Tag Archives: Dmitriy Donskoy

Dyachkov’s Interview

Andrey Dyachkov (photo: RIA Novosti / Sergey Safronov)

As General Director of both Sevmash and TsKB MT Rubin, Andrey Dyachkov’s a pretty significant individual when it comes to submarines.  What follows are highlights from his RIA Novosti interview last Friday.

Some blurbs have been published, but one frankly hasn’t had time to see if they captured the importance of what Dyachkov said.  Hence this summary.  It has less elegance (or perhaps fluff) than you may be accustomed to reading on these pages.

Dyachkov said the following:

  • Sevmash and the Defense Ministry signed a contract for the modernized Yasen, or Yasen-M this year.  It will be five units; Severodvinsk plus five.  Severodvinsk will be delivered next year; there were problems with some components obtained from suppliers and the Kalibr missile system needs to complete state testing.  About six months are needed for all this.
  • This year’s huge contract problems were a result of a changed Defense Ministry approach toward price formation Sevmash wasn’t ready for.  But times have changed, and Sevmash recognizes money has to be used more effectively, and ways have to be found to cut production expenditures.
  • Rubin has a contract to design the modernized proyekt 955, Borey, the Borey-A.  The contract should be signed by early 2012.  The lay-down of the first improved Borey will happen next year, and Saint Nikolay is still the working name for the first unit.  No word from the Sevmash chief on the final number of boats until after the contract is signed.  They’ve started laying down Saint Nikolay, but the official ceremony’s still to come.
  • Seventy percent of sub costs are reportedly to pay suppliers.  The main thing is getting them to reduce the cost of their products.  The Defense Ministry might even consider foreign component suppliers for some SSBN components.
  • Sevmash will take on construction of two diesel-electric proyekt 636 from Admiralty Wharves.  This will lighten the workload of the latter, and use excess capacity at the former.
  • Severnoye PKB has a contract to figure out how to modernize Kirov-class CGN Admiral Nakhimov (proyekt 1164, Orlan).  First and foremost, it needs new missiles (Kalibr and Oniks) to replace its Granit.  They are talking only about Nakhimov at this point.
  • Sevmash won’t be repairing CV Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012.  The shipyard is prepared to build a future carrier.
  • Modified Typhoon-class SSBN Dmitriy Donskoy will be kept active at the White Sea Naval Base for sub-on-sub trials of new boats.  Northern Fleet subs won’t be diverted for this task.
  • KB Malakhit has developed repair and modernization plans for the Akula-class (Proyekt 971, Bars).  Money’s been allocated and Zvezdochka will do the work. 
  • Russia may offer up the Amur-1650 diesel sub in next year’s Indian tender.  It could have air-independent propulsion, but Russia doesn’t seem really high on the idea.
  • They want to test Proyekt 677 Lada and its sonar in deeper waters next year.

Perhaps the Borey and Yasen mods reflect the problems of restarting construction that had been dormant (or at least very slow) for a long time and of using newly-made components rather than older ones.

Bulava Launch Plans

This week Izvestiya reported on coming launches of the Bulava SLBM.  The paper’s sources say the military and industry want two single test firings before trying a salvo launch test.  They suggest Bulava’s early problems were due to testbed Dmitriy Donskoy.  They also report complaints about the new Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy.

A Navy staff source tells Izvestiya two single Bulava launches are planned before a salvo launch of three [not two as previously reported] missiles is attempted.  An industry source confirms this plan, and adds that Bulava testing is on schedule.

The industry source says Bulavas produced more than two years ago – before the military leadership ordered production inspections – will be used in the test launches.  A specialist tells Izvestiya mod Typhoon-class SSBN Dmitriy Donskoy is now viewed more often as the problem in Bulava’s early failures than the missile itself.

The Navy staff source says:

“It was initially planned to conduct the salvo of three missiles in an October launch.  However, they refused this idea at the last moment to check all the missile’s and boat’s systems again.  It’s possible the December salvo will be put off to 2012 if any bugs are observed during the two launches.”

Commentator Konstantin Sivkov told Izvestiya the military and industry delayed the salvo test because of uncertainty about the missile system’s reliability:

“Water disturbance from the preceding missile plays a big role in a salvo launch.  Unstable water could knock the missile off during its exit.  Therefore, all systems have to work perfectly.  And there’s the ‘Yars’ accident in Plesetsk which sowed some doubts.  Only successful launches can dispel them.”

The launch window for Yuriy Dolgorukiy is October 20-22.  According to Izvestiya’s interlocutor, the success of all Dolgorukiy launches supports suspicions that Donskoy might be to blame. 

