Russia's Project 23900 Amphibious Assault Ships: Mini Aircraft Carriers?

Amphibious Assault Ship
February 23, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: RussiaS-7023900 Amphibious Assault ShipRussian NavyMilitaryNavy

Russia's Project 23900 Amphibious Assault Ships: Mini Aircraft Carriers?

Russia's Project 23900 amphibious assault ships, Ivan Rogov-class, set to replace the Mistral-class ships initially ordered from France, are expected to enter service by 2028 - at least if you believe Moscow.

Summary: Russia's Project 23900 amphibious assault ships, Ivan Rogov-class, set to replace the Mistral-class ships initially ordered from France, are expected to enter service by 2028 - at least if you believe Moscow. After France canceled the sale post-Crimea invasion, Russia pivoted to domestically design and construct these vessels. These ships signify a strategic enhancement for the Russian Navy, featuring a displacement of 40,000 tons and the capability to carry Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik-B UAVs. However, the ambitious timeline and capabilities, including launching advanced drones, are clouded by Russia's economic challenges and international sanctions, raising doubts about the project's timely completion and operational readiness.

Russia's Ambitious Naval Future: Project 23900 Ivan Rogov-Class Ships

Russia’s newest class of amphibious assault ships is expected to enter service by 2028 according to press reports.

The Project 23900 Ivan Rogov vessels will ultimately replace Moscow’s two French-designed Mistral-class ships, which were initially ordered by Russia in 2011.

Following Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea, however, France canceled the sale of the two helicopter carriers.

By 2020, a contract was signed for JSC Zelenodolsk Design Bureau to construct the two new Project 23900 ships.

The history of Project 23900:

In 2015, the initial “Lavina” and “Priboy” helicopter carrier designs were debuted at a military-technical forum in Russia as replacement vessels for the Mistral-class ships.

Following Moscow’s invasion of Crimea and subsequent Western sanctions imposed on the Kremlin, France refused to proceed with the deal to deliver these amphibious assault ships.

By 2015, Russia received reimbursement for its purchase, and the ships were later delivered to the Egyptian Navy instead.

Back in 2017, Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister announced that the Project 23900 amphibious assault ships would be constructed over four years and that the lead ship of the class would be completed by 2022.

Within a few years, Russian state-run media outlets altered this trajectory, claiming that the two vessels would be delivered to the Russian Navy in 2026 and 2027, respectively. Around this time, the names of the first two ships- the Ivan Rogov and the Mitrofan Moskalenko- were revealed during the laying down ceremony.

Introducing the S-70

The shipbuilders reportedly began constructing the hulls of these two ships in 2021. According to officials, each ship will displace 40,000 tons and be capable of carrying up to four Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik-B unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The S-70, often referred to as “Hunter-B,” is a new stealth-heavy drone being produced to complement Moscow’s future sixth-generation aircraft project. Manufacturers Sukhoi and the Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG are developing the new UAV, which is expected to function under the control of Su-57 fighter jets as “wingmen” aircraft. The Kremlin has claimed that the new drone is a “sixth-generation” platform capable of penetrating outer space.

S-70

Andrey Yelchaninov, the first deputy chairman of the Board of the Russian Military-Industrial Commission, has asserted that “[T]hese planes and drones can interact not only with each other but also in various types of combat formations,” adding that “Within a very short timeframe, there will be a possibility to control several Okhotnik drones from the Su-57 cockpit.” Rostec, a Russian defense contractor, mirrored these claims, adding that an artificial intelligence data link will allow the S-70 an Su-57 fighter to work together: “AI-based technology enables noise-immune coding through the use of parallel channels. This is the ‘wrap’ of the technology. Its structure includes multiple interleaving of symbols, time synchronization during transfer, simultaneous transmission of data in all directions [air-to-ground or air-to-air], and increasing the range of transmitted data.”

S-70

Although Russia claims its upcoming Project 23900 amphibious assault ships will be capable of launching S-70 drones, the details and timelines surrounding this objective are murky at best. Moscow is currently suffering from economic turmoil due to its ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Not only is Russia losing countless troops, military systems and equipment in the war, but the West has also heavily sanctioned the Kremlin for their attack on a sovereign nation.

S-70

The timely introduction of Project 23900 ships to service does not seem likely, considering Russia’s current economic/manufacturing position. 

About the Author: Maya Carlin

Maya Carlin, National Security Writer with The National Interest, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin

All images are Creative Commons. The main image is of a U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship.