OUR NAVY HAS NOT BECOME ROOTED TO THE COAST: Rear Admiral Nikolai Mikheev, Chief of the Navy Combat Training Department, on the readiness of the Russian Navy

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By Andrei Gavrilenko Krasnaya Zvezda, August 18, 2001, p. 2

The amount of combat training of the Russian Navy has decreased in the past ten years. Rear Admiral Nikolai Mikheev believes that this decline is linked to the occurrence of serious shipwrecks. The problems of the Russian Navy are directly linked to the lack of funding from the Russian government (WPS summary).

Question: Nikolai Petrovich, what do you think about the current state of combat training in the Russian Navy? What problems do you consider as being topical?

Nikolai Mikheev: The analysis of the level of combat readiness of military units shows that unfortunately the state of combat training is decreasing. This trend has been developing in the past five years. As far as concrete problems are concerned, they are as follows: the Navy lacks decent servicemen and this problem is linked with a sharp decrease of prestige of military service. Also, the Defense Ministry does not fund the combat training activities of the Navy.

In these circumstances we have to revise the forms and methods of organizing combat training to preserve the combat readiness of the Russian Navy. It must be understood that it is impossible to improve the Navy’s combat readiness without funding.

Question: Do you have statistical data that characterizes the state of combat training of the Russian Navy in 2001?

Nikolai Mikheev: Combat training is organized according to directives and tasks of the Russian Navy. In all we have planned 4,823 examination actions, including 3,518 combat exercises. The Navy has conducted 420 exercises in the sea, passed 115 tests, and coped with over 600 anti-submarine tasks since the start of the year. We have conducted 1,500 combat exercises, including missile and torpedo launchings…

Question: Does the Russian Navy have leaders (units and warships where the training process is well-organized) and outsiders?

Nikolai Mikheev: Owing to objective reasons, marine battalions have not conducted exercises. “Black berets” took part in the counter-terrorist operation in the North Caucasus and as far as the leaders are concerned, I’d like to mention the North Fleet, the Baltic Fleet, and a group of warships of the Baltic Fleet under the command of Rear Admiral Demyanchenko which has won three awards of the Russian Navy. A group of missile speedboats from the Black Sea Fleet and submarines commanded by Captain Lastochkin, Captain Okushkov, and Commander Yesipov have also shown good results.

Question: Admiral Ivan Stepanovich Isakov named five “sins” of combat training: exercises in fine weather, neglect of night exercises, the use of usual targets, exercises near the coast, and neglect of camouflage. As far as I know, currently the majority of exercise are conducted at naval bases…

Nikolai Mikheev: You are right. The use of simulators, maps, and conferences cannot be compared with exercises in the water. However, it is untrue that the Navy has become rooted to the coast. Warships of the Pacific Fleet have taken part in oceanic campaigns during 2001. Warships of the Baltic Fleet have taken part in several exercises with foreign Navies. We plan to conduct more exercises…

Question: You have mentioned joint exercises with foreign Navies… The Bespokoiny destroyer has taken part in Baltops-2001. How do such exercises train Russian seamen?

Nikolai Mikheev: Russian seamen have been gaining the experience of joint exercises beginning in 1991. Previously such contacts did not go beyond friendly visits from our warships. Commanders and ordinary servicemen said that the main result of such exercises was a growth of mutual understanding between seamen from different Navies and their readiness to cooperate in international operations. The Bespokoiny destroyer and four anti-submarine helicopters participated in Baltops-2001 from June 1-18, 2001. Over 40 warships, submarines and speedboats, and close to 70 planes and helicopters from 14 countries have taken part in this exercise.

This exercise has shown that warships of the Russian Navy are capable of solving tasks in the sea. Our servicemen have gained priceless experience about organizing operations with warships from foreign countries.

Question: The Kursk disaster has revealed many problems of the Russian Navy. What causes such shipwrecks?

Nikolai Mikheev: The answer to first part of your question requires a clear understanding that the Navy’s problems are linked to Russia’s problems. The country’s problems influence the development of the Navy. As far as the Kursk disaster is concerned, I cannot comment on the causes until the State commission announces its conclusion.

As a rule, shipwrecks are caused by insufficient control by certain commanders over the observation of orders and directives from the commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy. In addition some members of the crews are unready to cope with their tasks because training grounds are not equipped with universal tactical simulators. Seamen are not experienced in the use of rescue devices. Above all, we have problems with designing and using warships…

Unfortunately, requirements for the quality of combat training in the Russian Navy are low. However, it should be noted that the number of accidents has decreased 360% in the past seven years. As you see, we have difficulties and successes. The latter must become a guiding line for the Russian Navy.

Translated by Alexander Dubovoi

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