London Times, 4 May 1898, p. 7: THE RUSSIAN NAVAL PROGRAMME

(From our own Correspondent). St. Petersburg, April 23.

We now know something of how the extra credit of 90,000,000 roubles allotted out of the free residues of M. Witte's Budgets for naval construction, or at least a large portion of it, is to be spent.

It has been decided to build three new first-class battleships on the Neva, 12,675 tons each, of the new type of the sister-ships Ossliabya and Pereswiet, now under construction. They will be laid down on the slips at present occupied by the two last-named vessels, which are to be launched this summer, the one from the Baltic works and the other from the New Admiralty, and on the slip to be vacated this spring by the new cruiser Pallada, 6,630 tons. This will leave on the slips, of the remaining vessels now being built at St. Petersburg, the improved "Rossia" called the Gromoboi, 12,196 tons, at the Baltic works, and the two sister-ships of the Pallada, named respectively Diana and Aurora, at the Admiralty yard and the Galerny Island. The battleship Poltava, 10,960 tons, engined by Humphrys, Tennant, and Co., will have her trials this summer, and possibly also her sister-ship Sevastopol; while the third of the class, the Petropaulovsk, though tried last autumn, is actually further from completion than the Poltava. All these three vessels were laid down early in 1892, so that they have been fully six years in the hands of the builders. At Nikolaieff on the Black Sea the Prince Potemkin Tavritchesky has recently been laid down, this vessel being a repetition of the first-class battleship the Three Saints, and it is intended to order a swift light armoured cruiser, 8,000 tons, from the new Belgian Company at the same port.

Of smaller vessels, 12 sister-ships of the famous torpedo-boat destroyer the Sokol, built in England, are under construction at the Admiralty works, at Ijora and at the Nevsky Mechanical works, and various minor vessels are in hand or in contemplation. The 12 torpedo-boat destroyers are destined for Vladivostok and Port Arthur. The coast-defense ironclad General Admiral Apraxine, 4,126 tons, a copy of the Admiral Seniavin and Admiral Ushakoff, is undergoing completion in the Neva, and the same is the case with the battleship Rostislav, 8,800 tons, at Sevastopol. The Baltic works will also shortly begin construction of a small vessel of 2,500 tons, together with her engine of 5,000 horse-power, for laying down or protecting submarine mines.

It is further stated that two or three more large battleships of about 13,000 tons, armed with 12in. guns, and a number of torpedo-boat destroyers on the English model are to be built by Cramp in the United States, but it remains to be seen how this order will be affected by the war with Spain. The naval authorities also contemplate giving orders in France and Germany. Nothing will apparently be ordered in England if they can help it, while the natural tendency is to do as much as possible of the work at home. It is to be noted that in spite of expert advice in favour of uniformity of types in warships and their equipment, the Russian Admiralty intends to increase the number of every kind of vessel, battleships, cruisers, and torpedo craft.

The three battleships to be laid down this year in St. Petersburg are to be armed with four improved 10in. guns of 40 calibres, and their bottoms will not be sheathed with the usual wood and copper, as they are intended for service in the Baltic, where the water is not salt enough to coat them over as in other seas. This will produce a savings of about £30,000 sterling on each vessel. At the same time the Admiralty has offered a competition prize for the best paint for the bottoms of warships, and experiments are at present being made in the salt seas of the tropics with some out of a hundred different kinds of delivered up to the end of February last.

At present there are building and completing in Russian and abroad altogether six first-class battleships, one of the second class, one large armoured cruiser, one coast-defense ironclad, four smaller protected cruisers, three gunboats, about 17 torpedo-boat destroyers, and nine or 10 torpedo-boats. The new programme above explained, so far as it goes at present, indicates only six or seven new and large vessels besides the smaller ships. This will hardly exhaust the 90,000,000 roubles, the allotment of which was recently proclaimed with such a flourish of trumpets. The most unusual act of official frankness in publically announcing this extra credit was not without a purpose, both in Russia and abroad, but it was not noticed at the time that the Imperial ukase referring to the matter described the 90,000,000 roubles as being in addition to the increased credit previously granted, which was never made public. Therefore it is believed that not 90,000,000 but between 120,000,000 and 130,000,000 roubles are at the disposal of the Admiralty this year for naval construction, including the 6,000,000 roubles for the purpose in the annual Budget. Some of it will no doubt be spent on increasing and improving the means and tools for shipbuilding.

Provided by Stephen McLaughlin