Tag Archives: Soviet

Deception and the Backfire Bomber: Part Two

The following article is part of our cross-posting partnership with Information Dissemination‘s Jon Solomon. It is republished here with the author’s permission. It can be read it in its original form here.

Read part one of this series here.

By Jon Solomon

Was U.S. Navy Tactical Deception Effective?

Since Backfire needed pathfinder support, the U.S. Navy’s key to disrupting if not decapitating a raid by the former was to defeat the latter. As part of my thesis research, I came across much circumstantial evidence that the U.S. Navy’s combination of strict Emission Control (EMCON) discipline, decentralized command and control doctrine, occasional use of lower campaign-value warships to simulate high campaign-value warships, and perhaps even occasional use of electronic jamming gave SOSS controllers and Soviet reconnaissance assets fits during real-world operations. Still, I did not come across any authoritative Russian perspectives on whether or how these U.S. Navy counter-targeting efforts affected Soviet doctrine, tactics, or confidence. That’s what makes the following comment from Tokarev so interesting:

“Moreover, knowing the position of the carrier task force is not the same as knowing the position of the carrier itself. There were at least two cases when in the center of the formation there was, instead of the carrier, a large fleet oiler or replenishment vessel with an enhanced radar signature (making it look as large on the Backfires’ radar screens as a carrier) and a radiating tactical air navigation system. The carrier itself, contrary to routine procedures, was steaming completely alone, not even trailing the formation. To know for sure the carrier’s position, it was desirable to observe it visually.”(Tokarev, Pg. 77)

He goes on to describe a special reconnaissance-attack group of sacrificial bombers that might be detached from an inbound raid to penetrate a naval formation and visually identify the primary targets. Only with positive target designations from these pathfinders, or perhaps from TU-95RT Bear-D reconnaissance aircraft preceding the raid, could Backfire crews have any confidence the single missile they each carried was aimed at a valid and valuable target (Tokarev, Pg. 72, 77). Even then, he observes that “Contrary to widespread opinion, no considerable belief was placed in the ability of launched missiles to resist ECM efforts” (Tokarev, Pg. 75), indicating recognition that the countertargeting battle hardly ended with missile launch.

The one exception to the above contact classification and identification problems would have been a war-opening first salvo attack, in which targeting-quality cues could have been provided to Backfires or other anti-ship missile-carrying assets by any tattletale ships following a carrier closely. While noting the tattletale tactic’s high potential efficacy, Tokarev makes clear it could only be used in peacetime and would never again be possible following hostilities’ outbreak:

“Despite the existence of air reconnaissance systems such as Uspekh, satellite systems like Legenda, and other forms of intelligence and observation, the most reliable source of targeting of carriers at sea was the direct-tracking ship. Indeed, if you see a carrier in plain sight, the only problem to solve is how to radio reliably the reports and targeting data against the U.S. electronic countermeasures. Ironically, since the time lag of Soviet military communication systems compared to the NATO ones is quite clear, the old Morse wireless telegraph used by the Soviet ships was the long-established way to solve that problem. With properly trained operators, Morse keying is the only method able to resist active jamming in the HF band… But the direct tracker was definitely no more than another kind of kamikaze. It was extremely clear that if a war started, these ships would be sent to the bottom immediately. Given that, the commanding officer of each had orders to behave like a rat caught in a corner: at the moment of war declaration or when specifically ordered, after sending the carrier’s position by radio, he would shell the carrier’s flight deck with gunfire, just to break up the takeoff of prepared strikes, fresh CAP patrols, or anything else.” (Tokarev, Pg. 80)

Preventing a tattletale from maintaining track on a carrier accordingly reduced the chances for successfully striking that carrier. Additionally, since not all carriers would be operating forward at the time of the first salvo, those withheld in areas tattletales could not readily access would be more or less immune from large-scale attacks. This would leave the Backfires overwhelmingly dependent upon pathfinders in any later raid attempt.

