Tag Archives: SSN

Pacific Fleet Akulas Bound for Severodvinsk

Akulas Loaded on Transshelf (photo: www.dockwise.com)

Akulas Loaded on Transshelf (photo: http://www.dockwise.com)

On 9 September, ITAR-TASS reported two Pacific Fleet Akula-class submarines had begun a three-week Northern Sea Route (NSR) transit to Severodvinsk for a “deep modernization” at Zvezdochka.  They will reach the shipyard during the last ten days of the month, according to the Defense Ministry press-service.

Pacific Fleet proyekt 971 / Shchuka-B SSNs Bratsk and Samara were loaded on Dockwise’s heavy transport Transshelf at Avachinskaya Bay on 23 August.

This is the first time two submarines have been transported together. Nuclear-powered icebreakers will accompany Transshelf along the NSR.  Until now, Pacific Fleet Akulas were repaired at Vilyuchinsk or Bolshoy Kamen in the Far East.

Zvezdochka publicized the boats’ imminent departure back on 20 August. Buried in this item is a reported RF government decision on a shipyard division of labor, under which Zvezdochka will modernize Akulas and Zvezda (Bolshoy Kamen) will work on Oscar II-class SSGNs (proyekt 949A / Antey).

But it looks like Zvezdochka already worked on the Northern Fleet’s Oscar IIs in previous years; Pacific Fleet units remain for Zvezda.

Zvezdochka has a contract for four Akula modernizations.  Two Northern Fleet units — Leopard and Volk — are already there.  According to Flot.com, the 21-year-old Improved Akula Leopard arrived in 2013 and will return to the fleet in 2016.  22-year-old Volk got to Zvezdochka this year.  Both were built by Sevmash in Severodvinsk.

Akula II Bratsk and Samara — 24 and 19 years old respectively — were both built at Komsomolsk in the Far East.

Zvezdochka’s “deep modernization” reportedly includes a recore and replacement of all electronic, control, and weapons systems.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Navy Day

Sankt-Peterburg Submarine in the Bolshaya Neva (photo: http://www.flot.com)

In honor of Navy Day — the 315th anniversary of the Russian Navy’s establishment – here are this week’s sound bites from Navy CINC, Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy.  RIA Novosti will publish a complete interview with him tomorrow.

Vysotskiy says the Navy expects “not less than eight” proyekt 885 SSNs by 2020.  Some sources maintain the number is six.

Unit 1 Severodvinsk is preparing for sea trials in August, and unit 2 Kazan is expected by 2015.  They’ll have to pick up the pace to get eight by 2020.

Vysotskiy says work on a new destroyer will begin in 2012, and be completed in 2016.  This is the one he suggested might be nuclear-powered.

The CINC’s other comments covered the Black Sea Fleet. 

He claimed the BSF will get six proyekt 636 diesel-electric submarines in the coming years.  Its sole submarine now, proyekt 877 Varshavyanka-class SS Alrosa is currently in the Baltic for repair.

RIA Novosti recalled Vysotskiy’s past comments about obtaining 15 frigates and diesel submarines for the BSF by 2020 in a 60-30 proportion.  He also said a frigate and submarine were specifically laid down for the BSF in 2010, and would be every year henceforth.  He claimed the fleet would be renewed by 2020 through new construction rather than inter-fleet transfers.

Moskovskiy komsomolets and Newsru.com reported on the BSF’s drastic ten-fold decline since 1997.

This week TsAMTO cited a Baltic Fleet press release saying it expects to get the Neustrashimyy-class FF Yaroslav Mudryy, proyekt 20380 Steregushchiy-class FFLs Steregushchiy, Soobrazitelnyy, and Boykiy, proyekt 677 Lada-class SS Sankt-Peterburg, as well as assault ships and other craft.  The BSF may be expecting to get some of these ships as well.

Severodvinsk Trials and GOZ Tribulations

Severodvinsk (photo: RIA Novosti / Vladimir Rodionov)

Your typical good news, bad news story . . . happily for the Russian Navy, the Severodvinsk is nearing its first at-sea testing, but the new submarine has also been held up as a prime example of outrageous price increases in this year’s state defense order.  Final delivery of this SSN, as well as the first two Borey-class SSBNs, represents a big part of troubled GOZ-2011.

RIA Novosti reports new fourth generation Yasen-class (proyekt 885) SSN Severodvinsk will soon head into the White Sea for two months of underway testing, according to Malakhit Design Bureau General Director Vladimir Pyalov.  He added that, after this at-sea period, the final phase of state testing will take place.  

A very precise Mr. Pyalov says Severodvinsk is currently 98.9 percent complete.  He thinks the Navy will accept the new boat before year’s end and, in all, six of these multipurpose submarines will be built.  The second proyekt 885 Kazan is slated for delivery in 2015. 

RIA Novosti says proyekt 885 is a double-hulled, single-shaft boat with a reduced acoustic signature.  The conning tower has a streamlined, oval shape.  The boat is divided into ten compartments. 

For the first time, according to RIA Novosti, Russian designers put the submarine’s torpedo tubes amidships to allow for a new bow-mounted sonar system.  Proyekt 885 has eight vertical launch tubes for supersonic cruise missiles.  It has new communications and navigation systems as well as a fundamentally new nuclear power plant, according to the news agency’s report.  The new submarine is said to be first in noise reduction and stealth among attack submarines worldwide.

But the Severodvinsk couldn’t evade detection in the furor over breakdowns in the state defense order.

Earlier this month, RIA Novosti reported on disputes between the United Shipbuilding Corporation (OSK), submarine-builder Sevmash, and the Defense Ministry over naval construction in this year’s GOZ.  In particular, the military accuses the builder of doubling its prices for proyekt 955 Yuriy Dolgorukiy and proyekt 885 Severodvinsk.

An OSK spokesman defended Sevmash saying the cost of its work on Severodvinsk is only 30 percent of the total price, with the balance being the cost of armaments and components supplied by several dozen enterprises.  He blamed inflation in the industrial sector and the economy more generally.

Summarizing his discussion of submarines with OSK, RIA Novosti reports, Defense Minister Serdyukov said:

“They are giving us an increase in prices on new orders, and, naturally, we don’t agree with this.”

But, he added he’s convinced the Defense Ministry will persuade the producer to lower its prices.

Izvestiya mentioned that Severodvinsk was originally intended for a production run of 30 submarines, now reduced to six more than 20 years later.  As recently as March, the Navy still publicly hoped for ten.

Serdyukov told the paper:

“. . . it’s incomprehensible what the price of the ship [sic] consists of, if the cost of the lead boat was 47 billion rubles ($1.7 billion), but the next, exactly the same is now 112 billion ($4 billion).”

“Of course, the price will grow if, in the cost of one ship [sic], they include all accompanying expenditures on other enterprise projects in no way connected with it, like maintaining kindergartens, infrastructure, etc.”

“We’re prepared to pay, but on the condition that the price formation process will be transparent.  As practice shows, if all articles in the contracts are “decoded,” then it seems it’s possible with confidence to deduct up to 30% from the final cost of a finished product.”

These must be bitter words for an enterprise that went many, many years without completing its trademark product — a nuclear-powered submarine.

A Sevmash source says the cost of submarine construction is directly related to higher prices for materials, energy, and integration:

“The entire range of equipment for a submarine is supplied by monopolistic companies trying to dictate their prices.”