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.”