It should be obvious that EW (and its contemporary cousin, cyber warfare) or tactical deception capabilities on their own are not going to deter an adversary from embarking upon some form of conventional aggression. The adversary’s decision to seek war will always be politically-driven, and the possibility of aggression out of desperation vice opportunism cannot be discounted. To the extent that political and military leaders’ latent psychological perceptions of their forces’ strengths and weaknesses influence their war making calculus, though, efforts to erode an opponent’s confidence in his most doctrinally important military capabilities can induce him to raise his political threshold for resorting to war. Tokarev’s observations therefore imply that Soviet commanders understood the likely cost in their crews’ lives that would be necessary just to provide a raid a chance at success, and that complicating variables such as the U.S. Navy’s demonstrated counter-targeting competencies only made the whole endeavor seem more uncertain and costly. The impact upon general deterrence, while immeasurable in any real sense, obviously was not insignificant.

In part three of the series, an examination of the deception tactics that might have been employed by Backfire raids.

Jon Solomon is a Senior Systems and Technology Analyst at Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. in Alexandria, VA. He can be reached at jfsolo107@gmail.com. The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and are presented in his personal capacity on his own initiative. They do not reflect the official positions of Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. and to the author’s knowledge do not reflect the policies or positions of the U.S. Department of Defense, any U.S. armed service, or any other U.S. Government agency. These views have not been coordinated with, and are not offered in the interest of, Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. or any of its customers.

Deception and the Backfire Bomber: Part One

The following article is part of our cross-posting series with Information Dissemination‘s Jon Solomon. It is republished here with the author’s permission. It can be read in its original form here.

By Jon Solomon

Last winter’s Naval War College Review contained a must-read article on the Soviet Navy’s doctrine from the 1980s for employing its TU-22M Backfire series of bombers against U.S. Navy carrier groups. In “Kamikazes: the Soviet Legacy,” former Soviet Navy officer Maksim Y. Tokarev reveals many details regarding Backfire capabilities and tactics that, to my knowledge at least, have not been previously disclosed within English-language open sources.

As part of my 2011 master’s thesis, I conducted a case study examination of how the U.S. Navy used Electronic Warfare (EW) and tactical deception to counter Soviet long-range maritime strike capabilities such as Backfire during the Cold War. I found that while a considerable amount of information is now publicly (though not necessarily widely) known about the two sides’ tactics, technologies, and real-world operational experiences from the late 1950s through mid-1970s, relatively few details regarding the competition’s late-1970s through early-1990s peak have been declassified by the U.S. or Russian governments. Tokarev’s article sheds a remarkable amount of light on the latter period from the Russian perspective. In doing so, he also underlines timeless maritime targeting challenges that technology can partially ameliorate but never fully eliminate. He additionally paints an intriguing picture of how an advanced attacker might use tactical deception in an attempt to score a lopsided win in a battle at sea. In my posts this week, I will point out the most fascinating of the new details provided by Tokarev and then examine their historical significance as well as contemporary implications.

What Kind of Reconnaissance Support did Backfire Need?

One of the key historical questions regarding Backfire involves the reconnaissance support the bombers’ crews needed to effectively employ their missiles. The earlier TU-16 Badger series of Soviet maritime bombers depended upon targeting cues provided by scout aircraft. These so-called ‘pathfinders’ penetrated an enemy’s battleforce ahead of a raid in order to locate and positively identify aircraft carriers or other high-priority target ships. This was necessary because a standoff bomber like Badger simply could not tell whether a large contact held by its onboard radar was an aircraft carrier, a surface combatant or other ship configured to simulate a carrier, an artificial decoy, or a large and perhaps neutral-flagged merchant vessel. Even if a surface contact of interest made ‘telltale’ radio frequency emissions, the vessel’s type could not be determined with high confidence because of the possibility that the emissions were deceptive. Visual-range verification of contacts’ types (if not identities) was consequently a prerequisite for the Badgers to be able to aim their missiles with confidence. Yet, because the Soviet pathfinder aircraft necessarily had to expose themselves to the entirety of a battle force’s layered defenses in order to do their jobs, they represented single-points-of-failure that could easily doom a raid if neutralized before they located, classified, and identified desired targets.

