Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Russia Builds a New Navy to Dominate the Arctic Ocean

By Rich Smith - Jan 19, 2014 at 2:00PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Russian Navy aims to add 40 new ships (yes, you read that right) in 2014 alone.

The mightiest force on the high seas, the United States Navy boasts a fleet 283 warships strong. In comparison, Russia's navy, once America's archrival, has only 208 warships -- but Russia is closing the gap, and quickly.


Russian Kirov-class nuclear-powered missile cruiser at sea. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Just last week, in an interview with RIA Novosti, deputy commander of the Russian Navy Rear Adm. Viktor Bursuk confirmed plans to add 40 new vessels to the Russian fleet this year alone -- taking the fleet to within just 35 ships of U.S. fleet strength. Surface warships will make up the bulk of the additions, but a Borey-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine and a Varshavyanka-class diesel-electric submarine are both on order as well. An advanced search-and-rescue ship, the Igor Belousov, will further backstop Russia's submarine forces by extending the country's ability to assist submarines in distress. 

Building a nuclear navy
Nor is this the end of Russia's expansion plans. Bursuk told RIA that Russia is working quickly to upgrade the "mothballed" Kirov-class nuclear-powered missile cruiser Admiral Nakhimov, and refurbishing three nuclear-powered attack submarines. Plans may even include the addition of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier -- Russia's first.

Russia's only active aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Why the sudden spate of shipbuilding? President Vladimir Putin gave us a hint last year. In a statement delivered to the Russian Defense Ministry in December, Putin averred that one of Russia's "top defense priorities" going forward is to increase Russia's influence at the North Pole. 

And for good reason. 



The Cold War is over. Now we're talking global warming

Global warming has opened up 1 million square miles of new navigable waters in the Arctic Ocean. Already commercial shipping companies are beginning to exploit new routes. More crucially to Russia are the mineral resources made accessible by a shrinking ice cap. Already, 95% of Russia's probable natural gas reserves are located in the Arctic, with sizable deposits found in Russia's adjacent Barents and Kara Seas. 60% of the country's believed oil reserves are located in the Arctic as well. Local oil and gas giants Rosneft and Gazprom (OGZPY -46.60%), therefore, have a vested interest in defending these deposits... and searching for new ones.

Earlier this month, Russia announced plans to up the tempo of air patrols in the Arctic "significantly," flying Tu-142 and Il-38 reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft. The country also intends to reopen upwards of a half dozen Arctic airfields and ports, shuttered since the days of the Cold War.

According to reports, many of Russia's new warships may be tasked for Arctic duty to defend these interests. And if Russia actually does build itself a nuclear aircraft carrier, Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky, former Commander of the Russian Northern Fleet, thinks it should be sent to the Arctic to support the country's nuclear submarines.

America responds... sort of
America isn't standing entirely still in the face of this Arctic military buildup. Last week, word began filtering out about a new Navy report advocating a program to "harden" U.S. warships to enable them to operate in an Arctic environment -- at a cost of up to $8.4 billion. Talk of a project to build up to 10 new Arctic icebreakers, at a further cost of $7.8 billion, has also begun. If these projects get under way, it could mean billions of dollars of new revenues for America's three main military shipbuilders: Lockheed Martin (LMT -0.40%), General Dynamics (GD -0.17%), and Huntington Ingalls (HII -0.54%).

But while America talks, Russia is forging ahead at flank speed -- and building a new Arctic Navy.


Flagship of the American Arctic fleet? The 38-year-old icebreaker USCGC Polar Star. Source: Wikimedia Commons

 

Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Lockheed Martin Corporation Stock Quote
Lockheed Martin Corporation
LMT
$426.41 (-0.40%) $-1.72
General Dynamics Corporation Stock Quote
General Dynamics Corporation
GD
$228.76 (-0.17%) $0.40
Public Joint Stock Company Gazprom Stock Quote
Public Joint Stock Company Gazprom
OGZPY
$1.10 (-46.60%) $0.96
Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. Stock Quote
Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc.
HII
$227.58 (-0.54%) $-1.23

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
377%
 
S&P 500 Returns
123%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 08/07/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.