Tag Archives: SSBNs

New SSBNs Won’t Serve as Multipurpose Submarines

Failed Bulava Launch on 6 September (photo: Northern Fleet Press Service)

Failed Bulava Launch on 6 September (photo: Northern Fleet Press Service)

The Russian Navy doesn’t intend to use its two newest Borey-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) without their Bulava missiles in a multipurpose role.  Not even temporarily.  At least according to one source.

On 1 November, a Navy Main Staff source told ITAR-TASS that operating the new SSBNs without 16 Bulava (SS-NX-30) submarine-launched ballistic missiles would be analogous to employing Tu-160 strategic bombers like fighter aircraft.

Earlier, however, RIA Novosti reported the Navy might accept the two Borey SSBNs for “experimental” use without Bulava missiles, citing a highly-placed General Staff source.

A submarine in such a status would not technically be in the order-of-battle.  Russia’s first Lada-class (proyekt 677) diesel submarine Sankt-Peterburg currently operates “experimentally” in the Northern Fleet.

The General Staff source said, without their primary armament, Borey hull 2 Aleksandr Nevskiy and hull 3 Vladimir Monomakh could serve temporarily as multipurpose submarines. Their crews could fulfill non-strategic combat training missions until problems with Bulava are resolved.

Both new SSBNs were ready for fleet acceptance before the end of 2013.  Vladimir Monomakh just completed sea trials in early October.

On 6 September, Defense Minister Shoygu stopped the acceptance process for both submarines after an unsuccessful Bulava test launch from Aleksandr Nevskiy. Before that failure, the missile had five consecutive successful launches in 2010-2011.

The Navy accepted the first Borey-class submarine, Yuriy Dolgorukiy, in early 2013.

Stories of the Year

RIA Novosti has its list of the main military events of 2012.

No surprise number 1 is the Oboronservis scandal, the fall of former Defense Minister Serdyukov, and appointment of successor Sergey Shoygu.

The rest:

  • 16 accidents in munition destruction leaving 12 dead and 23 injured.
  • Retirement of the CO of the Strizhi flight demonstration group who allegedly demanded money from subordinates for the freedom to show up for duty or not.  Remember Senior Lieutenant Sulim at Lipetsk?
  • Vityazi flight group doesn’t participate in Farnborough.
  • Ex-Gorshkov carrier still not delivered to India due to power plant problems.
  • Rearmament of RVSN with Yars and Topol-M ICBMs.  See Karakayev’s remarks the other day.
  • Acceptance of Dolgorukiy, Nevskiy, Bulava, and Severodvinsk all put off until 2013.
  • Delayed space vehicle launches, but fewer failures than in 2011.
  • The death of Ruslan Ayderkhanov.  A surprise pick.  Remember the army and medical examiners say he killed himself even though he was beaten and abused before he died.
  • The contract for five Borey SSBNs, and Prime Minister / President Putin’s role in getting the Defense Ministry and industry to agree on a price.
  • The collapse of Moscow’s $4.2 billion arms deal with Iraq amid talk of corruption.
  • Losing another Indian helicopter tender to the U.S.
  • Russia’s conference on EuroMD.

Defense News

Some Russian defense news from June 8, 2012 . . .

Kremlin.ru and other sites noted several designers of the prefab or modular Voronezh BMEW radar have received a 2011 State Prize for Science and Technology.  The new system can be deployed 3-4 times faster, costs four times less to operate, and requires six times fewer personnel to service than the previous generation of radars, according to press reports.  TsAMTO carried the story as well as a review of the state of Voronezh deployments.

Izvestiya reported details on a consolidation of Russia’s munitions producers.  It’s been predicted for many months.  The country’s 56 producers will be reorganized into 5 holdings, with Bazalt, Pribor, and Mashinostroitel leading three of them.  A Bazalt rep basically admits the sector’s a mess, and it’ll take several years to organize the industry.

But Bloomberg and other media reported U.S. defense firms are actually looking to Rosoboroneksport for the purchase of munitions from Russian producers.