In the mid-1970s, the Soviets began launching Radar Ocean Reconnaissance and Electronic intelligence Ocean Reconnaissance Satellites (RORSAT and EORSAT) into low earth orbit. RORSAT and EORSAT were primarily intended to expand the maritime areas covered by the Soviet Ocean Surveillance System (SOSS), a networked ‘system of systems’ that fused data from a wide variety of remote sensors to locate, identify, track, and target U.S. Navy forces at sea. In theory, Soviet standoff bombers might not have needed the support of pathfinder scouts if SOSS operators were able to provide a raid with high confidence, targeting-quality tactical pictures derived from RORSAT, EORSAT, and perhaps other remote sensor sources.

Backfire made its Soviet Naval Air Force (SNAF) debut in 1976. Unlike the subsonic Badger, Backfire could make its final approach to its firing position—and then its subsequent escape attempt—at supersonic speed. The SNAF’s Backfire-C variant, which reached Initial Operational Capability in 1981, carried enough fuel to make an indirect approach against a targeted naval force operating well beyond 2000 nautical miles from the Soviet coast. Defending against a Backfire raid was therefore an order of magnitude more complicated than defending against a Badger raid. The tactical dilemma facing a U.S. Navy battleforce would have been further exacerbated—potentially decisively—if a Backfire raid received its targeting data directly from SOSS instead of from pathfinders. Some later Backfire-Cs were even equipped with a communication system that allowed them to download RORSATs’ and EORSATs’ tactical pictures as those satellites passed overhead.

From a purely technical perspective, though, it seemed quite unlikely Backfire could completely do away with reliance upon pathfinders or other visual-range scouts. As I detailed in my thesis, RORSAT suffered from the same contact classification challenges that inherently plague any radar. In fact, RORSAT’s shortcomings were even worse: its sensitivity was apparently so poor that it could only detect large ships, and even then not reliably when the area it was searching contained inclement weather. EORSAT was completely dependent upon ships complacently radiating telltale radiofrequency emissions, and as a result could not compensate for RORSAT. Lastly, as neither RORSAT nor EORSAT could report their data in ‘real time,’ their contact pictures generally suffered from tactically-significant lateness. Nevertheless, other than anecdotes from U.S. Navy veterans of the 1980s who directly observed SNAF operations when their carrier groups steamed into the “Bear’s Den,” and beyond some open source scholarly interpretations of Soviet doctrine dating to the early 1990s, until Tokarev there has been virtually no authoritatively-sourced evidence available to the public confirming or refuting Backfire’s dependence upon pathfinders.

On that note, Tokarev first relates that SNAF bomber forces:

“…always tried to use reconnaissance and targeting data provided by air assets, which was also most desired by their own command structure. Targeting data on the current position of the carrier sent by surface ships performing “direct tracking” (a ship, typically a destroyer or frigate, sailing within sight of the carrier formation to send targeting data to attack assets—what the Americans called a “tattletale”), were a secondary and less preferable source. No great trust was placed in reports from other sources (naval radio reconnaissance, satellites, etc.). Lieutenant General Sokerin, once an operational officer on the Northern Fleet NAF staff, always asked the fleet staff’s admirals just to assign him a target, not to define the time of the attack force’s departure; that could depend on many factors, such as the reliability of targeting data or the weather, that generate little attention in nonaviation naval staff work.”(Tokarev, Pg. 73)

