Russian Navy to receive new invisible ships

Russia has recently unveiled its Project 1239 rocket ship to the world. Representing Russia's Black Sea Fleet, the unique missile hovercraft "Bora" took part in the international exhibition of defense industry AIDEF 2013, which was held in Istanbul on May 7-10. The newest Russian rocket ships of this type will soon turn 20 years old. 

In addition to the naval equipment, Russia showed a wide collection for all types of armed forces. Visitors of the exhibition could see more than 200 promising models of Russian military products.

The first project of this type appeared in 1942, when at a session of the Military Council under the chairmanship of Joseph Stalin, rocket designer Chelomei offered to equip Soviet Navy torpedo boats with jet rockets that would allow fast and nimble boats sink enemy's large surface ships. The project was recognized as a promising one, but officials decided that there was no time to conduct experiments in the field.

In 1967, when Israel in a brilliant fashion destroyed armies of Arab states during the Six Day War, the Navy of the Jewish state lost its flagship Erlan destroyer. It was sunk by a salvo from a small missile boat of the naval forces of Egypt. That local victory of Egyptians once again reminded how dangerous small and fast missile boats could be.

The emergence of missile hardware (in this case, torpedoes) determined classes of ships. For maritime powers that control sea, oceans and lengthy water communications, it seemed logical to increase the size and tonnage of vessels for the installation of more powerful torpedoes, artillery weapons, armor and other protective means. 

Another option was to build numerous torpedo boats and further increase their speed and agility. These two factors were major combat characteristics of torpedo boats - to strike a swift blow and go out of enemy's zone of torpedo and artillery attacks. Such boats were therefore made as light as possible to the detriment of their armor protection. They were easy to produce, could be produced in hundreds and were generally convenient for "mosquito" fleets.

During the 1970s, the Soviet Navy was building large rocket ships, but heavy weapons required higher displacement. The technology reduced speed and increased visibility, although it made vessels more powerful. The experience of the use of project 12341 and 1234 small missile ships testified to the lack of armament of these vessels. Having faced this dilemma, Soviet designers started looking for a different solution. In particular, they put forward an idea to build missile attack hovercraft.

For new vessels, designers suggesting using the platform for amphibious ships, such as "Jeiran" and "Zubr" of project 12321. The high-speed hovercraft outfitted with anti-missile systems, in theory allowed to turn these boats into the killers of battleships and aircraft carriers. As a result, in 1972, the Soviet government approved a closed state program to create a rocket ship on an air cushion (RKVP), Project 1239, codenamed "Sivuch."

From the very beginning, the boats of the project were supposed to carry the "Mosquito" missile complex, which was previously used on destroyers and ekranoplans.

It was impossible to escape from hypersonic missiles of the "Mosquito" complex. They could be detected only a few seconds before contact with the target. An attack from 15-17 "Mosquitos" could sink a whole group of vessels.

The weight of each of such missiles is 4 tons. The decks of amphibious hovercraft were not suitable for such large and heavy objects. It was then decided to combine the catamaran and the air cushion sidewall layout. This allowed to equip the boat with deadly missiles, while maintaining excellent seaworthiness. "Mosquitoes" were eventually installed in two quad installations located on the left and right sides of the ship, which, thanks to high speed could not be struck by homing missiles and torpedoes.

The length of the "Bora"  (built in 1984, passed into service in 1989) is 64 meters; its width is 9 meters. The ship is the largest one in its subclass. It is capable of developing the speed of 55 knots. In addition to three modes of navigation, the ship is able to move only on supercharged engines due to the flow of air from the air cushion in the stern.

During the Soviet times, it was planned to build flotillas of hovercraft for each of the country's four fleets. However, only two ships were built - "Bora" and "Samum," that are now part of the Black Sea Fleet.

Under the "Sivuch" program, it was planned to build 14 missile hovercraft for the Russian Black Sea Fleet before 2010. In case of conflict, the presence of such a group with the support of land-based naval aviation, the Black Sea would be turned into a Russian lake. The plans have never been realized, but the experience can be used to create a new generation of these wonderful ships with enhanced air and missile defense systems. After all, state-of-the-art missile systems through shoot through the Black Sea, which fundamentally changes the approach to forming and operating principles of naval forces. 

Anatoly Miranovsky


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov