What’s known about the landing helicopter carriers that Russia will build without receiving French ships?

Russia will build large landing helicopter carriers. According to the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy of Russia, Admiral Nikolai Evmenov, they will be laid at the Zaliv plant in Crimea on May 9, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War.

This event will be a turning point in the history of our fleet – a new class of previously non-existent ships will appear in its structure, and with it, new possibilities of using the Navy itself will open. However, the intrigue is far from this. The right to design these giants did not go to the St. Petersburg design bureaus, but to the Zelenodolsk Design Bureau (part of the Ak Bars shipbuilding corporation, SKAB), a company noted for the development of a successful but small-tonnage series of missile ships: Gepards and Buyanov.

Model Section

The fleet has such a term – overstag.

It means a sharp change in the course of a sailing ship. This is not the first time he has repeated the fate of Russian landing helicopter carriers. In 2014, France refused to give us two built ships of the Mistral type.

Despite the fact that our sailors even lived in the cockpits and cabins of French helicopter carriers, many in Russia breathed a sigh of relief and crossed themselves. More than € 1 billion was returned to the budget of the Russian shipbuilding program, which could be spent not only on building ships according to existing projects, but also on developing new ones. For example, the same landing helicopter carriers.

Today there are at least two such projects. This is “Surf” (with a displacement of 14 thousand tons, designed to accommodate eight Ka-27 helicopters and six landing boats, 500 paratroopers and 60 units of armored vehicles) and the larger – “Avalanche”.

This ship with a displacement of 24 thousand tons is very similar to the French “Mistral” – the bare “carrier deck”, attack helicopters Ka-52K, anti-submarine Ka-32. In addition to them, a powerful air defense system based on the marine version of the Pantsir-ME complex. According to the developers, the ship could deliver to the shore 60 units of light armored vehicles and at least 20-30 main battle tanks.

If it is not possible to approach directly to the land, this will be done with four project boats 11770M or two projects 12061M. According to former Deputy Minister of Defense Yuri Borisov, the fleet expected to receive two helicopter carriers “Avalanche” in the framework of the new state weapons program until 2025.

What exactly Zelenodoltsy suggested is still unknown. At no exhibition of armaments and equipment on its stands were models of ships larger than the Cheetah (its displacement up to 2 thousand tons). Although today the company is also building tankers for the Ministry of Defense, for example, project 03182.

This is a very unusual and somewhere futuristic ice-class reinforced class ship with a displacement of more than 3.5 thousand tons and a length of 74 m. Priboy and Avalanche are the brainchildren of Nevsky Design Bureau and the Krylovsk center, respectively – they have from 160 to 300 m. In the second case, this is slightly less than the length of the aircraft-carrying cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov.

Nevertheless, Zelenodolkoye Design Bureau was the first in shipbuilding to introduce a software and hardware complex for virtual prototyping. This is an opportunity at the development stage to walk around the premises of the future ship or vessel in 3D glasses and see how it will look. The technology reduces the further design problems by an order of magnitude and allows us to eliminate defects even before the stage when the ship is already being built in the hardware.

Echo of the Mistral

Valery Polovinkin, Advisor to the Director-General of the Krylovsky Scientific Center, has been a consistent critic of the purchase of the French Mistral helicopter carriers. The specialist noted their unsuitability for use in Russian conditions.

For example, to base the Ka-32 anti-submarine helicopters on a ship, it was necessary to raise the flight deck by 20 cm. Otherwise, rotorcraft would not enter the cargo hangar. But it was the smallest of evils. “Frenchman” could not stand the cold. The fire extinguishing system, that is, its main tanks, was located below the deck itself and immediately began to freeze in the cold. Same thing with the ship’s hull. It is too thin and could not cope with the pack, i.e. shallow ice. Just a millimeter thick, this ice, like a circular saw, cuts the hull of any ship better than a laser hyperboloid.

At one of the marine salons in St. Petersburg, I asked a representative of DCNS, which is building the Mistral, whether this ship can operate in the Barents Sea or on the Northern Sea Route. The interlocutor, without blinking an eye, immediately replied that then we had to order a completely different ship!

Nevertheless, this sad experience of cooperation has a bright side. The Mistral Islands were interesting to Russia, since they have the ability to carry out “over-the-air landing” when the ship is at a great distance from the coast and enemy fire, and the troops are delivered to land by boats and helicopters. Soviet and Russian landing ships landed fighters and equipment directly ashore. The French refusal of the Mistral deal does not necessarily mean that Russia did not gain access to the technology for building such ships.