He later amplifies this, noting that Backfire crews

“…had the targeting data that had been available at the moment of takeoff and kept the receivers of the targeting apparatus ready to get detailed targeting, either from the air reconnaissance by voice radio or from surface ships or submarines. The latter targeting came by high-frequency (HF) radio, a channel known as KTS Chayka (the Seagull short-message targeting communication system) that was usually filled with targeting data from the MRSC Uspekh (the Success maritime reconnaissance targeting system), built around the efforts of Tu-95RC reconnaissance planes. The Legenda (Legend) satellite targeting system receiver was turned on also, though not all planes had this device.” (Tokarev, Pg. 74)

These statements tell us two things. First, while Backfires could use direct satellite-based cueing, they relied heavily upon—and in fact placed greater trust in—targeting provided by scout aircraft. Second, a Backfire (or any Soviet maritime bomber) sortie depended upon raid planners being told approximately where a U.S. or NATO naval group was operating. If SOSS or any other surveillance or reconnaissance capabilities supporting this general cueing was disrupted or deceived, a raid might be dispatched to the wrong location, might be wasted against a decoy group, might be exposed to an ambush, might be held back until too late, or might never be launched at all.

We must keep in mind that launching a SNAF raid was no small undertaking. Per Tokarev, an entire air division—up to a hundred bombers—might be hurled against a single carrier’s battle group. Furthermore, doctrine called for the Soviet Northern and Pacific Fleets to be equipped with three air divisions each in order to counter multi-carrier battle groups. Tokarev also mentions that the bomber attrition rate for a single raid was expected to be as high as 50% regardless of whether or not the objective U.S. or NATO warships were successfully struck (Tokarev, Pg. 73, 78). With a finite number of bombers, missiles, and trained crews, it is reasonable to think Soviet commanders would have been somewhat hesitant to dispatch such irreplaceable forces into battle unless they had some degree of confidence in their situational picture’s accuracy; the operational-strategic penalties that would be incurred if they ‘got it wrong’ simply seem too high for this not to have been the case. Accordingly, it will be extremely interesting to someday learn the criteria that had to be satisfied for SNAF commanders to order a raid.  

In part two of the series, just how effective was U.S. Navy counter-targeting?

Jon Solomon is a Senior Systems and Technology Analyst at Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. in Alexandria, VA. He can be reached at jfsolo107@gmail.com. The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and are presented in his personal capacity on his own initiative. They do not reflect the official positions of Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. and to the author’s knowledge do not reflect the policies or positions of the U.S. Department of Defense, any U.S. armed service, or any other U.S. Government agency. These views have not been coordinated with, and are not offered in the interest of, Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. or any of its customers.

The Development of Russian Naval Capabilities after the Cold War

Russia Resurgent Topic Week

By Patrick Truffer

The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union led to a weakening of the former Soviet Armed Forces. It was not until after the turn of the millennium that Russia directed its efforts towards qualitative rearmament and simultaneously shifted its focus to strategic systems with the associated lowering of the threshold regarding the use of nuclear weapons.[i] This new focus concentrated on land and air forces, and was necessarily not applied in full to the Russian Federation Navy (RFN), even if an article by Ben Hernandez warned that the RFN would be similarly developed.[ii] This essay poses questions based on these findings: to what extent have the capabilities of the RFN changed since the end of the Cold War? Can a trend towards a weakening of conventional and a strengthening of the strategic components be identified?

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When the Russian armed forces were officially established on 7 May 1992, the RFN was in quantitative terms a navy of rank II (see “Notes: Classification of the capabilities of marine power” further below). The economic problems of Russia, which lasted until the early years of the 21st century, resulted in the maintenance and modernization of the ex-Soviet military systems playing only a subordinate role. Financial spending for the Red Army had previously accounted for at least 15% of GDP, but between 1992 and 1997 expenditure fell to no more than 5%, despite the 50% drop in GDP during the same period. Spending was further reduced to 2.9% in 1998 during the Ruble crisis, increasing only from 1999. The financial resources available to the Russian armed forces until 1999 barely sufficed for operating costs. Important new acquisitions were not possible, as can be seen in the development of the armed forces during the consolidation period which lasted until after 1999, when out-dated, surplus Soviet systems were scrapped.[iii] The consolidation phase was particularly punishing for the RFN which lost four of its original five aircraft carriers within the four year period – only the conventionally powered Admiral Kuznetsov is still operational today.[iv] By the turn of the millennium, the strategic and tactical submarines, minelayers and minesweepers as well as amphibious capabilities had been drastically reduced in number.[v] In addition, Russia withdrew from almost all its foreign bases – Tartus in Syria remained as the last Russian naval base outside of Russian territory.[vi]

