They’re coming. For over two decades, Russian defence industries have struggled with a paradox. Though possessing more than ample experience and talent to create world-class equipment, with their own country struggling even to maintain its legacy Soviet-era equipment and others largely content with castoffs, new development has been slow to gain funding and even slower to find buyers.
The Russian Navy possesses formidable weapons systems, but they depend on twenty to thirty year old sensors and lack the digital combat systems of Western counterparts. Enter the Indians. The Talwar class frigate, a descendant of the Soviet Krivak (Burevestnik) class, incorporates the latest generation of Russian-derived weapons, including the Shtil (SA-N-12) surface-to-air missile and Indo-Russian BrahMos supersonic anti-ship missile, combined with a fully modern digital back-end. The success of this design seems to have been something of a revelation to both countries.
India has already built a similar design indigenously, the Shivalik class, while Russia is building the Gorshkov class, a Talwar derivative with Onyx rather than BrahMos and the longer-ranged S-400 SAM. Critically, it also seems to feature a new generation of electronically-scanned radar in place of the legacy equipment of the Talwars.
While smaller than Russia’s last new major surface combatant, the Admiral Chabanenko, it will pack significantly greater punch, as one might expect of a design slated to replace both the old Krivaks and the mighty Sovremenny-class anti-surface destroyers. Six orders are reported so far, and current plans envision 20-30 units of the class. Like most Russian naval procurement plans these days, that is rather overoptimistic in economic terms, but it certainly signals confidence in the design.
Meanwhile, India has not been standing still. The Kolkata-class destroyers, however, will incorporate more Indian and Israeli weaponry, including the Nirbhay land-attack cruise missile, the purported hypersonic BrahMos-2 and the Barak-8 medium-range SAM.
Over to China, which after a long development process has settled on a destroyer design for mass production. The Type 052C/D follows a number of designs built in ones and twos over the past decade, a cautious technological evolution that has led China to create its own multirole air-defence ship with indigenously built (subtext: “good thing those Russians are just too chicken to defend their patents”) weapon systems. The Type 052D is already in series production, alongside the Type 054A frigate- both capable multirole designs, with the former taking the long range AAW role and the latter the medium range with S-300 and Shtil- er, HQ-9 and HQ-16- respectively.
It has taken awhile, but after a long period of hibernation, Soviet military technology has pollinated a new multinational generation of high-end naval development. Now, if only there were a strategically reasonable purpose for all this stuff…