Tag Archives: SSBN

Ambitious Sub Building Plans

This news is dated, but wasn’t picked up widely (if at all).

Sevmash is a Busy Place, Likely to Get Busier

Sevmash is a Busy Place, Likely to Get Busier

Russia will start construction on eight nuclear-powered submarines in 2014-2015, according to the chief of Sevmash.

In 2015, Russia will lay the first sections of two Borey-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) and three Yasen-class attack submarines (SSNs), Sevmash General Director Mikhail Budnichenko told ITAR-TASS on 7 February.

Speaking at Defexpo 2014 in New Delhi, Budnichenko indicated that Sevmash will begin construction on two Borey SSBNs and one Yasen SSN in 2014.

The Borey SSBNs will be modernized Proyekt 955A submarines, reportedly stealthier than the first three Proyekt 955 boats. The Yasen SSNs will be improved Proyekt 885M submarines.

If Russia keeps to the schedule outlined by the Sevmash chief, it will put all remaining units of eight planned Borey SSBNs as well as seven Yasen SSNs into build.

The total number of Yasen-class submarines has been reported at six or seven at various times. They would include Severodvinsk (Proyekt 885) and either five or six Proyekt 885M boats.

Submarine Update

С новым годом ! !  Happy New Year ! !

To finish 2013, here’s some submarine news for anyone who might be a bit behind.

Oscar II SSGN Smolensk (K-410)

Oscar II SSGN Smolensk (K-410)

Yesterday Mil.ru and Interfaks reported Oscar II-class SSGN Smolensk has returned to Zaozersk, its Northern Fleet base, following two years of overhaul and modernization at Zvezdochka shipyard in Severodvinsk.

Its commander said the 24-year-old submarine successfully completed “tasks of the first phase of factory underway trials” as well as the transfer back to home base.

He said, in 2014, Smolensk will operate in “distant ocean areas” and surface at the North Pole to plant a Russian national flag and Navy ensign.

During the overhaul, the “technical readiness” of all systems, including hull and power plant, was reestablished.  Radioelectronic and navigation systems were modernized, according to Mil.ru.

An overhaul of Voronezh was completed in 2011, and Orel just arrived for refit.

The Oscar II overhauls indicate Russia is investing to keep its third generation nuclear sub numbers up, as Dmitriy Rogozin said it would in early 2012.

Shifting gears to proyekt 885 SSN Severodvinsk, RIA Novosti reported an industry source claimed this first unit of new attack submarines would be accepted at Sevmash on 30 December.

Didn’t happen.  But could soon.

Unit two, proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBN Aleksandr Nevskiy, however, officially joined the fleet on 23 December, according to RIA Novosti.

Aleksandr Nevskiy (photo: Sevmash)

Aleksandr Nevskiy (photo: Sevmash)

Mil.ru covered the acceptance ceremony.  Navy CINC Admiral Viktor Chirkov reconfirmed that Nevskiy will eventually report to the Pacific Fleet’s 25th DiPL at Vilyuchinsk.

But Russianforces.org yesterday covered the arrival of Nevskiy and unit one Yuriy Dolgorukiy at the Northern Fleet’s Gadzhiyevo base.  There, of course, they await the resolution of issues with their primary armament, the Bulava SLBM.

Nevskiy will test fire a Bulava again in 2014.

Unit three, Vladimir Monomakh, is supposed to enter the force in 2014.

Apparently, there was something to the General Staff source who told RIA Novosti that Nevskiy (and Monomakh) would be accepted without their complement of Bulava missiles.

Defense News

Some Russian defense news for April 19-20, 2012 . . .

Krasnaya zvezda covered First Deputy Defense Minister Aleksandr Sukhorukov’s briefing on the progress of GOZ-2012.  He said contracting is at 77 percent, ahead of the last two years (50 and 47 percent).  The Defense Ministry’s GOZ funding was trimmed by 25 billion rubles, from a planned 704 to 677 billion (isn’t that 27 billion?).  GOZ money will be advanced in full, and 53 percent of contracts will be “long term,” according to Sukhorukov.

Sukhorukov's Press Conference

Sukhorukov told the media this year the Armed Forces will receive 28 Pantsir-S1, 58 aircraft, and 124 helicopters.  He discussed supplemental contracts for Mi-35, Mi-28N, and Mi-8MTSh helicopters.  The total GPV purchase of helicopters will apparently be 1,124.

