Helicopters are a magnificent enabler for a naval force, but they are also excessively demanding from a training perspective. Pilots and the ship’s helicopter control officers must meet many requirements to gain and maintain operational status, and fitting this puzzle into a busy schedule can be a daunting task. In the future, navies will also have UAVs to deal with, and this will increase the time demands for training and testing even further.
So in order to get to the root of this problem, Russia has taken the unusual step to build a dedicated training ship for helicopter and UAV operations. The ship class goes under the name Project 14400. That reports the Shipreparing & Shipbuilding Corporation OJSC in Nizhniy Novgorod in a press release, and the blog bmpd has followed up with more details. Neither the Russian nor the Soviet navy has had a dedicated helicopter training ship before.
The new ship will be 67 meters long and 13 meters wide. It will be equipped with all the relevant equipment including radio electronic systems that are required for realistic training. It is also mentioned that the ship will have a motion simulator so it is possible to practice bad weather operations. I don’t actually know how that works, but my guess is that it is an inverted stabilizer system which can make the ship roll even in quiet weather conditions.
Russia mostly uses the aging Ka-27 (Helix) helicopter for maritime operations. The navy also has a few Ka-29 transport helicopters that were brought back from retirement. In the near future, Russia will need to replace these helicopters with a new model. The development of a new maritime helicopter will require intensive operational experimentation, and once the helicopter is ready, there is a huge task connected with the training of pilots on the new platform.
In addition to this, Russia is rapidly increasing the number of helicopter capable ships. In addition to the navy’s development program, Russia is also building ships with helicopter decks for the border guard under the FSB. This means that there is an increased demand for pilots with maritime training.
In other words, it is unsustainable to use operational ships in the navy or the border guard for this task. The dedicated training platform will allow the other ships to focus on other things than helicopter training.
Finally, the dedicated training ship will be much better suited for developmental testing of maritime UAVs, which must be expected to draw many resources in the future.
The price for the project 14400 helicopter training ship is expected to be 2 billion rubles, which is around € 27 million. I find this price tag surprisingly affordable. I would expect the investment to pay itself off rather quickly since it is much more efficient to conduct training on a dedicated platform than to spread it around on ships with other main tasks.