The Soviet Navy has been transformed into an important strategic force, into a force capable of opposing aggression from the sea and accomplishing major operational and strategic missions on the World Ocean.
. . . Its relative weight within the composition of the (Soviet)
armed forces is continually increasing. . . .
One of the most dramatic developments of the post-World War II period has been the growth of Soviet naval and maritime activities.* Today the Soviet Union is a true “sea power” challenging United States in all aspects of maritime activity. From the end of World War II until the early 1970s the United States maintained unquestioned naval supremacy. This gave the United States great flexibility in foreign policy and provided one of the West’s primary shields against Soviet aggression.
During much of this period the Soviet Navy—except for submarines—was ranked fourth after the US, British, and French navies. Only in numbers of submarines could the Soviet Navy rank as a leader at sea in the early post-war era, reaching a peak of some 450 diesel submarines in 1958. Although the Soviet Navy had quantitative superiority in undersea craft, there were substantial qualitative shortcomings in equipment, personnel, and leadership. Further, Soviet surface warships and submarines seldom ventured far from the coasts of the USSR. Today, after a great expenditure of resources, the Soviet Navy has achieved quantitative and qualitative leadership is several aspects of naval power. This Soviet leadership, both real and perceived, is having considerable impact on international political , economic, ideological, and military developments .
Accordingly, it is important for US. Navy personnel to be professionally knowledgeable about the Soviet Navy and its development. Further, it is not enough that just we in the Navy understand Soviet naval developments. We must also assist in illuminating the issues for the American public "‘In this context, "maritime activities” includes the merchant marine, fishing industry, research and shipbuilding activities. about this unprecedented peacetime‘expansion of naval power. This Fourth Edition of Understanding Soviet Naval Developments is intended to provide the necessary background information for naval personnel to discuss the Soviet Navy intelligently both internally and in public forums.
There is a tendency in some quarters to foster scenarios which place the Soviet Navy in the best light while placing the US. Navy in “worst case” situations . This approach is alarmist and misleading, just as the position that all Soviet naval developments are strictly defensive or are merely a reaction to US. and other NATO actions, is complacent and misleading. The Soviet Navy is inferior in several important respects to the US. Navy; it has problems and limitations as has the military service of any nation. These will be discussed later in the text. The considerable influence that the Soviet Navy exerts in world affairs today can be traced to the great strides that it has made in technology, production , operations, and tactics, as well as its extensive use as an instrument of Soviet foreign policy. These developments are of major concern to the US. Navy because they narrow the options open to the United States in a crisis situation, and because they could result in confrontations with the Soviet Navy or with other navies which employ Soviet weapons and tactics.
This publication discusses the expansion of Soviet maritime strength from its beginnings to its present status and the trends which are indicated for the future. The manual has been published for the widest dissemination within the Navy.
The Tsarist Russian battleship RETVlZAN’s visit to New York in 1901 gave Americans one of their few looks at Russian naval forces. Some American perceptions of Russian naval developments may date back to the RETVIZAN and her participation in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, a Russian disaster. In the foreground is the U.S. submarine HOLLAND.
The nuclear powered missile cruiser KIROV is a symbol of the rash of new classes of warships and submarines which the Soviets will be adding to their fleet in the decade of the eighties—larger with more sophisticated weapons and sensors than their impressive predecessors. KIROV is the Soviets’ first nuclear powered warship and is the largest warship (less carriers) built by any navy since the end of World War II.