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by Yury Laskin, Moscow Correspondent, MSD and Mittler Report

Russian Naval shipbuilding plans for 2021 are on schedule, according to the programme programme that has provisions for up to 40 ships and vessels, including two mine counter-measure (MCM) ships (Project 12700).
The Russian Navy currently operates four ships of the Project and has four more MCM ships are underway atthe Sredne-Nevsky Shipbuilding Plant, part of the United Shipbuilding Corporation.

Launch of the Pyotr Ilyichev MCM ship (Image – United Shipbuilding Corporation)

At the end of April, the fifth Project 12700 Alexandrit MCM ship, called “Pyotr Ilyichev”, was launched in St. Petersburg according to Russian Ministry of Defence sources. Another MCM vessel (MCMV) – “Georgi Kurbatov” – will join the “Pyotr Ilyichev” before 2021 ends.
(Note: two more ships were contracted by the Russian Defense Ministry last August at the ARMY-2020 forum.)

Moreover, in his speech to shipbuilders at the launch ceremony this April,  Admiral Nikolai Evmenov, Commander-in-Chief, Russian Navy, noted: “The ships of the project have a large modernisation potential and thus an order for series can be further extended”.

Almaz Central Marine Design Bureau (also part of the United Shipbuilding Corporation) developed Project 12700 for the Russian Navy. These ships belong to a new generation of mine-sweeping forces designed to combat sea mines, which the new mine countermeasures ships ships can detect both in the water and in seabed soil, without entering the danger zone. The ships can use various types of trawls, as well as remote-controlled or operated  vehicps (ROV) and autonomous, unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) to combat mines.

When building such ships at the Sredne-Nevsky shipyard, the latest Russian technologies are used, which are peerless in the world shipbuilding. Ships of the Project have a unique hull made of monolithic fiberglass, formed by vacuum infusion – largest in the world of this kind. The advantage of such a hull is its high strength and “invisibility” for magnetic mines, ensureing the ship’s mine resistance. This fibreglass hull offers a service life opf more than 30 years, significantly longer than a hull made of low-magnetic steel, which is much heavier than the fibreglass hull.

The Project’s ships are capable of minehunting by way of an advanced method using ROVs when searching for mines ahead of the ship. These ships have unique station-keeping capabilities in high sea states and can detect and neutralise silted mines in up to Sea State 5 category. The necessary precision navigation equipment is available on board the ship for effective counter-mine operations.

Moreover, the ship uses large-diameter low-noise propellers placed in noise-reducing pods to protect against acoustic mines. Availability of the Diez automated system of anti-mine warfare enables it to direct the activity of a group of MCMVs. The minehunter offers high manoeuvrability through the use of an effective thruster system.

The export versionof the ship – Alexandrite-E MCMV, has much market potential. In particular, Russia is perhaps correct to count on its presumed success in a tender for 12 MCMV for the Indian Navy. As stated by Indian magazine The Week, the Indian Navy is facing a critical requirement for minesweeper vessels, as it only operates two minesweepers to protect its sea routes and ports.