Topwar.ru carried an Interfaks story saying Delta IV-class SSBN Novomoskovsk is nearing the end of a modernization to extend its service life to 2021.  The sub went to sea for some trials last week.  It is, by the way, the newest of the class.  Zvezdochka is also working on Verkhoturye, and both SSBNs will reportedly return to service by the end of 2012.  See this earlier-posted related item.

RIAN reported an OSK source claims the Navy will buy up to ten support ships per year starting in 2013 to rebuild Russia’s naval auxiliary fleet.

General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov addressed the possibility of Finland joining NATO while in Helsinki.  He said this threatens Russia’s security.  But there were Western news service reports saying he said Finland’s military cooperation with NATO by itself is a threat to Moscow.  Voice of Russia covered the negative reactions of Finnish politicians as well as Russian commentators pointing out that the general’s view on another possible broadening of NATO is understandable.  VPK.name highlighted the story.

NVO interviewed new Ground Troops CINC, General-Colonel Vladimir Chirkin on his plans for army acquisition.  Chirkin said UAVs, reconnaissance systems like Strelets, Rys armored vehicles, S-300V4, Buk-M3, Tor-M2, and Verba SAMs, Iskander-M, Tornado-G (S), Msta-S, and Khrizantema-S missile and artillery systems, comms equipment, T-72B1(2), and BTR-82A will be procured out to 2015.  RIAN carried the abridged version.

Difficult Course to a Grand Fleet

Konstantin Bogdanov sees reason for pessimism when looking at the course ahead for rebuilding Russia’s fleet.  Writing in Friday’s Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye, he says, despite an intention to spend 4.7 trillion rubles of the ten-year GPV on the Navy, there are technical challenges, clearly impractical schemes, and failures in what he calls the “organization-financial plan” ahead. 

Bogdanov provides us a handy review of the state of Russian shipbuilding.

He points first to OSK’s insistence on seeing new aircraft carriers (with nuclear-powered destroyers in their battle groups) on the Russian Navy’s horizon.  But Defense Minister Serdyukov has only a cold rebuff for the idea.  Early R&D into what a new carrier might look like is as far as he’s being willing to go.  It was made pretty clear that a carrier isn’t part of this GPV.

Bogdanov says OSK may be looking for work for the New-Admiralty Wharves it sees on Kotlin Island in the future.  The 30- to 60-billion-ruble shipyard could be ready in 2016.  An aircraft carrier project would help launch this idea.

Then Bogdanov turns to the Navy’s more immediate needs — frigates and corvettes.  

Proyekt 22350 frigates are needed by tens, if not 30, or even 40, of them.  But Northern Wharf is having trouble building them.  Lead unit Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov was five years in construction, and its underway testing isn’t complete.  Fleet Admiral Kasatonov was laid down just about two years ago.  Its SAM system, Poliment-Redut with 9M96 missiles isn’t ready, and will have to be fitted right to finished frigates.  But Bogdanov sees the frigates’ VLS — the Multipurpose Ship Fire System (UKSK or УКСК) as a positive step.  It could fire antiship, antisubmarine, land-attack cruise missiles, torpedoes, and possibly SAMs.

When proyekt 22350 didn’t come along quickly, Bogdanov says, the Navy went for its own proyekt 11356M frigates like those being built for India.  But, he notes, Baltic Shipbuilding Plant “Yantar” in Kaliningrad isn’t having an easy time constructing them for its Indian and Russian customers.  There are delays in the Indian units, but Admiral Grigorovich and Admiral Essen have been laid down for Russia, and Admiral Makarov should join them soon.  The contract for a second batch of three was just signed.  They’re supposed to be “localized,” but may actually be more like the Indian versions.  They’re slightly cheaper than the proyekt 22350 at 10 billion vs. 16 billion rubles per ship.

Northern Wharf has the order for nine proyekt 20380 Steregushchiy-class corvettes (with the proyekt 22350 frigates this comes to more than 220 billion rubles).  Soobrazitelnyy (proyekt 20381) began sea trials this year, Boykiy was launched, Stoykiy is under construction, and Provornyy (proyekt 20385) was laid down.  Sovershennyy (proyekt 20380) remains under construction at Komsomolsk-na-Amure.  Bogdanov says the proyekt 20385 ships will have an eight-cell UKSK.

