Tag Archives: Submarines

Korolev on New Submarines

At today’s launch of Russia’s first proyekt 885M or Yasen-M SSN Kazan, Navy CINC Admiral Vladimir Korolev said the third Yasen-M, Krasnoyarsk, will be launched in 2019.  But he didn’t mention the second, Novosibirsk.

According to RIA Novosti, Korolev also indicated that the sixth Yasen-M (seventh Yasen overall) will be laid down this summer, and will be named Ulyanovsk.

Korolev also said the first modernized proyekt 955A or Borey A SSBN Knyaz Vladimir will be launched this summer.  It will be the fourth Borey overall, and will carry the improved Bulava-M SLBM.

At the launch ceremony for Kazan, the Navy CINC reported that:

“Last year we reached the same number of underway days which existed before the post-Soviet period.  That is more than 3,000 days at sea for Russia’s submarine fleet.  It’s a wonderful indicator.”

While launch is a very significant milestone in submarine production, Kazan still faces a lengthy period of pierside fitting out, factory trials, and state testing.

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Tighter in the Hall

Sevmash (photo: www.sevmash.ru)

Sevmash (photo: http://www.sevmash.ru)

It’s tighter in Sevmash’s construction hall, but there’s still plenty of space.

Russian submarine producer Sevmash released the following noteworthy statement on 28 March:

Uniting forces for nuclear-powered submarine construction

For the realization of the state arms program and effective construction of modern nuclear submarines, buildingway-delivery production is being organized at Sevmash.

The Testing and Order Delivery Directorate (UISZ) is joining Sevmash’s two largest buildingway departments — 50 and 55.  The new structure is needed to increase the tempo of modern nuclear submarines construction (recently a significant number of submarines was laid down), guarantee evenness in labor force distribution, and promote the transfer of production experience.  Recall that the buildingway of department 50 was occupied with civilian production in the 1990s:  specifically, it built the unique ice-resistant maritime platform ‘Prirazlomaya.’  Last year the department came back to its core business:  modern nuclear-powered submarines were laid down here.  As the chief of buildingway-delivery production Sergey Novoselov announced, a management system for the new large-scale sub-unit is currently being formed in accordance with the general director’s order.

Press-service OAO “PO ‘Sevmash.'”

For curiosity’s sake, here’s Bellona.org’s take on the ‘Prirazlomaya’ drilling platform.  Not flattering.

What is this buildingway-delivery production?  It sounds like Sevmash knows once it launches some submarines now under construction, it’ll face a fitting-out bottleneck . . . perhaps some pre-delivery work will now occur on the ways prior to launch.

Various media outlets recently noted Russia’s increased submarine production and declared that it is building four nuclear-powered boats (two SSBNs and two SSNs) for the first time in post-Soviet history.  Examples can be found here and here.

But a bit of research, e.g. here, here, here, and here, would have shown that three SSBNs and four SSNs — seven unfinished boats — are now in the hall at Sevmash.  Six laid down since 2012.  They are, of course, proyekt 955A Borey-class SSBNs and proyekt 885M Yasen-class SSNs.

Official reports from Sevmash early last year indicated that the builder plans to lay down two more Boreys and two more Yasens in 2015.  That would make a rather whopping 11 submarines under construction.

The numbers seven and 11 hark back to the halcyon days of Soviet production:  to the 1980s when Sevmash built Typhoon-, Delta IV-, Oscar-, and Akula-class submarines.  Early in that long ago decade, Moscow built four boats at a time, toward mid-decade — six or seven, by the time Gorbachev came to power — eight, before 1990 as many as 10 simultaneously.  Then production dropped to virtually zero in the mid-1990s.

We should remember, however, that Russia’s submarines under construction could turn out to be proverbial “birds in a bush.”  The navy much prefers to have completed boats in hand.

So what stands in the way of completing them?  A number of things potentially. Skilled labor, materials, and component shortages, finding domestic substitutes for sanctioned foreign inputs, and high interest rates and high inflation complicate the already pricey business of building new submarines.

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.

GPV, Exports, and OPK Capacity

New Sub at Admiralty (photo: RIA Novosti)

This morning RIA Novosti reported on a familiar topic — the conflict between planned acquisition embodied in the State Program of Armaments, 2011-2020, and the Russian OPK’s capacity and capability to deliver it.  In this case, new diesel-electric submarines from St. Petersburg’s Admiralty Wharves.  Also familiar is one reason for the bind — a lingering priority on production for sale abroad.

A highly-placed OPK source tells the news agency that the GPV’s plan for conventional submarine deliveries might not be fulfilled due to Admiralty’s heavy load of orders.  The Russian Navy is reportedly supposed to get 20 new diesel-electric boats by 2020, and Russia also has ten foreign deliveries scheduled.  The OPK source notes that Admiralty has become a sole source for conventional subs, and he calls for shifting some sub production to Nizhniy Novgorod and Komsomolsk:

“In view of the large volume of new submarine construction for the Navy, and also for export, it’s essential to diversify production, utilizing, for example, the capacity of ‘Krasnoye Sormovo’ Shipbuilding Plant in Nizhniy Novgorod and the Amur Shipbuilding Plant in Komsomolsk-na-Amure.  Otherwise the state program in the diesel submarine construction area could be disrupted.”

RIA Novosti notes “Krasnoye Sormovo” built plenty of Soviet submarines, 280 in all, including 25 nuclear-powered ones.  Its last boat was a diesel-electric for China in 2005.  The plant also outfits Russian Navy and export subs with torpedo- and mast-related equipment.

The article also speculates that construction of French-designed Mistral helicopter carriers could be problematic if Admiralty is selected.  The shipyard is reportedly planning on new construction space on Kronshtadt for this reason.  The OPK source says Mistral would be Admiralty’s main concern, and occupy its main capacity and personnel.  So, he continues, it’s logical to send some orders (i.e. submarines) to other factories that have the capabilities.

Igor Korotchenko tells RIA Novosti “Krasnoye Sormovo” could provide extra buildingways if Admiralty can’t meet all its export contracts.  He says Admiralty is now building five subs under the GOZ, six for Vietnam, and:

“In the event new contracts are signed for sub construction with Venezuela and Indonesia there will be an obvious problem with inadequate buildingway space, and then a backup could be required.”

RIA Novosti notes rather dryly along the way that no Russian GPV has been fulfilled completely because of the country’s insufficient modern industrial capacity.

One wonders what, if any, work and investment would be required to bring “Krasnoye Sormovo” and Amur back into the sub-building business.