The Admiral Gorshkov (not to be confused with the INS Vikramaditya) frigate is the lead ship of Project 22350. Source: Nordsy.spb
The Russian navy’s first large ship made of carbon fibre will begin trials in the Barents Sea by the end of November. The Admiral Gorshkov (not to be confused with the INS Vikramaditya) frigate is the lead ship of Project 22350. A Russian Naval Command source told Izvestia that following the trials, the frigate would join the 14th ASW Brigade of Russia’s Northern Fleet. The frigate has been built using stealth technology, with its superstructures made entirely of composite materials that absorb or semi-conduct radio waves to ensure invisibility to radars.
“This is the first large ship to be fully designed and built in Russia since 1987 and this includes St Petersburg’s Severnaya Verf shipyard. Project 22350 stealth frigates will replace large ASW ships code-named Udaloy by NATO,” an officer at the Navy Command said.
Opinions on the ship have been mixed. Naval officers say carbon fibre is useless because it is weaker than vessel-grade steel, and the worry is that its superstructures could disintegrate in extreme northern conditions with strong winds, low temperatures, and frequent storms. In addition, the superstructure is subject to strong heat pressure at the time of anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile launches.
Severnaya Verf, on the other hand, believes carbon fibre exceeds steel in terms of physical parameters. Its representatives told Izvestia that tests of the superstructure and its components had revealed a high rigidity and resilience to thermal impact.
The Admiral Gorshkov was the first ship to receive not only a stealth superstructure but also the latest combined diesel and gas turbine propulsion system. It is efficient and provides better acceleration capabilities. The frigate is also equipped with a host of modern electronics not found in existing ships. This is at the same time a strength and a weakness, as there is a lack of trained personnel. A Navy command representative and some Northern Fleet officers said it would be impossible to form a crew without extended training on the ground.
Chairman of the State Duma Defence Committee Vladimir Komoedov who is also a former Commander of the Black Sea Fleet, said there is nothing to fear from composite materials. “Recently, I visited a factory that makes carbon fibre nozzles for space rockets. It is wonderfully resilient to high temperatures and dynamic loads. If carbon fibre provides stealth, then the ship needs it. In any case, the introduction of a new unit to the Navy is good news,” Komoedov told Izvestia.
Editor-in-chief of Vzlyot magazine, Vladimir Scherbakov, believes that it remains to be seen how carbon fibre will behave in real-life conditions and particularly in combat.
“Composite materials are used everywhere these days. Individual ship parts have been tested on the ground, and the calculations look excellent on paper. But that already happened with aluminium in the 1980s – the Falkland Island war demonstrated that aluminium ships are highly combustible. So many fleets have abandoned aluminium superstructures as a result,” he said.
Military historian Dmitry Boltenkov had another bone to pick: “Should a frigate with a displacement of just 4,500 tonnes be named after Admiral Sergei Gorshkov, who did a lot for the Navy? A 45,000-tonne aircraft carrier used to bear his name (it is now India’s Vikramaditya). The Admiral Gorshkov name would be more fitting for a Borei-class submarine.”
The stealth frigate was laid down in Severnaya Verf in February 2006 and was floated out of the launch dock in October 2010. It is equipped with a 130-mm gun mount, 16 anti-ship Onyx missiles, and 16 anti-submarine Kalibr-NKE missiles. There is also a surface-to-air Polimer-Redut defence system and a Ka-27 helicopter for ASW missions.
First published in Russian in Izvestia.
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