Dock col­lapse hits Putin’s subs

Sunday Express - - THE STATE OF THE NATION - By Marco Gian­nan­geli

RUS­SIA’S fleet of bal­lis­tic mis­sile sub­marines could be hit “for years to come” af­ter a float­ing dock col­lapsed in the Bar­ents Sea.

Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin was al­ready fac­ing em­bar­rass­ment when the 80,000-ton dock in Mur­mansk sank, dam­ag­ing Rus­sia’s only air­craft car­rier. Flag­ship, Ad­mi­ral Kuznetsov was hit by a 70-ton crane and left with a 20-me­tre gash.

The col­lapse will also af­fect plans to mod­ernise Rus­sia’s mighty North­ern Fleet. The planned re­fit of nu­clear-pow­ered anti-air mis­sile launcher Py­otr Ve­likiy is now on hold.

Most sig­nif­i­cant, though, is the knock-on ef­fect on its sub­marines. Ac­cord­ing to satel­lite im­agery North­ern Fleet sub­marines used the dock more than any other type of ves­sel.

“The Ad­mi­ral Kuznetsov was un­der­go­ing a long-term re­fit but this is es­sen­tially a van­ity project for Putin, and he is es­sen­tially out of the air­craft car­rier club for the fore­see­able fu­ture,” said Dr Rod Thorn­ton of King’s College London De­fence Stud­ies depart­ment.

“The Rus­sian bal­lis­tic mis­sile fleet is the only re­ally hard edge to the Rus­sian Navy, and the North­ern Fleet con­tains most of them. Though Rus­sia has been do­ing re­mark­able things with its sub­marines con­sid­er­ing its lack of fi­nan­cial re­sources, they are not built to last, and have to un­dergo con­tin­u­ous re­fits. This means ac­cess to dock fa­cil­i­ties is vi­tal.”

The dock was built in Swe­den in the 1980s, but sanc­tions mean Rus­sia can no longer turn to the Swedes for help in re­pair­ing it.

Ad­mi­ral Roger Lane-Knott, who com­manded the nu­clear-pow­ered sub­ma­rine HMS Splen­did dur­ing the Falk­lands War, added: “These prob­lems are likely to af­fect Rus­sia for at least the next two years. It is a mas­sive is­sue for Putin’s mar­itime am­bi­tions.”

CRI­SIS: A Rus­sian sub­ma­rine in the Bar­ents Sea

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