According to the agreement, the stern, consider the main part of the ship (there is a docking chamber for landing boats and equipment, elevators for lifting helicopters to the deck) according to French documentation, the Baltic Shipbuilding Plant in St. Petersburg produced. Navy expert Alexander Mozgovoy says you can’t build a stern without knowing what a tank will be. That is, this means that Russia has become the owner of all the technical documentation for French ships from the bow to the stern. Therefore, the analyst is calm: to design and build a large landing helicopter carrier is now the same as laying down another bulk carrier. With one difference – in its hold and on the deck will be based not containers, but helicopters.

Actually, this is precisely what justifies the choice of Zelenodolsk Design Bureau as the main contractor of the state contract. Today it is the most dynamic and efficient company in the country with an innovative design bureau. The Zaliv plant in Kerch is an underutilized enterprise of the Russian shipbuilding industry, which has facilities for laying large-capacity ships. In Soviet times, a number of large ships were built on it, such as the Crimean project supertankers with a displacement of 150 thousand tons or the Sevmorput nuclear-powered lighter carrier.

Shift method

Domestic shipbuilding is one of the most dynamically developing sectors of the economy. In Russia, the renaissance of shipbuilding and shipbuilding is literally. The entire fleet of Soviet ships and ships of various classes is changing. The account goes to hundreds of units. It would not be an exaggeration to say that shipyards from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok are literally “cracking” from orders. And this is not only a “military”. To get on the slipway with the next order is almost impossible today. Ships are built for decades to come.


“More than half of the entire nuclear fleet of our country has been built here.” What is famous for “Sevmash”

Universal landing ships (also called helicopter carriers) could build the same Baltic plant in St. Petersburg, “Sevmash” in Severodvinsk. But the first has a series of civilian and military icebreakers, the second lays down and lowers one nuclear submarine after another. The “bay” is ideal in this respect – although it is loaded with an order, it’s not to the eyeballs.

The only complaint against him is the staff. More precisely, there are not enough of them. Finding highly qualified specialists in Kerch, starting from a welder to a design engineer, is not easy today. Ukraine did not invest in the development of shipbuilding. Russia also went through this stage. And today the shift workers correct the situation. Severodvintsy advises the Zvezda plant in the Far East on the repair and construction of nuclear submarines. I am sure that Zelenodolsk residents are not standing aside in matters of supporting the development of new projects of ships and ships in Russian shipyards.

Such ships are needed at sea

The controversy surrounding the purchase of Mistrals by France revolved not only around their technical “imperfection” for the Russian latitudes, but also the question itself: why do we need them? The then Chief of the General Staff Nikolai Makarov very vaguely answered this question: the Kuril Islands, the defense and “blah blah blah.” With the start of the operation in Syria, everything fell into place. One large landing helicopter carrier is capable of not only projecting force in a separate direction but also creating an uninterrupted supply chain for our troops in the region.


It does not matter how the brainchild of Zelenodolsky Design Bureau looks like. It is already known that our most modern Ka-52K Katran attack helicopters will be based on it. This is a unique machine in itself. If only because the first in the world is capable of using cruise missiles X-31 and X-35. Prior to this, they were placed only on deck fighter MiG-29K / KUB. That is, the Kamov machine, recognized as a “flying tank” on land, becomes a real fighter ship at sea. And provided that in the future they can deliver an R-77 air-to-air missile (RVV-AE) to Katran, as well as planes and helicopters.

In addition to them, as is now customary, it will be possible to put in the hold of the helicopter carrier universal launchers of 3C-14 cruise missiles for launching the Caliber, Onyx and Zircons. In any case, the “Admiral Kuznetsov” is not called a cruiser because of its size, but because on board it, in addition to the Su-33 air wing, there are also the most powerful anti-ship cruise missiles “Granite”. And in the stern is a whole battery of dagger anti-aircraft missile systems. This makes Admiral a multi-functional platform.

Large landing helicopter carriers will become the same. Indeed, like the Mistral, they can not only project power, supporting the landing, but also become combat control ships for naval and land forces, floating hospitals and, in the end, banal supply vehicles. According to experts, one such ship can carry 10 times more cargo to supply our group in Syria than the entire Syrian Express does per flight.

