To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Instead, our system considers things like how recent a review is and if the reviewer bought the item on Amazon. It also analyzes reviews to verify trustworthiness.
Three American scholars have combined to craft an excellent study on Admiral Sergei Gorshkov who could rightly be called the ‘Father of the Soviet Navy’. When latter assumed office in the mid-1950s as C-in-C the Soviet navy it was just a flotilla of coastal vessels which seldom strayed beyond nation's shores. However, in a period covering little more than a decade Gorshkov transformed the navy into a first class, ocean-going fleet.
The path was not easy. It was strewn with obstacles. Firstly, in Soviet military thinking navy played a subordinate role to the army. This stemmed from Soviet experience in World War II. Navy’s job was to protect army’s vulnerable coastal flanks and defend the country’s coast lines from enemy’s amphibious landings. The post war Soviet leadership did not envisage an independent role for the navy.
Khrushchev was against Soviet Union having a large ocean-going fleet which he considered expensive to maintain. He approved a modest naval program. Emphasis was on the defense of homeland. The US navy aircraft carriers carrying nuclear strike aircraft operating from the Mediterranean Sea, Sea of Japan, the North Sea posed a formidable danger. They could easily reach targets in the Soviet Union. The idea was to intercept and engage before they reach the striking distance of Soviet Union.
The authors say US naval strategy/doctrine during Cold War had two objectives: nuclear strike on Soviet Union with aircraft carriers, cruise missile submarines later ballistic missile submarines; second protection of sea communication between Western Europe against interdiction by the Soviet submarines. The US naval strategists anticipated a third battle of Atlantic. The authors, however, have dismissed this notion.
According to them, the Soviet naval strategy was purely defensive designed to counter the US navy’s offensive capabilities: anti-carrier, anti- SSBN, foiling amphibious assaults, and of course protecting the seaward flanks of the Soviet army. This was essential for retaining the support of army generals and marshals.
The first decision was to counter Western aircraft carriers with anti-ship cruise missiles ( Shaddock SSN-3) fired from aircraft, surface ships and submarines. To get more details on this take a dip into the book. The second was to acquire sea-based deterrence. Soviet began deploying strategic missile firing subs. These were forward deployed to compensate for the inadequacies in the land-based ICBMs.
Further Soviets were drawn into active defense against American SLBMs which lurked in the vicinity to Soviet waters. This was done by development and acquisition of reconnaissance/surveillance platforms for timely and accurate detection of American subs for and launching torpedoes against them. Research was on to make the oceans transparent so that submarines lose their ability to hide.
In 1972 Delta class (Strategic missile firing) submarines began to enter service. This was followed by more powerful Typhoon class. They carried missiles which had a nautical range of more than 4000 miles. This meant the subs could remain in the Soviet waters (Barents Sea , Kamchatka in the Sea of Okhotsk) and even under Polar ice caps and bring the entire continental United States within its strike radius.
The Soviet SSBNs will operate within the range of shore-based and carrier-based air support and could protect former from prowling Western SSNs and ASW aircraft. This capability also nullified the US ASW doctrine which called for intercepting Soviet missile firing subs while passing from home waters to launch positions of the American west and east coasts.
Simultaneously, the Soviet navy acquired power projection capabilities. The navy became an instrument of state policy. These were the lessons drawn from Suez crisis (1956, Cuban missile crisis 1961-62) . As a part of this program revictualling, logistical support facilities were established in Third world countries of East Asia, Africa, Middle East. For instance, Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam was once a major Soviet naval base. So too were Djibouti in the Red Sea coast near Gulf of Aden, Latakia in the Mediterranean coast of Syria.
What has been missing from their narrative, Gorshkov created a big Soviet merchant fleet. These were configured to execute military missions. Some 4000 vessels were employed in providing logistical support and for gathering intelligence. Soviet Union also had a big oceanographic fleet for collecting information on lurking spots and to measure ocean depths and currents. These had military applications. In his book ‘Sea Power of the State Gorshkov has argued that sea power of a nation is not merely naval forces. It also includes fishing, merchant marine and oceanographic research vessels.
By 1970 Soviet Union had had 385 submarines, 2 aircraft carriers, hundreds of different surface ships making it the second largest in the world. The Red vessels which had once clung to the coast line ranged far and out on to the oceans. It reached America’s backyard and established permanent presence in the Mediterranean.
Concurrently , OKEAN exercises were held in 1970 which had been regular feature for 5 years consecutively. This involved 84 surface ships ,80 submarines several hundred aircraft and intelligence-gathering ships. Naval aircraft were engaged in simulated strike missions against warships in the Atlantic and the Pacific. The whole complex naval maneuvers were controlled from Gorshkov’s HQs in Moscow.
During the exercise TU-95 BEAR naval reconnaissance aircraft took off from bases of the Northern Fleet flew non-stop around Norway overflying Soviet vessels operating in the Iceland-Faroes gap went south to land in Cuba, a journey of 5000 miles. This was the first time a Soviet aircraft was landing outside the Soviet bloc. Gorshkov imbued the Soviet navy with an aggressive spirit. It began boldly stalking the American vessels particularly aircraft carriers. There were some close brushes with the units of the US 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean during the Yom Kippur war in 1973.
The increase in Soviet combat power came at a bad time for the United States with latter involved in a seemingly endless conflict in the jungles of Vietnam. The US navy was exhausted and demoralized. In an interview to the Washington Post in 1975 Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, the former CNO made a stunning admission ‘’ the US navy could even lose a war against Gorshkov fleet. The Soviet admiral won a grudging admiration from his foes.
Finally, I discuss Gorshkov’s association with India. He was friend of my country having visited several times. The Soviets helped India modernize her naval forces. Earlier this country had turned to the Western powers which were indifferent to India’s needs.
Visakhapatnam naval base was established with Soviet help. India acquired Foxtrot class subs, Petya class corvettes, Osa class missile boats from the Soviet Union. The later India used successfully in bombarding Karachi harbor and destroy Pakistani shipping in the brief war fought between the two in 1971. Gorshkov was impressed by the unorthodox tactics applied by the Indians.
Finally, it needs to be said Gorshkov did not live long to see the Soviet empire collapsing and the navy he painstakingly built disintegrating. That would have been a tragedy.
An excellent introduction to the modern Post-Tsarist Russian navy. The volume is highly readable, has helpful maps and photos that illustrate the text without getting in the way of the story, and names the central players in the development of now-Russia's naval strategy. At the center of the story is the central character, Admiral Sergey Gorshkov, whose naval career began in 1927 and concluded in 1985. The story is replete with the names and dispositions of the central players, both politically and militarily, during this extended period of Russia's transition societal and military transitions. This would be a solid introduction to the entire topic of the Russian navy and should be read before attempting Gorshkov's primary works and the many journal articles which he either authored, co-authored or inspired.
The authors write with an authoritative style that is informative. The volume notes the various types of naval vessels and describe how these vessels enhanced the navy’s mission and overall development. They give us a ringside seat to the political tensions as Kremlin leadership seesawed between Stalin’s desire for a world-class ocean-going navy and the later fiscal and political realities which for several decades continued to see the navy primarily in a support role to the Russian Army. Only in the last thirty years of his career, with the advent of nuclear power and the navy’s primary research on hull design for submarines that began to hold nuclear weapons, was Gorskhov able to gradually move the navy into the position of being Russia’s foremost ambassador to the world. Gorskhov created a naval force that now has both a diplomatic as well as a military mission that is independent of the army.