This seems somewhat flawed logically if the Bulavas themselves were assembled and inspected differently . . . unless they never found any real problem with the missiles.

If the October launch is successful, Izvestiya reports the next will be November 18-19 and the salvo launch of three missiles will be in December.  Success in the latter would finally confirm that the Bulava is ready for combat duty, and the Bulava / Borey weapons system could be accepted.

But Izvestiya also reports the Borey’s radioelectronic, hydraulic, and hydroacoustic [sonar] systems still don’t satisfy the Defense Ministry.  The command and control systems aren’t properly configured yet either.  In short, the SSBN hasn’t fully completed its development. 

And it’s certain the lack of an agreed purchase price and a contract isn’t helping this process.

Dolgorukiy Returns to Sea

This morning ITAR-TASS reports that fourth generation Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy is at sea for testing.  This is the boat’s first underway period of 2011. 

At the close of last year’s Arctic navigation season, Dolgorukiy returned to the hall at Sevmash, where it was prepared for the concluding phases of its state underway testing.  Sevmash says the submarine should be officially handed over to the Navy within the next few months.

Recall the Russian press reports that modified Typhoon SSBN Dmitriy Donskoy will be the launch platform for this year’s first Bulava SLBM test.

Fateful Season for Bulava Begins

A Defense Ministry source tells RIA Novosti that Bulava SLBM testing will resume between 15 and 17 June.  The test launch will come from modified Proyekt 941U SSBN Dmitriy Donskoy, though the source claims Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy is ready to fire the missile.

Recall that Proyekt 955 Dolgorukiy was back at Sevmash for work this winter.

The source says the first launch from Dolgorukiy will come after two successful firings from Donskoy.

Bulava now has 7 reported successes in 14 tries.  There will be 4-5 tests in 2011.

If they are successful (and at least a couple come from Dolgorukiy), the SLBM and its intended submarine will be accepted into the Navy inventory.  And serial production of Bulava will ramp up. 

If they aren’t, the naval strategic modernization effort will find itself back where it was prior to two successful launches last October.

But the Russians seem pretty confident this time around.

Dolgorukiy, Bulava, Severodvinsk

Submarine-related news notes . . .

Russian press services have announced that the state commission on the Bulava has finished analyzing the results of the last two launches.  The next test will be in the second half of December, and the exact date will depend on White Sea weather conditions.

It’s pretty, but not absolutely, certain that new Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy will be the launch platform.  The final decision on this will be made in the first ten days of December.  One supposes another shot from Dmitriy Donskoy remains a remote possibility.

If the pending launch is a success, the next phase of testing will begin in May 2011.

Regarding fourth generation (proyekt 885, Yasen) SSN Severodvinsk, the boat is still fitting out, and the Navy expects it to join the fleet in 2011.  Like DolgorukiySeverodvinsk was under construction for many years.  ITAR-TASS said this morning 6 of these submarines are now planned.

Another Bulava Success

Bulava Launch (photo: ITAR-TASS)

At 0510 MSK today, Dmitriy Donskoy successfully launched the second Bulava SLBM of 2010 while submerged in the White Sea.  That makes two in a row, and 7 successes in 14 attempts overall. 

A government Military-Industrial Commission (VPK) source told ITAR-TASS the 15th test could occur in early December and will be the first from new Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy.  The source attributed the successes to a tightening of control over the production and state acceptance processes.  He also warned it’s too early to relax:

“Two successful launches don’t signify that it’s possible to accept ‘Bulava’ into the arsenal.  A great deal will depend on testing in 2011.”

A member of the state commission that investigated the Bulava failures told RIA Novosti that these successes show Bulava had assembly problems.  And he said testing will continue in 2011.

RIA Novosti noted that, perhaps most significantly, this year’s Bulava tests came from a submerged boat.  In 12 tests prior to 2010, there had not been a single successful underwater launch.

Dizzy with Bulava’s Success?

Iosif Vissarionovich might have accused Bulava’s proponents of dizziness after the SLBM’s test firing on October 7.  There’s no mistaking it was a clear boost to a troubled program.  Success always trumps failure.  It may even turn out that all of Bulava’s design, production, and assembly problems are resolved.  But one would think the history and current state of the Bulava would call for more cautious, guarded optimism.  This successful test was necessary, but far from even close to sufficient to complete the program.

The biggest news story after this successful test was the report that, as a result, the Bulava SLBM and Borey-class SSBN weapons system might be accepted into the arms inventory as early as mid-2011.

