The Soviet Navy

Courtesy Reuters

THE Soviet Navy has expanded more rapidly since World War II than any other branch of the Russian armed forces. About 200,000 to 300,000 men have been added to its strength, which now totals between 750,000 and 850,000 officers and men. Its submarine fleet is the largest in the world--in fact the largest in world naval history. The world's newest cruisers-- of the Sverdlovsk class--are Russian. The U.S.S.R. operates 3,000 to 4,000 naval aircraft. The Red Navy's chief, Nikolai Kuznetsov, Admiral of the Fleet, protégé of Stalin, has survived purge and struggle for power to become perhaps the sixth or seventh-ranking military figure in the Soviet Union--which means that Kuznetsov is a political as well as a naval figure. Kuznetsov has called the Baltic, with some reason, Russia's "mare nostrum," and he, Stalin, Malenkov and Bulganin have all stressed the Soviet determination to become a leading sea Power.

Russia is, in fact, well on the way toward that goal. She maintains what Admiral Robert B. Carney, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, has called the second largest fleet in commission.[i] She has a submarine construction capacity estimated at about one a week, and a cruiser construction capability of about 1½ to 2½ ships a year.[ii] She is purchasing merchant ships, fishing vessels and oil tankers (111,918 gross tons as of March 1955) from foreign builders and has a merchant marine that is now the tenth largest in the world (exclusive of satellite shipping).

Yet Russia's sea power has many anomalous features. Russian flagships are rarely seen on the high seas. Her newest cruisers are over-big for the Baltic yet are weakly gunned for blue water. Her Navy has no aircraft carriers, the capital ship of modern fleets. Her naval aircraft are all land-based. She possesses fleets of small craft, which never put to sea, for use on her numerous rivers and lakes. She has relatively few seagoing amphibious craft. The Russian Navy, like the Soviet nation, presents the West with "an enigma wrapped in mystery."



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