Tag Archives: Vladimir Monomakh

Nuclear Subs Starving the Fleet (Part I)

Kazan in the launching dock in 2017

Kazan in the launching dock in 2017

What follows is a translation of Maksim Klimov’s October 22 article in VPK. He writes frequently on naval issues.

“What Do You Ask of an ‘Ash’: Nuclear Submarines Keep the Fleet on Starvation Rations”

“On 25 September the lead nuclear-powered submarine of project 885M ‘Kazan’ went to sea for factory underway trials. This event didn’t go unnoticed in foreign media or ours. Taking into account the fact that the lion’s share of resources allocated to the Navy go to the nuclear submarine fleet, there’s sense in sorting out the real effectiveness of the expenditures.”

“The ‘Borey’ —  ‘Bulava’ program is the megaproject of recent history. A lot of copy about its utility has been ripped up. According to the facts we have, six years after completing state testing of the lead boat and three years after transferring the first series vessel to the Pacific Fleet not a single firing of a ‘Bulava’ SLBM from the Pacific Ocean from ‘Aleksandr Nevskiy’ or ‘Vladimir Monomakh’ has taken place. According to media information, the lead SSBN ‘Yuriy Dolgorukiy’ doesn’t carry a combat load and, evidently, is being used as a floating stand for developing and tweaking ‘Bulava’.”

“Deterrence Deterred”

“We have to bow here to TsKB ‘Rubin’ General Director Sergey Kovalev for preserving the SSBN grouping of projects 667BDRM and BDR, which are today actually carrying out strategic nuclear deterrence missions.”

“In the current state of affairs questions arise as to the utility for Russia of having a naval component of SYaS [trans. Strategic Nuclear Forces]. The problem is all means of the ‘triad’ have their shortcomings and virtues, and the reliability of deterrence is guaranteed by covering the minuses of one with the pluses of the others. In the scope of all deterrence systems it’s sufficient for us to have just one, guaranteed untrackable SSBN. But this, undoubtedly, requires a certain number of them in the fleet’s composition. Because the foundation of strategic deterrence is not range of flight or the quantity of warheads on missiles, but inevitability of a retaliatory strike, the basis of which is the combat stability of naval SYaS.”

“There is an analogous problem with non-nuclear means of deterrence, cruise missiles and their carriers.”

“Taking into account the failure of modernization of third-generation boats a bet has been placed on the grouping of new project 885(M) nuclear subs. It would seem logical since the missile salvo of project 885 exceeds the American ‘Virginias’ and even the Western media is crying about a ‘new Russian threat’. The problem is only that there aren’t enough missiles on project 885 boats for effective deterrence, and the carrier itself is too expensive and low-volume. If we call a spade a spade, creating an effective system of non-nuclear deterrence on the basis of project 885M nuclear subs is far beyond the bounds of the state’s economic capabilities. Moreover, we still have to go to the volley point. This is precisely where the main problems begin.”

“Won’t Hold Up in Battle”

“Traditionally they say quietness is the main quality of a submarine. What does this actually mean? The foreign comparative graphic [trans. link added] of the reduction of noise in USSR (RF) and U.S. submarines is well-known. Comparing this graphic with data on the noise of subs of the first-fourth generations it’s obvious that the given levels for our fourth-generation lag U.S. Navy multipurpose nuclear submarines by not less than 10 decibels.”

“Project 885 ‘Yasen’ is the only modern multipurpose submarine which retains the propeller screw, all remaining ones have gone to water pumpjets. The reason is requirements for significant increases in low-noise speed, up to 20 knots. But as research shows, at the same noise level, the speed of ‘Severodvinsk’ and ‘Kazan’ is, obviously, much lower than that of the American ‘Virginia’ and ‘Seawolf’ [trans. SSN-774 and SSN-21 classes respectively]. And this is an extremely serious tactical flaw, the consequences of which are not fully understood by us.”