A highly-placed Navy Main Staff source told Interfaks:

“Before the end of the year, another two test launches of the missile are planned, if they are as successful as today’s launch, then it’s legitimate to consider the issue of the quickest completion of tests of this strategic system.  I’m proposing that the acceptance of Bulava into the arms inventory could happen in the middle of next year.”

He follows adding that serial production of the SLBM and its deployment in proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBNs will ensue.

The Navy Main Staff source doesn’t go into exactly what ‘quickest completion’ entails, but others do.  Presumably, this means another test from Dmitriy Donskoy before the end of October and, if that’s a success, the first launch from Borey-class Yuriy Dolgorukiy before year’s end.

Vesti.ru conjectures that ‘quickest completion’ might mean a second, ‘insurance’ shot from Yuriy Dolgorukiy in early 2011, then a volley firing of two missiles in spring or early summer.  After this, if every test is a success, the weapons system would be accepted, serial production would begin, and Bulava would be deployed on Yuriy Dolgorukiy.  That’s if everything goes right.

An irrationally exuberant Defense Ministry source even told RIA Novosti:

“The successful launch of the missile gives a basis to suppose that the entire system ‘submarine plus missile’ will be accepted into the Russian Navy’s arms inventory by the end of the year or at the beginning of next.”

Former Armaments Chief Anatoliy Sitnov was pretty confident, telling Interfaks and ARMS-TASS that no specialists are expressing doubts about Bulava, and ‘broken links’ in its production process have been overcome.

Old RVSN general Viktor Yesin told Interfaks he agrees it’s possible to plan for completing Bulava testing by mid-2011.  But he retains some caution:

“The tests conducted instill hope that the two flight tests of the Bulava ballistic missile coming before the end of this year will be successful.  If this happens, it’ll be possible to confirm that the designers and producers overcame a period of failures in the creation of the new submarine-launched missile system.”

Yesin also notes that only the telemetry can say if all the Bulava’s systems were working normally.

Forum.msk’s Anatoliy Baranov is skeptical about making Bulava part of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces even if the next two tests are successful, and make the tally 8 successes in 15 attempts.  He says having a missile you want to produce doesn’t mean you can produce it quickly in the necessary quantity:

“Incidentally, no one has answered for the strategic decision which left the country practically without a naval component of strategic nuclear forces [SYaS].  Don’t believe that the resignation of MIT director Solomonov is a sufficient measure of responsibility considering the possible consequences of such a mistake, and the fact that today our naval strategic nuclear forces [MSYaS] already lag the strategic enemy by a factor of 5.  But even given the most successful confluence of circumstances, we will have a gap between old missiles and submarines going out of service and new ones coming into service because the possibilities of domestic industry in serial production of solid-fuel missiles are very limited.  The Votkinsk factory produces 5-6 solid-fuel ‘Topol-M1′ missiles, there aren’t other producers.  This means the production of new missiles of the ‘Bulava’ type puts an extra load on production which already can’t cope with the creation of new land-based missiles — see, straining the RVSN rearmament program even worse.  In the best case, the necessary complement of armaments for the 3 new ‘Borey’ class SSBNs will be produced in nearly 15 years.  This is a catastrophe.”

Andrey Ionin doesn’t agree with Sitnov above.  He told Gazeta.ru that the Defense Ministry shouldn’t be impatient:

“A state commission report on successful testing and a formal decision on accepting the system for regular use doesn’t change the fact that the problem of low quality in joint production has not been eliminated.”

Carnegie Center Moscow associate Petr Topychkanov says:

“Three successful tests in a row is not a reason to put a type into serial production.”

But, unlike Baranov, he points out that the production run for Bulava doesn’t have to be too big since there are, and will be, relatively few tubes to fill.

Pavel Felgengauer in Novaya gazeta is skeptical about how close the Bulava RVs came to their intended targets, but, more important for this discussion, he calls saying that Bulava is almost ready for deployment after this successful test a “dangerous adventure.”  He adds:

“And here is a ‘raw’ missile, not completely ready and the not tested ‘Yuriy Dolgorukiy,’ a crew which clearly hasn’t mastered its submarine — and missile launches right away.  Very bold to put it mildly.”

Viktor Baranets sums it up:

“A successful launch instills some optimism.  But it’s still a long time before accepting the missile into the arms inventory.  And of 13 launches only 6 (including yesterday’s) [October 7]  were recognized as successful.  Or ‘partially successful.’  But this is not cause to launch the missile into a serial run.  Higher ‘positive indicators’ are needed.  Our specialists and foreign ones believe the quantity of successful launches should be steadily above 90%.”