ITAR-TASS reported Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy will be accepted not later than mid-June.  Unit 2 Aleksandr Nevskiy will be accepted in August according to Sukhorukov.

This item also indicated Borey contracting for this year was almost done, and that units 4-8 will have 20 launch tubes.

Sukhorukov had no other specifics on defense procurement this year.

In its coverage of the press-conference, Arms-Expo.ru asked if GOZ-2012 isn’t broken already, at least in the munitions sector.

Meanwhile, in other OPK-related news . . .

Topwar.ru writes that small arms maker Izhmash’s bankruptcy is “going according to plan.”  Rostekhnologii’s plan, that is.

VPK.name reported the chairman of Ukrainian engine manufacturer Motor Sich’s board claims Russia will sign a contract for its first An-70 transport this year.  The GPV may include up to 60 of these aircraft.

Defense News

Some Russian defense news from Friday, April 13, 2012 . . .

An Interfaks-AVN headline:

  • Rogozin says new Armata tank will reach troops in 2017.

RIA Novosti reports Rogozin saying UVZ will start producing Armata in 2015.

ITAR-TASS reports burned Delta IV-class SSBN Yekaterinburg will arrive at Zvezdochka to begin repairs this summer.

An OPK source tells the news service the sub will return to the fleet in summer-fall 2014.  Fire destroyed its sonar system and seriously damaged the rubber coating of its outer hull.  Yekaterinburg was under minor repair following a collision with a tug when it caught fire in the dry dock at Roslyakovo in January.  The SSBN had been scheduled for a patrol before it collided with its escort.

ITAR-TASS reported Rogozin remarking that the GOZ may not be fully in place by tomorrow’s deadline.

Today’s Kommersant says the problem (once again) is agreement (or lack thereof) on the price for new Borey-class SSBNs.

Sub Numbers

Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy

Let’s look a bit closer at what’s been said recently about future Russian submarine production.

On February 2, at the Navy development session in Severodvinsk, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitriy Rogozin got the media worked up when he talked [or was, he claims, misquoted] about producing an aircraft carrier and six submarines every year. 

The Rogozin flap had scarcely settled when Kommersant wrote that its Defense Ministry source indicated the Navy now plans to procure ten Borey-class SSBNs, ten Yasen-class SSNs, and some non-nuclear submarines including six Proyekt 636 or Kilo-class diesel-electric boats. 

The paper referenced former First Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin’s rather non-specific early 2011 comment about acquiring 20 submarines (apparently separate and apart from SSBNs) under GPV 2011-2020.

Unfortunately, Kommersant’s failure to clarify this prompted others (e.g. Lenta) to conclude the Navy will get 10 SSBNs, 10 SSNs, and 20 other submarines.

Nevertheless, most observers focused on a still robust number like 30 new submarines in the GPV (e.g. Novyye izvestiya).  Eight or ten Borey units, and the rest Yasen or diesels.  As long ago as late 2010, Trud’s Lukanin wrote about 8 Borey and 22 other subs (though he also mentioned a total of 36 new subs).

Now we’re fortunate that Krasnaya zvezda provided a summary of Navy CINC, Admiral Vysotskiy’s remarks in Pushkin.  He flatly said the Navy plans on obtaining ten new diesel-electric submarines by 2020.  And, in early January, Mil.ru ran a press-release saying 8-10 diesel subs are coming.  According to Vysotskiy and Rear-Admiral Aleksandr Fedotenkov, six will be Proyekt 636 boats for the BSF.

But, interestingly enough, in his recent interview, Vysotskiy wasn’t asked and didn’t talk about sub numbers.

It’s also interesting Yasen and SSNs aren’t the focus of more discussion and speculation given Rogozin’s announcement at Severodvinsk that Moscow would put resources into extra overhauls for third generation nuclear submarines (Akula-, Victor III-, and Oscar II-classes).  This could ease the pressure for new SSNs.

Still, the task set for the Russian Navy and submarine builders will be extremely daunting.  They’re looking at reviving their force by launching between 20 and 30 new boats in much less than a decade.

SSBN Patrols

A Delta IV SSBN (photo: ITAR-TASS)

Not all interesting commentary on the Navy’s future came from Deputy Prime Minister and OPK steward Dmitriy Rogozin last week.  

Media outlets quoted Rogozin saying Russia would soon be able to build an aircraft carrier and six submarines a year.  Subsequently, he claimed he was misquoted, and actually said Russia would be finishing renovations on the Admiral Gorshkov for India and building/repairing six submarines this year.

Navy CINC Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy also had curious comments of his own.

According to ITAR-TASS, on Friday, Admiral Vysotskiy told an audience that, by June or a little later, Russia will resume continuous SSBN combat patrols.  Then he added, “We’ve waited 26 years for this event.”

That would be, or will be, quite a news story.  To see where the Russians have been on SSBN patrols, consult Hans Kristensen.  He reported Russia conducted ten SSBN patrols in 2008, and might have reached, or be headed back toward, a continuous SSBN combat patrol posture.  But there is, apparently, no patrol data for 2009, 2010, and 2011.

A continuous SSBN patrol would be in line with more strategic bomber patrols and mobile ICBM deployments.  It would make sense for a Kremlin worried about U.S. insistence on fielding missile defenses.

But the difficulty comes with doing it.  Russian SSBNs are down to ten aging boats — six Delta IVs (possibly only three active due to overhauls and repairs) and four Delta IIIs.  The newest Delta IV is 22 years old, and the newest Delta III is 30.  Constant patrols could stress this force to the limit. 

Pinning a return to constant SSBN patrols to the year 1986 [26 years ago] is interesting too.  Did General Secretary Gorbachev order the Navy to reduce patrols?  Did the Yankee I SSBN (K-219) sinking near Bermuda have anything to do with it?

Vysotskiy said there’s noticeable momentum in the fleet, and the state’s leadership sees its development as a priority comparable to VKO.  He continued:

“Yesterday I together with directors of ministries and departments ranking as ministries and deputy ministers conducted a very serious event in Severodvinsk where the shipbuilding program to 2035 was roughly reviewed.  Our Duma, Federation Council have long awaited it, in order to review it.  Proposals were prepared, I won’t say what kind, in my view faithful to taking fleet construction to the state level, lifting it somewhat from a ministerial ‘slot.’”

Vysotskiy sees putting the Navy’s development before the national leadership as a panacea for its ills.  He’s probably long felt the Navy doesn’t get a fair shake from the Defense Ministry.  But it’s likely even Putin 2.0 won’t be able to give the Navy the kind of attention and resources its CINC wants.

Special Steel

Yasen Rollout in June 2010

On Thursday, Argumenty nedeli published a short article citing a source claiming Russia’s specialty steel makers aren’t very interested in supplying metal for new submarines planned for the Navy.

Argumenty’s record is interesting.  Sometimes they go out on a limb and don’t quite get a story right; other times they nail it or catch the gist of what seems to be happening.  Can’t say which it is this time.  But the paper has a tradition of looking closely at different parts of defense industry.

The story maintains Sevmash is trying to scrape together the specialty steel needed for new boats, and is short of what it needs for Borey- and Yasen-class hulls.  The paper’s OPK source notes, of course, that those boats already launched were assembled from existing sections of older submarine classes.

The source concludes rather direly:

“If the issue of steel isn’t resolved, then you have to forget about further production of our missile-carrying submarines.”

He continues:

“. . . it’s unprofitable for suppliers to produce.  Their own cost is high, but the Defense Ministry is buying a miserly quantity and trying to drive down the price on the finished item and, accordingly, on the components.”

Argumenty ends its short piece by reminding readers about the conflict between the Defense Ministry and United Shipbuilding Corporation (OSK) on the one hand and Sevmash on the other over pricing and contracts which lasted most of 2011.

That year-long battle ended in mid-November when Prime Minister Putin supervised the signing of seven submarine contracts worth more than 280 billion rubles in Severodvinsk.  There aren’t precise details on what the deal covered except nuclear-powered submarines — the modernized proyekt 955 Borey and proyekt 885 Yasen (or 955A and Yasen-M).

If Argumenty’s story is accurate, it suggests future disputes over submarine production and profit margins for Sevmash’s sub-contractors and suppliers.  Perhaps Putin’s deal was only a temporary end to the government-industry conflict.

Medvedev Talks Bulava Acceptance

Medvedev Shakes Korolev's Hand

This post is admittedly as much about using a good photo and video as relaying something you haven’t heard.  But the visuals bring the subject to life a little.  At any rate, the lengthy Russian holiday season is upon us, so any post (even one with fluff) is better than none. 