Takeoff from the surf: what will be the Russian helicopter carriers

The Russian Navy plans to receive two promising landing ships as part of the new state armament program by 2025

Helicopter Ka-52K Andrey Luzik / press service of the Northern Fleet / TASS

The design and construction of two helicopter carriers, the main air group of which will be the Ka-52K Katran marine helicopters, is already included in the draft of the new state armament program until 2025. It is planned that the first will appear around 2022 and will cost about 40 billion rubles (taking into account all stages of development, construction, and testing).

The new landing ships will have a diesel-gas turbine installation, in which the diesel engine is the main engine, and the turbine is needed to boost power. In addition to the Katrans, Ka-27, Ka-29 and Ka-31 (a helicopter of radar patrol, another designation is Ka-35. – Approx. TASS) will be based on ships.

As General Director of the Nevsky Design Bureau Sergey Vlasov said at the VIII International Naval Salon (IMDS-2017) in St. Petersburg, a new-generation landing craft created for the Russian Navy is at the pre-design stage and several versions of such ships have already been created.

“Marines” are different. There may be a helicopter carrier, there may be a universal landing ship, a landing helicopter docking ship. I believe that, most likely, it will be a universal landing ship – something similar to the Mistral, but a little different

Sergey Vlasov
Director-General of Nevsky Design Bureau

“Flying Battery”: how Ka-52K helicopters will strengthen the Mistral combat power

The appearance of a promising “paratrooper” is chosen by the customer. The appearance will be completely new in comparison with the traditions of classical military shipbuilding. Also, according to the annual report of the Nevsky Design Bureau, a variant of a promising landing ship designed for the Arctic has been worked out.

According to Vladimir Pepelyaev, head of the department for the prospective construction of ships of the Krylovsk State Scientific Center (KSCC), “if a decision is made in the near future, then the center together with the Nevsky Design Bureau will be able to complete work on the out-of-project, and the bureau may start designing the ship”.

Shipbuilding potential

According to Advisor to the Chief of the General Staff of the RF Armed Forces, Admiral Igor Kasatonov, helicopter carriers will be universal ships for which there are tasks.

The fleet needs them. Now the infrastructure is developing on the island of Kotelny, in the Pacific Fleet closer to the north. Therefore, there will be more than enough tasks for helicopter carriers

Igor Kasatonov
Advisor to the Chief of the General Staff of the RF Armed Forces, Admiral

Kasatonov says that a decision on the displacement of these ships has not yet been made, there will be several options for projects. Of them, according to the admiral, they will choose the best option for further study.

OSK enterprises have begun to work on this project: there is a backlog in terms of projects, there is an understanding of all the basic technologies. OSK has sites on which they are ready to build such a ship: Severnaya Verf after modernization, as well as the Baltic Shipyard and Sevmash, which has extensive experience in building large surface ships

Igor Ponomarev
USC vice president

Military expert Alexander Mozgovoy believes that, unlike aircraft carriers, helicopter carriers can build our modern shipbuilding industry.

This can also be done at the Baltic Shipyard, which gained even more experience by building the Mistral’s feed units. Therefore, this is a feasible task for domestic shipbuilding. Another thing is how much time and money it will take.

Alexander Mozgovoy
military expert

In this case, the expert talks about another problem – priorities. “We are now standing, as they say, on the edge – almost all Soviet-built ships in the coming years will need to be written off as obsolete. They are not just morally, but physically outdated. It will be dangerous to put them out to sea,” he concludes.

And of course, I would like first of all to build frigate-class warships from surface ships, to increase the construction of submarines – they are clearly not enough

Alexander Mozgovoy
military expert

Universal “Surf”

For the first time, the model of the universal landing ship (UDC) “Surf” with a displacement of 14 thousand tons was demonstrated back in 2015 at the international forum “Army”. The conceptual design of this ship was developed by the Krylov Scientific Center. Its experts assure that their concept is superior to the French ships of the Mistral type.

In the course of work on the project, we applied unconventional technical solutions for the most optimal implementation of the tasks of landing from this ship. They relate to the form of the case, and to electronic equipment. In our project, for example, movers other than those of Mistral are provided, with other capabilities

Vladimir Nikitin
General Director of KSCC, Doctor of Technical Sciences


Russia and France in 2011 entered into an agreement on the construction of two Mistral-type helicopter carriers for the Russian Navy. The first ship was supposed to be handed over to Moscow in 2014, but in 2015, against the backdrop of deteriorating relations with the West and the introduction of anti-Russian sanctions, Paris refused to transfer the ships. Later, the helicopter carriers were bought by Egypt, and Paris returned to the Russian side about € 1 billion.