“Meanwhile now our ‘partners’ [trans. the U.S.] are developing new ways of detecting submarines. Submarine officers in Severomorsk laid down the flight track of an American ‘Orion’ reconnaissance aircraft on a map of the disposition of our nuclear submarines in the course of exercises. And all ten turning points of its route precisely followed the disposition of our submarines. In fact it didn’t even search, but went to the exact point. The ‘Orion’ went precisely to our nuclear submarine without any tacking, dropped a buoy and went to the next one.”

“The scope of threats from enemy aircraft aren’t recognized by us because domestic anti-submarine aviation is catastrophically behind the foreign level. The concept of even the newest Russian airborne search-targeting systems are from the 1970s. ‘Novella’ (‘Leninets’), as was officially announced, guarantees ‘an increase in the effectiveness of the Il-38 by four times.’ The problem is the Il-38’s capability against low-noise submarines was close to zero.”

“Evading Testing”

“Even in 2010 Rear-Admiral Anatoliy Lutskiy  wrote that it was proposed to equip ‘Yasen’ and ‘Borey’ submarines with torpedo defense systems which had technical tasks for development put together back in the 1980s. Moreover, the results of research into the effectiveness of these means against modern torpedoes attest to the entirely low probability that an evading submarine could escape destruction.”

“Since then two generations of torpedo weapons have been replaced, and there’s obviously no need to talk today about the possibility of effectively employing drifting systems of the ‘Vist’ type or the extremely expensive ‘Udar’ for anti-torpedo defense. The situation has only one solution — conducting objective testing together with new torpedo types. However, the consequences for the pair of them are obviously devastating, so simply no one will allow the testing.”

“What Is To Be Done”

“We aren’t simply investing huge amounts of money in combat systems of dubious effectiveness, but also tearing them away from education, science, and rearmament of the ground forces where there is still a difficult situation with combat equipment. In the Navy betting on submarines keeps surface ship construction on a starvation diet. It has led to the stagnation of naval aviation.”

“During development of proposals for ‘Basic Directions for Development of VVST [trans. Armaments, Military and Special Equipment] to 2030’ the author raised the question of conducting proactive R&D into weapons and countermeasures for fifth-generation submarines. This is acutely important since there are a number of fundamental points regarding the appearance of a weapon which directly influence the construction of submarines. To do it ‘the old way’ is to lay down a growing lag in our submarine fleet.”

“To resolve the critical problems of the Navy’s submarine forces it’s essential firstly to conduct special testing and research exercises. Until they are completed the construction of nuclear-powered subs could be significantly reduced for the redistribution of limited financial resources to higher priority and more critical directions of defense organizational development — surface ships and aviation.”

There’s a lot to think about here. Watch for Part II.

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Tsar-Boat

Russian military television, TV Zvezda, not long ago ran a 35-minute show on the construction and acceptance of Borey-class SSBN Vladimir Monomakh in Severodvinsk.  Pretty interesting footage showing test launches of Bulava SLBMs and engineers checking design specs on reams of paper documents.  Props to someone for putting the video on YouTube.

The program follows MOD military representatives, civilians, and crew through the final process of delivering and accepting the new submarine into service.  It also has footage from Votkinsk showing the manufacture of Bulavas for the Borey-class.

Big Stories of 2014

Just before Christmas, RIA Novosti took a cut at identifying the big military stories of 2014.

A daunting, but intriguing task.  Here’s what it came up with:

  1. Acceptance of proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBN Vladimir Monomakh.  That’s unit three.  RIAN also puts five pending Bulava SLBM launches, including from Monomakh, on its list.
  2. Acceptance of the lead unit of proyekt 885 Yasen-class SSN Severodvinsk.
  3. Construction of a new National Command and Control Center for State Defense.
  4. Acceptance of the Ratnik future soldier system.
  5. One-Time Monetary Payments (or YeDV) for servicemen owed permanent apartments.  It’s supposed to end the housing line forever.
  6. Flexible pricing in the State Defense Order.  Starting in 2014, some contracts may be for a fixed price while others will be figured on what was actually spent to produce end items.
  7. Formation of an aerobatic flying group with new Yak-130 trainers.
  8. State acceptance testing for the T-50 / PAK FA.
  9. Continued, gradual rearmament to the level of 30 percent modern weapons and equipment in all forces.
  10. Formation of 16 new medical companies (to expand to 50 over the next 18 months).  A special mobile medical (medevac) brigade will be formed in each military district.
  11. Conscripts from reestablished sports companies slated to compete in the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.