Tuesday Russia’s lame duck President and Supreme CINC Dmitriy Medvedev greeted a group of military men — Armed Forces, MVD, FSB, SVR, and MChS officers – in the Grand Kremlin Palace’s St. George’s Hall to congratulate them on their new command positions or promotions to higher ranks.

Shown above are (from right) Southern MD Commander Aleksandr Galkin, Central MD Commander Vladimir Chirkin, Northern Fleet Commander Vladimir Korolev, Black Sea Fleet Commander Aleksandr Fedotenkov, and VVKO Commander Oleg Ostapenko.

Galkin and Chirkin are apparently there to mark their elevation to three-star general-colonel rank, while the latter three are now at new posts.  And Ostapenko’s sporting a blue uniform.  Didn’t the ex-Space Troops wear green reflecting their RVSN roots?

Kremlin.ru published some of Medvedev’s remarks to his senior officer audience:

“In recent years, we have modernized the Armed Forces in the most substantial way, optimized the structure and manning of the army and navy, improved the combat command and control system, and strengthened the strategic nuclear deterrent forces.  From 1 December of this year, new troops –Aerospace Defense Troops began combat duty, and in November a new radar station for monitoring air space in the western direction was brought into operation.”

“The army and navy have to resolve an entire series of missions relative to supporting the national development strategy and, accordingly, military organizational development during the period of the coming 10 years.  One of the most important goals is the technical reequipping of troops.  Our key priority remains further reequipping of the troops, and weapons and equipment of the most modern and next generation.  And of course, this task also demands the preparation of specialists, demands the preparation of personnel who will be fully capable of using this equipment as intended.  Therefore, it is important to guarantee the proper level of professional knowledge in cadets and young officers.”

“We are continuing the improvement of our armament, and our equipment.  In this context, I would like to note specifically that despite the problems currently remaining in the missile-space sector, nevertheless, we have just made a very important step:  we completed the flight testing cycle of a naval strategic nuclear forces system, I have ‘Bulava’ in mind.  This cycle, I remind you, was not simple, and went forward with certain problems.  Still our industry proved it can develop new, modern, and highly efficient types of strategic weapons.  One of them is the ‘Bulava’ system, which now, after all this testing, will be accepted into the arms inventory.”

Pervyy kanal covered the ceremony, showing Medvedev, three VVKO and/or Air Forces general-majors, a Bulava launch, and assorted siloviki, including Sergey Ivanov, Nikolay Patrushev, Rashid Nurgaliyev, and Aleksandr Bortnikov.

The first general-major wearing the blue uniform is Sergey Popov, late chief of air defense for VVS, now Commander of VVKO’s Air and Missile Defense Command.  The second couldn’t be identified by your author.  The third is Igor Makushev, Commander, 1st Air Forces and Air Defense Command (perhaps just the 1st Air Forces Command since the advent of VVKO).

But returning to Medvedev and Bulava . . . the Supreme CINC’s words unleashed minor euphoria about the SLBM’s imminent acceptance. 

For example, on December 28, RIA Novosti reported its highly-placed Defense Ministry source claimed a decision on accepting the Bulava-Borey weapons system is before the country’s political leadership.

But Medvedev didn’t say the missile is now ready to be accepted.  He just said it would be, and we already knew that.  Also, he never mentioned Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy which must be accepted in tandem with Bulava for this strategic weapons system to achieve IOC.

Vedomosti’s Defense Ministry source was more on the mark saying Bulava “practice” launches could continue for some time. 

Going slow would seem to track with Defense Minister Serdyukov’s apparently unhurried approach toward Bulava at this point.  There have been reports that Dolgorukiy isn’t ready, and launches next spring and summer could come from Borey unit 2 Aleksandr Nevskiy by then.

At any rate, the Bulava program’s come a long way from the nadir of its December 2009 failure.  But this isn’t exactly the end of the road either.  Moscow still has to work out a reliable and well-controlled production run of some 128 missiles (and 768 warheads) plus spares.  Not to mention ramping up construction and completion of eight Borey-class boats.

Thank you for reading this meandering post, as well as others this year.  Your author wishes you a happy 2012.

С новым годом!

Bulava Postponed?

