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Russian Navy to boost its MCM capabilities

Russian Navy (VMF) will beef up its mine countermeasures (MCM) capabilities under the new State Armament Program (GPV-2027), according to the IHS Jane's think-tank.

Project 12700 Alexandrit class MCM vesselThe first Project 12700 Alexandrit-class MCM vessel. Picture: Sredne-Nevsky Shipyard.

"The Russian Federation Navy is planning to acquire 10 Alexandrit-class [Project 12700] minesweepers by 2027 and 30 by 2035," the analysts of IHS Jane's quote the Deputy Chief of the Naval Shipbuilding Directorate of the Navy, Captain Mikhail Krasnopeyev as saying. They add that the timetable of the construction of the 10 aforementioned Project 12700 mine countermeasures vessels coincides with Russia's new State Armament Program for 2018-2027.

The Alexandrit-class minesweepers are expected to increase the MCM capabilities of the Russian Navy in a drastic manner. The first-of-class vessel was laid down in 2011 and commissioned in 2016. At present, it is operated by the Baltic Fleet. Four more Alexandrit-class minesweepers are being built by the Sredne-Nevsky Shipyard (SNSZ; a subsidiary of the United Shipbuilding Corporation) in Saint Petersburg, and their hulls are at different stages of construction.

In December 2016, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Admiral Vladimir Korolyov said that the service had contracted for eight Project 12700 MCM vessels and would buy over 40 hulls. The Navy is reported to get eight Alexandrit-class minesweepers by 2021. According to Krasnopeyev, the development of a larger MCM vessel was being considered. The final decision to develop such a ship will be made on the base of the operational experience with the Alexandrit-class minesweepers.

According to IHS Jane's, Project 12700 ships are modern MCM surface platforms fitted with cutting-edge items of hardware. "The minesweepers have new ship-mounted sonars as well as sonars deployed on remotely operated or autonomous underwater vehicles. The vessels are equipped with traditional sweeping gear and explosive charges. They will operate like Western mine countermeasures vessels in hunting and sweeping mines," the experts of the think-tank point out. It is noteworthy that the Project 12700 minesweepers feature glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) construction.

Project 12701 MCM vessel Project 12701 MCM vessel scale model on display at the OCK stand at Army 2017 exhibition in Moscow.

The Alexandrit MCM vessel is also promoted on the global market. The export-oriented variant of the ship is designated Project 12701 Alexandrit-Eh (Eh stands for Export-oriented, Eksportny). According to the official catalogue of SNSZ, the Project 12701 MCM vessel has a maximum length of 61.6 m, a beam of 10.3 m, a mid-ship draft of 3.1 m and a full displacement of 890 t. The Alexandrit-Eh features a full speed of 16 knots, a cruise range of 1,500 nautical miles and an endurance of 10 days. The ship's crew totals 44 servicemen.

The Project 12701 MCM vessel is powered by two M 503B-1 diesel engines with a power output of 2,500 hp each. The powerpack is complemented by four auxiliary power units (APU). The ship's armament suite integrates an AK-306 30 mm naval gun, eight man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) and an MPTU gun mount armed with a 14.5 mm heavy machinegun (the MPTU can be replaced by two 6P59 12.7 mm heavy machineguns). The Project 12701 vessel also carries a cutting-edge MCM suite that incorporates two Alister-type unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV), two K-Ster I-type UUVs, 10 K-Ster C disposable UUV-mine destroyers, and an Inspector-MK2-type unmanned MCM boat among other items of hardware. "The composition of the [Project 12701] ship's mine countermeasures suite can be changed at a customer's request," the official portfolio of SNSZ says.

The United Shipbuilding Corporation also offers a smaller MCM vessel designated Project 10750Eh to potential foreign customers. It has a full displacement of 169 t, a cruising range of 650 nautical miles and an endurance of five days. The ship's MCM suite incorporates a mobile containerized diving system and a demagnetizer, the official portfolio of the Corporation says.

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