Status-6 is really coded for a fifth-generation nuclear submarine whose main strike weapons will consist of these drones.