By way of context, here’s what RIAN predicted for the big stories of 2013:  end of explosive destruction of old munitions, Bulava / Borey / Yasen, Vikramaditya [ex-Gorshkov] handover, Putin’s promise to end the military’s housing problem, Shoygu’s pledge to turn MOD property matters over to Rosimushchestvo, Armata tank and related platforms, T-50 / PAK FA testing, creation of Concern “Kalashnikov” and the new AK-12, the Russian DARPA — Fund for Future Research, Oboronservis criminal cases in court, and Zapad-2013.

Interesting to consider how much (or how little) movement occurred on these issues last year.

Bulava Plans

Plans for Bulava SLBM testing may be shifting.  When last we checked, Navy CINC Vysotskiy said look for four more tests with a salvo launch this year or next, but an OPK source said expect a salvo test in late August or fall.  The latter sounds more like what we are reading today.  In sum, it seems someone’s in a hurry to give Bulava final approval.

This morning ITAR-TASS reported Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy will conduct a maximum of two Bulava SLBM test launches, including a salvo launch, before the end of this year.  The news agency’s interlocutor said:

“It’s still planned to conduct the next, the 16th, flight test of one missile in the last ten days of August, and then – in fall or even in December – a salvo launch of two ‘Bulava’ missiles.  But another possibility isn’t ruled out – conducting a salvo launch of two missiles right off in August, omitting a single missile test.  Next week it will be known which possibility was finally selected.”   

The state commission told ITAR-TASS:

“Whatever the testing variant, in the event of a successful ‘Bulava’ salvo launch, a decision on accepting this missile system into our Navy’s arsenal will follow.”

ITAR-TASS also reported Borey number two Aleksandr Nevskiy has begun factory testing, and number three Vladimir Monomakh is 50 percent complete.

Aleksandr Nevskiy Launch Planned

According to ITAR-TASS, Sevmash shipbuilders have announced they’ll launch the second proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBN Aleksandr Nevskiy at the end of November.  Nevskiy was laid down on 19 March 2004.  Lead unit Yuriy Dolgorukiy is preparing for a test launch of the Bulava SLBM likely in December.

ITAR-TASS says Borey unit 3 Vladimir Monomakh (laid down in 2006) is on a buildingway at Sevmash.  Nevskiy and Monomakh were not identified as proyekt 955A boats.  The wire service also didn’t mention anything about an official lay down for hull 4 (Sv. Nikolay).  Plans are for not less than 8 of the Borey SSBNs.

Dolgorukiy Factory Testing Complete

Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy

Not a huge news story, but worth keeping continuity on . . . and there are interesting questions — has the fourth Borey really been laid down, and how many launch tubes will be on unit 2, 3, etc.? 

Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy completed its factory underway testing by 24 September, according to the official Russian news services.  A spokeswoman for Sevmash said the current testing plan was fulfilled, and all established tasks were completed.  Captain First Rank Vladimir Shirin called the last at-sea period ‘excellent.’  All systems reportedly worked well, and minor issues noted during previous cruises were resolved.  The Sevmash delivery team and Dolgorukiy crew are preparing to present the submarine to the state acceptance commission.  But according to Grani.ru, a United Shipbuilding Corporation (OSK) source told Interfaks the obvious – acceptance of Dolgorukiy into the Navy inventory is not being considered since its main weapon – the Bulava SLBM – is not ready.  The Defense Ministry is still hoping that the new SSBN will be the launch platform for one of the next three Bulava tests.