The potential of the RFN and its suppliers of defence technology deteriorated not only in terms of quantity but also of quality. At present, only about a quarter of the fleet has ocean-going capacity, and the abandonment of armaments projects as well as a shortage of new vessels since the turn of the millennium have reduced the RFN to a navy of rank III.[vii] The RFN is capable, although with considerable effort, of projecting power at a global level. However, a major operation would only be possible within a limited arena and for a limited period.[viii] The problems the RFN has in maintaining its Mediterranean task force, which consist of between 10 and 12 vessels, indicate that a sustained operation would have less success.[ix]

Financial constraints in the defence industry have led to the unravelling of the production chain and to a loss of know-how, complicated by the fact that former Soviet production sites were often located outside of Russia. Russian aircraft carriers, for example, were built in Mykolaiv in Ukraine.[x] Due to these factors and combined with a lack of investment in new industrial capabilities and technologies, Russia must in part rebuild its industrial military technology from the ground up.[xi] The modernisation of the Russian armaments industry made only slow progress till 2010, due for the most part to inefficient and corrupt state-funded structures. In spite of this, three new strategic nuclear-powered submarines of the Borei-class have successfully been put into service since 2008. Together with a further five, they will replace Russia’s remaining strategic Delta- and Typhoon-class submarines by 2020 and compose the future maritime component of the nuclear triad. The strategic submarines serve as a carrier system for up to 16 of the currently not yet fully operational Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).[xii] The Borei-class is in part Soviet technology because the relevant planning phase began during the Cold War.[xiii] After successful implementation, this will reduce the strategic submarine fleet from the Cold War levels of 55 units (covering six classes) and 832 nuclear-capable ICBMs (five types) to 8-10 Borei-class submarines with altogether 128-160 nuclear-capable ICBMs of a single type armed with one nuclear warhead each. The strategic maritime component of Russia will thereby be quantitatively modest compared to that of the USA which, from 2018 and taking into account the New START agreement, will have 12 Ohio-class submarines, each with 20 Trident D-5 ICBMs, each of which theoretically capable of carrying up to 14 nuclear warheads.[xiv] Regarding the quantity of the carrier systems, Russia is still superior to those of the UK (four Vanguard-class submarines, each with 16 Trident D-5 ICBMs, capable of carrying three nuclear warheads each) and France (four Le Triomphant-class submarines, each with 16 ICBMs equipped with six nuclear warheads per missile).[xv] Despite significant quantitative disarmament, which in turn has reduced pressure on the military budget, Russia has been able to ensure the capabilities of the maritime component of its nuclear triad.

Military Statistics – Russian Armed Forces – Nov 2015 

Optimistic estimates of the development periods for new, possibly nuclear-powered aircraft carriers arrive at 15-20 years.[xvi] This is the most fundamental of several preconditions required for a return to the rank of a Major Global Force Projection navy (if only “partial”). In addition, every deployed aircraft carrier requires further vessels. When the Admiral Kuznetsov passed through the English Channel in January 2014, the Russian carrier battle group consisted of a further five cruisers, destroyers and frigates as escort vessels.[xvii] Thus to an aircraft carrier, enough suitable escorts and the necessary logistics required for sustained operations must be available for deployment. The Russian shipbuilding industry currently seems almost incapable of successfully implementing this mammoth project within the prescribed time, because the problems, massive cost overruns and time delays in the conversion commissioned by the Indian Navy of the Kiev-class aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov into the INS Vikramaditya generate little confidence in the capabilities of Russian shipyards.[xviii]

