The new large landing ship “Ivan Gren” has come off the production line of the “Yantar” plant. The ship, named after the famous Soviet Admiral and scientist-artilleryman, is the chief ship of Project 11711. Ships of the project, along with the French/Russian-made “Mistral” helicopter carriers, are to form the basis of the Russian Navy’s landing force in the near future.
Currently, the landing forces of the Navy consist of 18 large landing ships. The basis of this fleet consists of 15 ships from Project 775 constructed in Poland, and three ships from project 1171 “Tapir” built in the USSR in the 1960s.
Although the project of the new large landing ship has a number similar to its predecessor – 11711 – there is nothing left from “Tapir” in it. According to available information, a similar project number was assigned for purposes of secrecy.
The new large landing ship differs from its predecessors in its lesser radio visibility due to modified forms of add-ons. The design of the dock-camera and the bow ramp was modified in order to facilitate the landing of troops and enhance its security, whether it is conducted by means of boats, or directly on shore.
The “Ivan Gren” has been under construction for quite a long time, from 2004 to 2012. It is expected to start operating only in 2013. This delay in construction was due both to the uncertainty of the landing forces’ role in the structure of the Fleet, and the project’s incompleteness. The second reason is still the problem of today: before issuing an order for a large series of ships, the Navy intends to put the “Ivan Gren” to the test in order to make a decision concerning the equipment and armament of prospective large landing ships. Today the second ship of Project 11711 is at the initial stage of construction. The work began in 2010, but it is unlikely to be sped up before 2013-14 i.e. before the conclusions are made basing on the results of the lead ship’s tests. After that an order can be made for a series of ships, improved according to the test’s results.
Altogether, including the order for four “Mistral” universal amphibious ships (UAS) – each of which can replace two large landing ships in regards to the accommodation of troop capacity – the Navy needs approximately 9-10 ships from Project 11711. The state armament program for the period of 2011-2020 lays down plans for the construction of six such ships. The rest will probably be built after 2020.
However, the “Ivan Gren’s” fate is not quite clear yet. It is possible that after the tests the lead ship of the new project will be used as a military transport “with landing potential.” First of all, it depends on the kind of weapons that will be placed on the newly built ship.
The contract for the construction of two UAS “Mistral” in France and two more under license in Russia has caused a heated reaction in the West and in some post-soviet states – especially in Georgia and Baltic countries. Versions concerning the use of the new UAS in the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea were seriously discussed there. These publicly stated concerns, however, can be regarded only as “demonstrative actions”, because it is obvious that a 21,000 ton UAS with a sailing range of about 20,000 miles is not intended for sailing in “ponds” like the Black or Baltic Seas. The actual renewal of the landing forces in these theaters of military action means that large landing ships of average dimensions and range of sailing will be added to the armory.
These ships are able to land a reinforced company of marines (or a battalion, but without equipment), and to support the landing by means of artillery fire and multiple launch rocket systems. It is optimal to use them in conflicts, such as the August War of 2008. It should be noted that the UAS of project 11711 – alongside a larger accommodation of troops capacity – have a smaller sailing range than their predecessors, which suggests their use primarily in coastal zones.
The new UAS is not enough to maintain full-fledged assault forces of the Fleet. The marines of the Russian Navy need new armored vehicles, including floating ones, and landing boats, both conventional and on air cushions, which can be applied both from the board of the amphibious ships and on their own.
A renewal of the helicopter fleet is also badly needed. It is supposed to solve this problem by purchasing the upgraded Ka-29 (transport- combatant) helicopters and the latest Ka-52К (deck combat helicopters).
Meanwhile we are to wait for the results of the “Ivan Gren” tests. In the next two years the structure of the Russian Navy landing forces will become clear.