The news services noted there are two additional Boreys, not three, on Sevmash’s buildingways.  So one supposes number four, Saint Nikolay, hasn’t been laid down yet.

The news services maintain the line that the Borey-class boats will have 12 launch tubes each, but Grani.ru, like other media outlets, claims Aleksandr Nevskiy and Vladimir Monomakh are proyekt 955A units and will have 16 tubes, while Saint Nikolay will be a proyekt 955U boat, possibly with 20 tubes.

Trouble Building Submarines at Sevmash

Northern Machinebuilding Enterprise (Sevmash)

Here is 9 February RIA Novosti verbatim:

“Sevmash” Will Not Meet Schedules for Nuclear Submarine Construction Due to Insufficient Personnel

SEVERODVINSK, 9 Feb – RIA Novosti.  The “Sevmash” enterprise in Severodvinsk, Arkhangelsk Oblast will fall behind schedule in constructing nuclear submarines, it was announced to RIA Novosti on Tuesday in the enterprise’s press service.

Information about the lag in the schedule was heard in the session of the interdepartmental coordinating council which took place under the leadership of RF Government Military-Industrial Commission member Vladimir Pospelov and Deputy Navy Commander-in-Chief for Armaments Nikolay Borisov.

Members of the coordinating council discussed the state of affairs in producing nuclear submarines at “Sevmash” – “Yuriy Dolgorukiy,” “Aleksandr Nevskiy,” “Vladimir Monomakh” (project 955 “Borey”), and also “Severodvinsk” and “Kazan.”

“Today, as noted in the session, there is some lag from the construction schedule acknowledged by Sevmash and its partner-enterprises,” stated the press service’s announcement.

Factory General Director Nikolay Kalistratov explained the delay was caused by a lack of qualified personnel.

“It’s essential to apply maximum effort to realize the outlined plans and complete orders on time.  In the near future, we have to attract an additional 500 qualified production workers in the specialties pipefitter, machinist-fitter, ship finisher.  It should also be noted that over two years we’ve increased the number of basic production workers by 2,000 people, but this force is still insufficient,” said the director of the enterprise’s press service.

The directors of TsKB MT [Central Design Bureau of Naval Technology] “Rubin,” SPMBM [St. Petersburg Naval Machinebuilding Bureau] “Malakhit,” “Rosatom” state corporation, RF Ministry of Industry and Trade and other departments also attended the session.

Now at the “Sevmash” factory in various degrees of completion are three strategic nuclear submarines of project 955 “Borey” – “Yuriy Dolgorukiy,” “Aleksandr Nevskiy” and “Vladimir Monomakh.”  Work on construction of the fourth strategic nuclear submarine of this project, with the provisional name “Saint Nikolay” began in December 2009.  In all by 2015 it is planned to build eight nuclear submarines of this class.

This statement seems to imply there’s no problem with money, but, at a certain point, more workers equal money because higher wages should attract them, the northern climate notwithstanding.  So to some degree, this is a Sevmash call for more resources to do the work already on its order books.  Although these Sevmash officials said work’s begun on the fourth 955, RIA Novosti from 8 February made it clear there’s no firm idea of when its keel-laying ceremony would occur.  And Navy CINC Vysotskiy said the problem was “technological,” not related to the fate of the Bulava SLBM or to funding.  So maybe he meant a labor shortage, but, as noted, a lack of labor  is an inability or unwillingness to pay what it costs to do the work.

Yuriy Dolgorukiy SSBN has more sea trials before handover to the Navy. Sevmash says Aleksandr Nevskiy will be launched in 2010 (it was laid down in early 2004).  Vladimir Monomakh is about two years behind it.  The big question for these boats is when and if they’ll have a missile.  Late last year, a number of Russian media outlets claimed SSBN production was frozen due to Bulava’s problems.  But Sevmash’s call for more workers doesn’t track with that.  In October, the Russian government also announced Sevmash would receive 4 billion rubles to add to its working capital for modernization, along with a 6 billion ruble credit from VEB.