Despite these changes required, the conventional sector appears to have made progress. For example, modernisation work began in 2007 on the Oscar-class submarines (each with 24 P-700 Granit anti-ship cruise missiles) which are still in operation and for the most part date back to the 1980s. In addition, at the end of 2013 a new tactical, nuclear-powered Yasen-class submarine entered service.[xix] However, this was not a new development; as with the Borei-class, the planning phase dates back to the Soviet era. Construction was delayed by years, partly due to financial restrictions and partly due to the priority given to the Borei-class. Four more Yasen-class submarines are to follow in the medium- to long-term. With Russias diesel-electric powered attack submarines, the Kilo-class fleet has been partly modernised and increased to 20 units. The first submarine in the subsequent Lada-class, whose drive system possibly will be air-independent and significantly quieter, has been operational since 2010 and two more are to follow by 2020.[xx] Two heavy nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser (Kirov-class) from the Soviet era are also being modernised.[xxi] There seems otherwise to be no new development in the field of cruisers. The outlook is more positive with frigates: The multi-role Admiral Gorshkov-class (1 being tested, 3 under construction and a total of 5-6 operational by 2020) and the guided-missile Admiral Grigorovich-class (5 in construction, 6 planned) are new Russian developments.[xxii] The Buyan-class (5 operational, 1 undergoing testing, 5 in construction and 1 planned) and the Steregushchy-class corvette[xxiii] (4 operational, 4 under construction and 18 planned by 2020) are also new Russian developments. Both corvette classes are primarily for the protection of coastal waters and, in the case of the Steregushchy-class with its operational flexibility, the 200-mile economic zone. Two of the successor model, Project 22160, which will have a greater level of self-sufficiency[xxiv], are already in production.[xxv]

The 20 obsolete landing craft which still exist on paper mean that the amphibious capabilities of the RFN are virtually non-existent. In the long term, Russia is planning to bridge this gap with the Ivan Gren-class, but although begun in 2004, the project is not yet fully functional. It was announced in July 2015 that only two of the six ships planned would be completed. In addition, the purchase of two French Mistral-class amphibious assault ships was cancelled by France because of tensions resulting from the annexation of the Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine. Russia is now planning to create a modern replacement with a project of its own (Avalanche), but as with all major maritime projects in Russia, doubts about its successful implementation pervade.[xxvi]


After the Cold War, the quantitative and qualitative potential of the RFN declined considerably. It is presently in the same league as the UK and the France Navy and could at the most carry out one major operation for a closely defined period in a specific location. This capability gap in global power projection will continue to exist in the long-term. In addition, the amphibious capabilities of the RFN are virtually non-existent, and here no long-term closing of the gap can be detected. The RFN is currently capable of policing the 200-mile economic zone and the coastal waters of the Russian regional space. At the strategic level, maritime component of the Russian nuclear triad with its Burei-class submarines and the Bulava ICBMs is capable of ensuring a presence, even after 2020. The number of simultaneously usable nuclear warheads, low in comparison to that of the USA, UK and France, is not the most significant factor. Despite the existing capability gaps and the efforts to continue to maintain the nuclear triad, the present analysis of the RFN capabilities does not reveal the kind of unilateral shift in focus towards the strategic component which can be detected in Russia’s land and air forces.

Patrick Truffer publishes the Swiss security policy blog offiziere.ch. He graduated from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs and is completing a Master of Arts program in International Relations at the Freien Universität Berlin.

Read other contributions to Russia Resurgent Topic Week.

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[i]               Patrick Truffer, “Strategic rearmament of the Russian armed forces after end of the Cold War”, offiziere.ch, February 01, 2015, part 1: https://www.offiziere.ch/?p=22571, part 2: https://www.offiziere.ch/?p=22958.

