Saturday, April 16, 2022

Naval makeover! (cruiser-to-submarine)

 The cruiser Москва has passed on.

He is no more. 

(Russian naval vessels are by tradition "he's" rather than the "she's" of English or American sailor tradition) 

He has ceased to be, expired and gone to meet his maker. Bereft of life, he rests in peace, has shuffled off his mortal coil, rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible.


Rule #1 of war is "Shit happens", and the fact that this vessel is now full of water is not in itself either shocking or particularly interesting. 

If one was in a snarky mood one might make the same sort of observation Bismarck might have made about continental powers like Germany or Russia wanting (let alone "needing") large capital ships: "...the fuck?" (only in the original German, of course...). 

If one was in a snarky mood.

To me there are two interesting parts about this, though.

The first is that the Russian official line is that the cruiser was lost "under tow in heavy seas after an internal ammunition explosion". 

Not because nasty enemy missiles turned him into a flaming pyre, no, no! Just your basic head-on-collision-twenty-car pileup of fucked-up munitions handling and/or storage, piss-poor damage control, and incompetent seamanship.

I kind of get the dictator-grade level of "not wanting to admit that your enemy hurt you" propaganda. But to want to make the story "our sailors are lethally incompetent" seems...a bit louche' at best. Tell does that make things in your navy sound...better?

Now, that said; damage control at sea is goddamn hard. It requires constant, repetitive, realistic training led by good petty officers and planned and overseen by competent and demanding officers.

Even the best navies have their bad days; we saw that back in 2015 when we talked about the loss of HIJMS Taiho during the Battle of the Philippine Sea

The 日本海軍 Nippon Kaigun - the Imperial Japanese Navy - was one of the best-led (at the tactical level, at least...) and best-trained in the world in 1944. But that didn't prevent the sinking of one of their newest carriers because of poor damage control after a single torpedo strike.

On the other end of the military scale, though? Damage control is one of those massive-training-fail issues that seems to be endemic in "gangster" military organizations. Think Idi Amin's or Saddam's "armies" if you want a model. 

If nothing else this Russo-Ukrainian War has done a pretty good job of throwing a nastily bright light on exactly how fucking brutally bad the Russian armed services are. As bad as the Ugandans or the Iraqis.

Turns out that when your national model is "kleptocracy" your national military is just about as good as you'd expect based on that. 

When your soldiers and sailors are "led" by people - from petty officers and NCOs through general officers to their political masters - whose whole mode of thought is "steal what you can, neglect what you can't, and lie about everything to everyone both above and below you"  and those troops are either not trained for shit (or completely untrained) and their "leaders" are often incompetent, either because the system is designed to ensure the leaders are piss-poor, or unable to demand they aren't, to find that the entire organization those soldiers and sailors are part of ends up being criminally incompetent at the difficult business of war, including the difficult task of naval damage control, should hardly be shocking.

If you choose shitty crooks to "lead" you, you shouldn't be shocked when they "lead" you into shitty crookedness. 

Which leads me back from the shores of Ukraine to the shores of North America.

Because you'd think that this sort of military clusterfuckery would be a cautionary tale for those of us here on the sidelines in the United States about the whole business of being all enthusiastic for dictators because, say, they hate homosexuals and you do, too. That getting your dream of "leaders" hating on liberal soy-boys and darkies and uppity women isn't worth the sort of incompetent "leadership" that ends up getting your sailors killed and their capital ships sunk. 

Even for the most foaming-mouthed-rabid MAGAt groupies of Tubby and his crooked little weasel pals.

But, no.

They won't believe that.


And that's a problem, a problem deeper than the bottom of the Black Sea, where the Москва now rests.



  1. I still remember learning about this class of ship (and the rest of the Soviet/Russian Navy) in 1993 in Naval intel school.

    One of the design considerations discussed was the Soviet propensity for putting their big missile launchers on the deck and along the side of the vessel - the Slava class is probably the best example of that. US intelligence thought that was a curious and bad decision since it leaves the ship vulnerable to catastrophic damage even from minor hits to the vessel. It's also more maintenance that the US VLS design, which are better sealed from the elements.

    I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case here - that those big ass missiles on the side got damage by the Ukrainian strike, exploded and cascaded from there.

    1. Wouldn't be surprised, Andy. The story I'm hearing is that the Ukes had one of their Turkish drones putzing around drawing fire and the Russian CIC got so distracted they failed to pickup the ASMs in time (I assume that Russian capital ships have some sort of close-in antimissile chain-gun sort of thing like the USN's Phalanx system...) to take any sort of countermeasure.

      The thing about the Russian version, tho, is that if the ship was still watertight enough to take under tow, it suggests that the DC work either wasn't done well enough (i.e. there was hull damage that either wasn't detected or wasn't repaired well enough to keep water out) or was abandoned too soon.

      Given the Great Wall of Kremlin Propaganda we'll never know. Still, it suggests that the Russian squids are no better than their wing-wipers or earthpigs (read a piece by a British flyboy whose assessment was that the Russian air campaign over Ukraine has been so ineffective because the Russians literally CANNOT plan and execute a complex ATO. They can sortie ones and twos, mostly at night, mostly on the deck...but higher-order operations? Just flat-out beyond them.

      The bear may be strong. But boy fucking howdy is it clumsy.

    2. Those big missiles were meant to deter carrier battlegroups from getting close.

      The anti-ship missiles at the time of design (early 70's) were not sea skimmers that would impact from the side, but kamikaze-ish with dive attacks. This rendered irrelevant whether the missiles are in the centre of on the sides. Most air attacks could likewise have lead to impacts from above.

      The area of the area air defence missile VLS is structurally weak, so another centreline area wakened by missile installations would have been a poor idea.

      Finally, they needed the centreline for some installations that needed a good arc for themselves (radars, guns), while the SSMs only needed to launch in any direction.

      It might have been a good idea to leave a stern area that could be sacrificed, with protective plating above rudder and shafts/screws. This way you could simply turn away from any incoming missile within a few seconds, and it would require a multi-axis attack to do much damage.
      The stern usually features a variable depth sonar, so that's not a widely used design idea.

    3. @FDChief;

  2. I think the russians should have gone with, Merkova destroyed two Ukrainian anti-ship missiles.

    At least with that they could put a positive spin on the shit-show.

    war is usually propaganda...and I think russia is falling victim to their own, propaganda.