A Bulava Test

Interfaks reports an expected salvo launch of two Bulava SLBMs has been put off until next year, as Defense Minister Serdyukov said it might.  The press agency cites a well-placed Navy Main Staff source.  RIA Novosti, however, citing its own Navy Main Staff source, says the test was delayed by weather, but will occur today or tomorrow.  For its part, ITAR-TASS cites an OPK source who says the Bulava test firings are off until June because of White Sea ice.

The last Bulava test, a success, took place on October 28.  The Bulava / Yuriy Dolgorukiy weapons system might have been accepted into the inventory before year’s end following a successful salvo launch of two missiles.

BFM.ru talked recently to Aleksandr Golts and Vladimir Yevseyev about Bulava.  It notes the last planned launch of 2010 was also put off for ice.

Golts believes there’s a political motive for postponement.  He thinks the Defense Ministry can’t allow another failure and blow to its reputation and the image of Russian weapons.  And, by the time of the next test, the elections will be over, and Serdyukov may no longer be at the Defense Ministry.

Golts attributes Bulava’s problems to problems in the component base and the collapse of the Soviet sub-contractor chain.  The lack of serial production has made it impossible to guarantee quality component manufacturing.  Hence, something different seemed to go wrong in every test failure.

Golts doesn’t rule out the possibility that there simply aren’t enough missiles for testing (or for picking ones to test) because of the GOZ-2011 contracting dispute between the Defense Ministry and Bulava’s producer.

Yevseyev is a suspicious about postponing a shot for weather.  He calls the situation around Bulava ambiguous and unclear.  He says defects in the missiles might have been identified, and poor weather could be an excuse.

Like Golts, Yevseyev sees Bulava’s problems as symptomatic of larger defense industrial ones, and he doesn’t exclude a political motive:

“There’s a sharp decline in the quality of production, a partial loss of specific producers, technologies.  There’s aging of the machinery itself, the lack of qualified specialists who can work on it.  When the OPK’s been collapsing for so much time, it’s strange to hope it can produce such a complex technological product like a missile system.”

“It’s possible there’s a danger that, if there are unsuccessful tests in the period when we’re beginning Duma and presidential election campaigns, they’ll spoil the scene.  This is one of the possible reasons for the postponement.”

It seems understandable risk tolerance would be pretty low at this point given the history of the Bulava program, the bad publicity and angst generated by recent high-profile space failures, and the political season.  Perhaps it’s a case of better late, but better.

Bulava Success

Interfaks and ITAR-TASS report Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy successfully launched its third Bulava SLBM today, that’s the 17th overall test and the 10th success (including five in a row).

The earlier-reported launch window was missed due to bad weather, according to Flotprom.ru.

ITAR-TASS quoted the VPK this week regarding Borey unit 2 Aleksandr Nevskiy.  The VPK says Nevskiy won’t fire a Bulava before the summer of 2012.  After finishing its factory underway testing (ZKhI or ЗХИ) and several successful single Bulava launches, Nevskiy might be accepted into service by the end of 2012, according to the VPK.

Nevskiy’s now on a two-week phase of ZKhI and will be back in Severodvinsk by early December to rectify any problems identified.  ITAR-TASS says underway testing will continue as the weather permits.

Rossiyskaya gazeta Wednesday also noted that Nevskiy’s schedule has moved to the right, and it can’t be accepted until 2012.  RG covered how the first two Boreys used unused proyekt 971 Akula components, but some are talking about Borey unit three Vladimir Monomakh as a “modernized variant” and its builders will no longer be forced to stuff their “new contents” into a “different” hull.  Others have cited the lack of leftover parts as a problem that will increase the cost and difficulty of building the third new SSBN.

The paper says Nevskiy’s crew trained at Obninsk, and also aboard Dolgorukiy.  Like Dolgorukiy, Nevskiy will head for the Pacific Fleet, according to RG.  OSK and the Defense Ministry remain in difficult negotiations over the Borey’s reported 23-billion-ruble price tag.

Updating a related story, ITAR-TASS says new Yasen-class SSN Severodvinsk is now in its second underway period.  Its first (September until early October) was deemed successful; 80 percent of tasks were completed and only minor problems identified.

Worth recalling here that two Boreys, Bulava, and one Yasen were all on President Medvedev’s list of weapons systems to be procured in GOZ-2010.