The Krylovsk Scientific Center notes that the Surf was created taking into account the peculiarities of the Russian conditions for the operation of such ships in the Navy. The concept has not changed since the first submission in 2015, but at the request of the customer, certain additions can be made to the design of the ship. According to the general director of the KSCC, this applies to the use of the nose ramp or the placement of missile systems.


Head of the Nevsky Design Bureau: working on a project of a landing ship for the Arctic

The promising “Surf” is intended for receiving, transporting by sea and landing in cooperation with other forces of the fleet of troops and equipment on the unequipped coast during the sea landing operation.

In addition, he will be able to provide naval military transport, participate in the production of defensive mine and network barriers, as well as sonar buoys for positional underwater surveillance systems. The ship is supposed to be equipped with a gas turbine main power plant.

It will be armed with anti-aircraft systems “Blade” and “Shell-ME”, as well as an A-190 artillery mount of 100 mm caliber. It consists of two boats of the Chamois type or four of the Dugong type.

As it became known at IMDS-2017, the marine version of the “Shell” will be able to hit targets at a distance of 20 km. He will be able to shoot down various objects, including drones and aircraft, as well as missiles of this complex that can be used against ships. As the developers note, the main feature of the complexes is that it is possible to fire at the target first with missile weapons, then in the dead zone of an anti-aircraft guided missile, if for some reason the target is not hit or not enough hit, it can be hit by an anti-ship missile.

In addition, the Surfs will install a 76 mm universal artillery mount, a general detection radar, a navigation complex, an electronic warfare subsystem, an integrated communications complex and a station for detecting underwater sabotage forces and assets.

The ship can accommodate 12 helicopters for various purposes. The perfect weapon for ships will be the Ka-52K Katran helicopters. They are “adapted” to be based on ships of the Navy. To do this, they installed a shortened wing, a folding system for the blades and an air conditioning system designed for use in a humid marine environment.


Displacement – 23,000 tons, length – 200 m, width – 34 m. Full speed – 20 knots, economic – 14 knots, cruising range – 6,000 miles, autonomy – 30 days. The crew of the ship is 400 people, while it can accommodate another 500 to 900 marines, 50 infantry fighting vehicles and 10 tanks. The life of the ship is designed for 50 years


Sea “Condor” of the USSR

For the first time, helicopter carriers in the USSR began to be created in 1960. It projected 1123 “Condor”. The first anti-submarine cruiser “Moscow” went into operation in 1967 and was effective due to the presence of 14 helicopters. The second – “Leningrad” – became part of the Navy two years later. It was planned that they will conduct an effective search for submarines at a great distance from the coast in a sufficiently large water area. It was then that US nuclear submarines with ballistic missiles began to go on combat patrol.

Ships were part of the Black Sea Fleet, operated in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic. It was originally intended to build a series of 12 cruisers of this type.

Then in the USSR other types and kinds of aviation were quite strong, the system itself was different and our tasks. In the 60s of the last century, it was associated with the organization of anti-submarine warfare

Igor Kasatonov
Advisor to the Chief of the General Staff of the RF Armed Forces, Admiral

Military expert Mozgovoy confirms that such projects were in the Soviet Union, but not landing helicopter carriers were built, but universal landing ships with anti-submarine capabilities. Then the shipyards were loaded with so many orders that it was just necessary to choose priorities.

Ships with a displacement of about 30–40 thousand tons – we almost did not have such shipyards. In Leningrad, the Baltic Shipyard and, so to say, Admiralty Shipyards, and in Mykolaiv. And there was nowhere else to build. And there they were busy building ships of completely different classes, so the priority was given to large anti-submarine ships and cruisers, the missile strike

Alexander Mozgovoy
military expert

Despite many years of military service, Soviet helicopter carriers in the mid-1990s withdrew from the Black Sea Fleet and sold to India for scrap.

In addition to the USSR, specialized helicopter carriers were built by France and Italy. According to open sources, UDC in addition to the United States is being built by France, Spain, Japan, South Korea, and Australia. Now such ships will be created by Russia.

About Authors:  Roman Azanov

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