Resurgence of the Russian Navy


Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Navy was left in a state of decay for over two decades. Lack of money meant that they could not afford to keep pace with other nations. Money was generally spent launching smaller ships designed for coastal defense. However,  their appears to be a naval resurgence of the Russian navy. Recently several new ship designs have become known and many older ships are being replaced. Russia expects as many as 54 brand new ships to be commissioned by 2020. These ships will replace a variety of older vessels and fulfill a variety of roles.

Admiral Gorshkov class Frigate

resurgence of the russian navy

Recently, the Russian Navy has launched the Admiral Gorshkov class frigates. The Admiral Gorshkov class represents the first truly blue water capable ships the Russian Navy has produced since the Cold War. These are powerfully armed vessels with emphasis placed on stealth and survivability. Unlike previous Russian frigates, the Admiral Gorshkov class are true multi-purpose designs. Anti-surface firepower is provided by a large 130mm naval gun, P-800 anti-ship missiles, and cruise missiles. Anti-air missiles and CIWs (close in weapon systems) defend against air attack while torpedoes defend against underwater threats.

Details are vague at the moment, but as many as 15 of these ships could be built.

Lider class Cruiser / Destroyer

resurgence of the russian navy

A rather interesting development is a new class of heavy destroyer being developed known as the Leader / Lider class. These ships are over 650′ in length and will displace around 17,500 tons. These imposing vessels are massive compared to destroyers, leading some to classify them as cruisers. This is interesting as cruisers have generally faded from use in most fleets. It appears as though Russia is developing a vessel to bridge the gap between its destroyers and the large Kirov class battlecruisers. Regardless, if launched, these vessels will carry a heavier missile armament than any other warship.

Anti-surface firepower will be made up of a 130mm naval gun, long range cruiser missiles, and hyper-sonic anti-ship missiles. Anti-air firepower is provided by long and medium range surface to air missiles as well as a unique gun/missile CIWs. They are also expected to carry torpedoes to defend against submarines.

Russia is planning to build up to 12 ships. They are expected to operate with the Northern and Pacific fleets.

Project 23000E Carrier

resurgence of the russian navy
A model of Russia’s new carrier design at an exhibition in 2015.


A rather far off project, but important none the less, is development of a new carrier design. Unlike the United States which saw carriers as the primary offensive power in the fleet, Russia placed emphasis on heavy anti-ship missiles. Even their carriers carried a relatively heavy battery of anti-ship missiles. Aircraft were used more for fleet support than offensive power. The Project 23000E design is interesting as it is more in line with American design. The design is focused on air operations with a more efficient deck layout and a double island design. Unlike previous Russian carriers that displaced about 50,000 tons, the 23000E design rivals US carriers at 100,000 tons.

Currently, Russia has no plans to build carriers. These complex machines would overtax Russia’s limited shipbuilding capability. However, Russian officials have stated their intent to replace their current carriers so anything is possible at this point.

Yasen class attack submarine

resurgence of the russian navy

While surface ships have gotten all the attention, Russia is making great strides to overhaul their submarine fleet. Both nuclear and conventional submarines are being developed and one of the latest is the Yasen class submarine. These nuclear powered attack submarines might be very capable adversaries. Developed from a line of successful Russian submarines, the Yasens are expected to be the most quiet Russian design yet. Capable of carrying torpedoes and cruise missiles, they represent a significant threat to shipping as well as targets along the coast.

It is unknown how many Yasen class subs will be built. Currently the program is plagued with huge cost overruns as Russia struggles to perfect the design. Up to 12 submarines are desired, but Russia has only agreed to pay for 7 at the moment.

Borey class Ballistic Missile Submarine

resurgence of the russian navy

The final development in Russia’s fleet is the introduction of a new ballistic missile submarine. Known as the Borey class, these ships are to replace the older Delta IV and Typhoon class submarines. Cheaper, quieter, and more efficient than previous designs, the Borey class ships are nuclear powered and carry up to 16 (possibly more) nuclear ballistic missiles with a range exceeding 9000 kilometers. Their are rumors of a newer variant in the design phase, but nothing specific has been established.

Russia is planning 8 of these new subs. However, while the subs are operating well, their intended ballistic missiles are suffering from numerous design issues.

Threat Level?

Currently, it remains to be seen if Russia’s taxed ship building yards can keep up with their ambitious plans. However, the newest ship designs show that Russian naval strategy is evolving to counter its potential enemies. While it will take some time for Russia to rebuild from its naval slump, the current advantage the West has might not last for much longer. The Russian bear is rising again and the West better prepare accordingly.


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Chris Knupp

A student of military history, I am working to make history more interesting and accessible for everyone.


  1. Surprised you didn’t mention the Kirov class ships and their ongoing upgrades. Currently Russia is upgrading Admiral Nakhimov, and according to articles from last year, might be ready by 2019. The contract is valued at 2.559 billion rubles ($33.5 million). Pyotr Velikiy is supposed to be upgraded once they complete the work on Admiral Nakhimov. I suppose we’ll need to see if they in fact get the work completed, but they seem to be serious about it. These refitted Kirov class ships will supposedly feature a whole new set of sensors and subsystems. Many think they Zircon hypersonic missile will be deployed on them. Foxtrot Alpha had a pretty good article on it.

    • I only focused on new construction.

      However, on the subject of the Kirov class, I am curious to see what Russia does with the ships once the Lider class comes into service. I would imagine that the Lider would fulfill the same roles, allowing the relatively expensive Kirov class cruisers to be retired.


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