Bogdanov notes, however, that Northern Wharf’s production won’t be steady until its ownership issue is finally resolved.  If OSK takes over, this could have a good or bad effect on fulfilling defense orders, but the current financial questions around Northern Wharf are even worse.

Turning to submarines, Bogdanov believes the situation is more transparent, but there are still questions.

The SSBN picture is pretty clear.  Proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBNs finally have a missile that looks like it works.  Yuriy Dolgorukiy has fired it, and Aleksandr Nevskiy might this year.  Vladimir Monomakh is under construction, and they’re preparing production materials for Saint Nikolay.

The problem, he notes, is units 1 and 2 used sections and components of proyekt 971 and 949A submarines never built.  Units 3 and 4 will be built from scratch, and it’s too early to say how this will be reflected in their cost.  Bogdanov concludes another battle over inflated prices awaits, and there is, of course, still no 2011 contract with Sevmash.

It’s less clear with the multipurpose proyekt 885, Yasen-class, of which the Navy wants ten by 2020.  But these boats have been the focus of the Defense Ministry’s familiar complaint about unjustified price increases.  Unit 1 Severodvinsk was built from materials and resources on hand, and its rising price was frozen at 47 billion rubles in 2005.  The Defense Ministry says Sevmash wants 112 billion for unit 2 Kazan

Bogdanov thinks it’s hard to tell who’s justified here.  There is structural industrial inflation, and a higher costs could be the result of the frozen handover price on Severodvinsk.

Bogdanov mentions the thought given to cheaper attack boats like the Victor III or Akula, or proyekt 957 Kedr which never left the design phase.  The Yasen is intended to replace Soviet-era SSNs and SSGNs, but Bogdanov thinks it’s too complex and expensive to be built in the numbers Russia may need.  Twenty years ago the Russian Navy was planning for not less than 30 [sized of course against the U.S. fleet], and currently it has not more than 30 SSNs and SSGNs, and this is considered insufficient. 

Despite the uncertainty above, Bogdanov says one still hears talk about the need to develop a fifth generation submarine, but it’s unknown if there will be any development work on one.
 

GOZ War Winding Down?

Vedomosti’s Aleksey Nikolskiy sees a possible end to the conflict between the Defense Ministry and industry over the production of strategic nuclear systems.  His OSK source claims a multiyear Defense Ministry contract with Sevmash for proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBNs will be concluded in the coming week.  This would reportedly leave OSK with just one contract remaining to be completed.

Conclusion of a 40-billion-ruble contract for three proyekt 11356M frigates was announced Wednesday.

Vedomosti’s source said the Defense Ministry and OSK also finished a deal for proyekt 885 Yasen-class SSNs several days ago.  The paper once again cites Konstantin Makiyenko’s 500 billion ruble price tag for the new SSBNs and SSNs.

An industry source tells Vedomosti that all MIT’s ballistic missile contracts are complete.

While deals for renovating Russia’s strategic forces are apparently done at last, not all contracts for conventional armaments are finished, particularly those involving Rostekhnologii and its enterprises, according to the director of one of them.

What’s this mean?

The conclusion of submarine / SLBM / ICBM production contracts would be a relief to both sides since their absence has been the biggest GOZ news story.  If all this is done, or almost done, one would expect a major government or Defense Ministry press announcement soon.

If the submarine deals are worth 500 billion rubles, that is, once again, apparently closer to Defense Minister Serdyukov’s price than to OSK’s.

The proyekt 11356M frigates are updated Krivaks (or Talwars for India), and they aren’t exactly cheap.

The issue of incomplete contracts with Rostekhnologii’s enterprises is significant given the size and breadth of their work on weapons and military equipment.  People will ask which enterprises and systems are in question.  It also contradicts Serdyukov’s recent claims that only OSK deals needed to be inked, and implies there are lingering problems and issues in areas other than shipbuilding.