Me and others speak constantly on the "bang for a buck" issue of the national military power. Here is an example of real economy translating directly (or almost directly) into the military power. I want to express, before elaborating on the issue, my deepest gratitude to all those OSINT naval enthusiasts from famous Balancer's Air Base Forum for doing a yeomanry work in squeezing out all available open information on Russian Navy. Enter second in Project 11356 class frigates, Admiral Essen.
She was fully completed and ready to be transferred to Russian Navy two days ago. Thanks to our enthusiasts and, obviously, 1st Federal TV Channel Rossiya, we have a glimpse into the main document which finalized the completion of this ship. Here it is:
One doesn't have to know Russian to see that the final cost of this frigate is 13,650,240,000 Rubles. Let us do some very simple and not so prudent economic math. The exchange rate for Ruble today is 66.2 Rubles for 1 US Dollar. Let's see how much in US Dollars Admiral Essen's cost will be? We divide:
13,650,240,000 ÷ 66.2 ≈ 206,196,978 US Dollars.
Yes, my friends, this ship of 4,000 ton displacement, packing a serious long range and anti-shipping punch in a form of now very well known Kalibrs, having impressive medium range air defense system, robust ASW capability (including 1 ASW helicopter), state of the art sensor and processing suite, good guns, excellent sea keeping properties etc. For 200 million bucks? Yes, exactly--you are not mistaken. Mind you, this is the cost, or, rather, value which will be calculated by all kinds of monetarists, Western and domestic-alike, when "calculating" Russia's GDP. In this case, irresistible and highly warranted question arises--how much such kind of ship would cost in NATO? Well, that is an interesting question. If we are talking about US Navy's LCS, also known as self-propelled 57-mm gun, a single ship of this class, whose combat capabilities compared to Admiral Essen are puny, to put it mildly, costs....drum roll...362 million US Dollars. 1.8 times more for a platform which in the case of Surface Warfare scenarios will not even see what hit it and will have no means of defending itself, forget strike missions. Yet, Admiral Essen (as well as Admiral Grigorovich) is totally capable to strike to a strategic depth and is capable to sink any ship with a single strike with, possibly, one exception of US Navy's massive aircraft carriers.
You may say, comparison with LCS is not correct (it is, but for the sake of argument), let's see what are the costs of something really comparable, something more frigatish. OK, let's take a look at so called FREMM frigate by France. First, the ship with the displacement in excess of 6,000 tons is not really a frigate, Italy's version of FREMM has a 6,700 ton displacement. Really? How about calling this thing a DDG, not FFG. After all, it is almost twice the standard displacement of Admiral ESSEN. But let's see what this FREMM really packs. It has a very respectable Air-Defense complex and a more advanced, phased array antenna, it also has a very robust ASW suite. It also carries long-range land-attack missile SCALP whose long-range capabilities of about 1,000 km are not even in the same universe as those of Kalibr's 3M14T whose range is 2,500 km. Anti-shipping weapons are represented by venerable subsonic Exocet Block 3 missile, whose range is about 97 nautical miles (180 km). Here, FREMM, whose cost is 670 million Euros (that is 758 million US Dollars) loses massively on both costs and on some very crucial combat capabilities. In the end, anti-shipping version of Kalibr, 3M54T out-ranges Exocet by 480 km while reaching Mach=3 in its terminal phase.
So, my friends, here we are--a very short review of a bang for a buck. We, of course, could delve into the all kinds of actual coefficients of combat effectiveness, combat stability, probabilities etc. But I suspect, that in the average model of ship to ship engagement of similar FFG classes, Admiral Essen will come out on top most of the time. For a fraction of a price, mind you. But then, of course, we could also compare more expensive, but still way more affordable, Project 22350 Admiral Gorshkov class frigates--here, the combat advantage becomes even more startling while the cost gap narrows somewhat.
What does it all mean, then? Well, it means only one thing about which I was talking since the inception of this blog--Russia simply produces better weapons for a fraction of the cost and it is true for all of them. This also demonstrates what a pile of steaming shit all those GDP "calculations" are by all kind of international financial shyster organizations. While the relation between exchange rates and costs is, of course, more complex--this simple comparison is more than valid, none the less. Russia can afford to sell state-of-the-art SU-35 for 65 million US Dollars and make a killing, while, US is forced to sell F-35, a wreck of a plane, for....well, judge for yourself. In general, Russia's economy is much smaller than that of, say, US but:
1. It is not as smaller as many try to convince us. In reality the gap, while still fairly large, is not as dramatic;
2. Realities of Russia's economy allow Russia to compete directly in weapons and fields related to them with the combined West and, in fact, beat it in very many fields. As per famous coefficient combat effectiveness/cost--the combined West is not even a real competitor here.
3. Why it is so--the answer is in Russia's 20th century history, a real one. Learning it is beyond the grasp of most "experts" in the West. But we knew that all along, didn't we?