[ii]              Ben Hernandez, “Is Russia’s Maritime Strategy Adrift?”, Medium, August 14, 2015, https://goo.gl/io5W08.

[iii]             Mike Bowker and Cameron Ross, Russia After the Cold War, 1st edition (New York: Routledge, 2000), 230ff; Patrick Truffer, “Statistics – Russian Armed Forces”, November 2015, https://goo.gl/UwnQqM.

[iv]             This craft class is not defined in Russia as a full-fledged aircraft carrier, but as a heavy-aircraft carrying cruiser. “New Russian ‘Storm’ Supercarrier Design Wows Chinese Media”, Sputnik, July, 11, 2015, http://goo.gl/2ShnAU.

[v]              Truffer, “Statistics – Russian Armed Forces”.

[vi]             Felix F. Seidler, Maritime Herausforderungen der NATO, Analysen zur Sicherheitspolitik, Bd. 8 (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang GmbH, Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften, 2015), 62.

[vii]            Sean MacCormac, “The New Russian Naval Doctrine”, CIMSEC, September 3, 2015, http://goo.gl/ZalkqF.

[viii]           Seidler, Maritime Herausforderungen der NATO, 61.

[ix]             Paul Pryce, “Russia’s Rusting Task Force”, CIMSEC, September 16, 2013, http://goo.gl/bSwPkZ.

[x]              Peter Dunai and Guy Anderson, “Russia commits to building Black Sea naval shipyards”, Jane’s Navy International 118:2 (March 2013): 49.

[xi]             Seidler, Maritime Herausforderungen der NATO, 63.

[xii]            “Chapter Five: Russia and Eurasia”, The Military Balance 113 (2013): 204.

[xiii]           Construction began in 1996. The test phase planned for 2002 and the planned completion in 2006 were delayed by several years. “Russia”, The Military Balance 108 (2008): 223, “Russia”, The Military Balance 106 (2006): 164.

[xiv]           Under the New START, the number of nuclear warheads for all delivery systems altogether is restricted to 1,550. U.S. Departement of Defense, “Fact Sheet on US Nuclear Force Structure under the New START Treaty”, April 08, 2014.

[xv]            UK Government, “Fact Sheet 10: Trident Value for Money Review”, October 19, 2010; “Chapter Four: Europe”, The Military Balance 115, (2015): 91.

[xvi]           “New Russian ‘Storm’ Supercarrier Design Wows Chinese Media”.

[xvii]          “Russian Carrier Battle Group on its Way to the Mediterranean”, RIA Novosti, January 10, 2014, http://goo.gl/w6cmvN.

[xviii]         “INS Vikramaditya: Indias New Carrier”, Defense Industry Daily, July 16, 2015, http://goo.gl/wAV4Jw; Dmitry Gorenburg, “Russian naval capabilities and procurement plans”, Russian Military Reform, January 14, 2015, https://goo.gl/Sq4P62.

[xix]           “Russia Commissions New Attack Submarine”, Sputnik, Dezember 13, 2013, http://goo.gl/WRHK1t.

[xx]            “Chapter Five: Russia and Eurasia”, The Military Balance 115 (2015): 187, 205.

[xxi]           “Russian Shipyard Sevmash Ordered New Equipment for Overhaul of Kirov Class Cruiser Nakhimov”, Navy Recognition,  January 06, 2015, http://goo.gl/qlwoSd.

[xxii]          Gorenburg, “Russian naval capabilities and procurement plans”; “Baltic Shipyard Starts Work on New Fregatten for Russian Navy”, Sputnik, November 15, 2013, http://goo.gl/lbCGyU.

[xxiii]         The Corvette appears in the “Military Balance” statistics only from 2009, and from 2011 it is classed among the frigates
(accordingly considered in Truffer, “Statistics – Russian Armed Forces”).

[xxiv]         An operational range of 6,000 miles and a continuous operating time of 60 days instead of 3,500 miles and 15 days for the Steregushchy class. John Pike, “Project 22160 Vasily Bykov Patrol Ship”, GlobalSecurity.org, May 02, 2014, http://goo.gl/wo3NH1.

[xxv]          Gorenburg, “Russian naval capabilities and procurement plans”.

[xxvi]         “Russia Reduces Procurement of Ivan Gren Class Landing Ship to Focus on Mistral Analog Lavina”, Navy Recognition, July 10, 2015, http://goo.gl/soGy1k.

Notes: Classification of the capabilities of marine power[i]


Rank Designation Description These include:
I Major Global Force Projection Navy – Complete Can carry out all naval tasks globally, implementing several operations at the same time and establishing military supremacy worldwide. Includes aircraft carrier battle groups, nuclear-powered attack and strategic missile submarines, amphibious assault ships and a corresponding three-digit number of surface warships. USA
II Major Global Force Projection Navy – Partial Can participate globally in several locations simultaneously with sea denial forces of oceanic range, but only with limitations when it comes to creating military superiority distant from the national territory and for an extended period of time. Has limited access to aircraft carriers and/or amphibious assault ships, but remains dependent on on-shore bases for air support. Includes nuclear-powered attack and strategic missile submarines. The main burden is carried by a significant number of surface warships, in three-digit or high double-digit numbers. Currently no State
III Medium Global Force Projection Navy Can project power globally in multiple simultaneous operations, but can only successfully implement one major operation in one location at any specific time. Has few/individual aircraft carriers and/or amphibious assault vessels, nuclear-powered attack and strategic missile submarines and a two-digit number of surface warships capable of geographically limited naval patrols. Russia



Great Britain (almost)



IV Medium Regional Force Projection Navy Can project power on its own shores, but without being able to establish military superiority on a large scale. Compared to Ranks I to III has a smaller number of surface warships, and may have individual small aircraft carriers or amphibious assault vessels; rarely nuclear, usually conventionally powered attack submarines and land-based aircraft to support operations at sea. Germany








V Adjunct Force Projection Navies Can exert military power along their own coastline with surface vessels and possibly conventionally powered submarines. Sweden


VI Offshore Territorial Defence Navies With surface vessels and possibly conventionally powered submarines they have a credible capability to defend their territorial waters and exclusive economic zones. Chile
VII Inshore Territorial Defence Navies Can defend their coasts with surface vessels. Tunisia


VIII Constabulary Navies Can patrol their coastal waters with weakly armed surface vessels. Bangladesh
IX Token Navies These are navies operated by small states with minimal operational capacity, for example in the form of small patrol boats. Pacific island states

[i]               Classification according to Eric Grove, The Future of Sea Power (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press US, 1990), 236-240. From: Seidler, Maritime Herausforderungen der NATO, 49f, 349-355. I also wish to thank Felix for his additional explanations, suggestions and tips as well as for country examples.


“Baltic Shipyard Starts Work on New Frigate for Russian Navy”. Sputnik, November 15, 2013,  http://goo.gl/lbCGyU.

Bowker, Mike, und Cameron Ross. Russia After the Cold War. 1st edition. New York: Routledge, 2000.

“Chapter Five: Russia and Eurasia”. The Military Balance 113, (2013): 199–244.

“Chapter Five: Russia and Eurasia”. The Military Balance 115, (2015): 159–206.

“Chapter Four: Europe”. The Military Balance 115, (2015): 57–158.

Dunai, Peter, and Guy Anderson. “Russia commits to building Black Sea naval shipyards”. Jane’s Navy International 118:2 (March 2013): 49.

Gorenburg, Dmitry. “Russian naval capabilities and procurement plans”. Russian Military Reform, January 14, 2015, https://goo.gl/Sq4P62.

Grove, Eric. The Future of Sea Power. Annapolis, Md: US Naval Institute Press, 1990.

Hernandez, Ben. “Is Russia’s Maritime Strategy Adrift?” Medium, August 14, 2015, https://goo.gl/io5W08.

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