Tag Archives: Yuriy Dolgorukiy

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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Defense News

Some Russian defense news for April 19-20, 2012 . . .

Krasnaya zvezda covered First Deputy Defense Minister Aleksandr Sukhorukov’s briefing on the progress of GOZ-2012.  He said contracting is at 77 percent, ahead of the last two years (50 and 47 percent).  The Defense Ministry’s GOZ funding was trimmed by 25 billion rubles, from a planned 704 to 677 billion (isn’t that 27 billion?).  GOZ money will be advanced in full, and 53 percent of contracts will be “long term,” according to Sukhorukov.

Sukhorukov's Press Conference

Sukhorukov told the media this year the Armed Forces will receive 28 Pantsir-S1, 58 aircraft, and 124 helicopters.  He discussed supplemental contracts for Mi-35, Mi-28N, and Mi-8MTSh helicopters.  The total GPV purchase of helicopters will apparently be 1,124.

ITAR-TASS reported Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy will be accepted not later than mid-June.  Unit 2 Aleksandr Nevskiy will be accepted in August according to Sukhorukov.

This item also indicated Borey contracting for this year was almost done, and that units 4-8 will have 20 launch tubes.

Sukhorukov had no other specifics on defense procurement this year.

In its coverage of the press-conference, Arms-Expo.ru asked if GOZ-2012 isn’t broken already, at least in the munitions sector.

Meanwhile, in other OPK-related news . . .

Topwar.ru writes that small arms maker Izhmash’s bankruptcy is “going according to plan.”  Rostekhnologii’s plan, that is.

VPK.name reported the chairman of Ukrainian engine manufacturer Motor Sich’s board claims Russia will sign a contract for its first An-70 transport this year.  The GPV may include up to 60 of these aircraft.

Bulava Postponed?

A Bulava Test

Interfaks reports an expected salvo launch of two Bulava SLBMs has been put off until next year, as Defense Minister Serdyukov said it might.  The press agency cites a well-placed Navy Main Staff source.  RIA Novosti, however, citing its own Navy Main Staff source, says the test was delayed by weather, but will occur today or tomorrow.  For its part, ITAR-TASS cites an OPK source who says the Bulava test firings are off until June because of White Sea ice.

The last Bulava test, a success, took place on October 28.  The Bulava / Yuriy Dolgorukiy weapons system might have been accepted into the inventory before year’s end following a successful salvo launch of two missiles.

BFM.ru talked recently to Aleksandr Golts and Vladimir Yevseyev about Bulava.  It notes the last planned launch of 2010 was also put off for ice.

Golts believes there’s a political motive for postponement.  He thinks the Defense Ministry can’t allow another failure and blow to its reputation and the image of Russian weapons.  And, by the time of the next test, the elections will be over, and Serdyukov may no longer be at the Defense Ministry.

Golts attributes Bulava’s problems to problems in the component base and the collapse of the Soviet sub-contractor chain.  The lack of serial production has made it impossible to guarantee quality component manufacturing.  Hence, something different seemed to go wrong in every test failure.

Golts doesn’t rule out the possibility that there simply aren’t enough missiles for testing (or for picking ones to test) because of the GOZ-2011 contracting dispute between the Defense Ministry and Bulava’s producer.

Yevseyev is a suspicious about postponing a shot for weather.  He calls the situation around Bulava ambiguous and unclear.  He says defects in the missiles might have been identified, and poor weather could be an excuse.

Like Golts, Yevseyev sees Bulava’s problems as symptomatic of larger defense industrial ones, and he doesn’t exclude a political motive:

“There’s a sharp decline in the quality of production, a partial loss of specific producers, technologies.  There’s aging of the machinery itself, the lack of qualified specialists who can work on it.  When the OPK’s been collapsing for so much time, it’s strange to hope it can produce such a complex technological product like a missile system.”

“It’s possible there’s a danger that, if there are unsuccessful tests in the period when we’re beginning Duma and presidential election campaigns, they’ll spoil the scene.  This is one of the possible reasons for the postponement.”

It seems understandable risk tolerance would be pretty low at this point given the history of the Bulava program, the bad publicity and angst generated by recent high-profile space failures, and the political season.  Perhaps it’s a case of better late, but better.

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.

Bulava Launch Plans

This week Izvestiya reported on coming launches of the Bulava SLBM.  The paper’s sources say the military and industry want two single test firings before trying a salvo launch test.  They suggest Bulava’s early problems were due to testbed Dmitriy Donskoy.  They also report complaints about the new Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy.

A Navy staff source tells Izvestiya two single Bulava launches are planned before a salvo launch of three [not two as previously reported] missiles is attempted.  An industry source confirms this plan, and adds that Bulava testing is on schedule.

The industry source says Bulavas produced more than two years ago – before the military leadership ordered production inspections – will be used in the test launches.  A specialist tells Izvestiya mod Typhoon-class SSBN Dmitriy Donskoy is now viewed more often as the problem in Bulava’s early failures than the missile itself.

The Navy staff source says:

“It was initially planned to conduct the salvo of three missiles in an October launch.  However, they refused this idea at the last moment to check all the missile’s and boat’s systems again.  It’s possible the December salvo will be put off to 2012 if any bugs are observed during the two launches.”

Commentator Konstantin Sivkov told Izvestiya the military and industry delayed the salvo test because of uncertainty about the missile system’s reliability:

“Water disturbance from the preceding missile plays a big role in a salvo launch.  Unstable water could knock the missile off during its exit.  Therefore, all systems have to work perfectly.  And there’s the ‘Yars’ accident in Plesetsk which sowed some doubts.  Only successful launches can dispel them.”

The launch window for Yuriy Dolgorukiy is October 20-22.  According to Izvestiya’s interlocutor, the success of all Dolgorukiy launches supports suspicions that Donskoy might be to blame. 

This seems somewhat flawed logically if the Bulavas themselves were assembled and inspected differently . . . unless they never found any real problem with the missiles.

If the October launch is successful, Izvestiya reports the next will be November 18-19 and the salvo launch of three missiles will be in December.  Success in the latter would finally confirm that the Bulava is ready for combat duty, and the Bulava / Borey weapons system could be accepted.

But Izvestiya also reports the Borey’s radioelectronic, hydraulic, and hydroacoustic [sonar] systems still don’t satisfy the Defense Ministry.  The command and control systems aren’t properly configured yet either.  In short, the SSBN hasn’t fully completed its development. 

And it’s certain the lack of an agreed purchase price and a contract isn’t helping this process.

The GOZ Last Week (Part II)

We looked at last week’s news.  What’s it mean?  There wasn’t a lot of commentary about it, but there were two very good pieces.

To backtrack a little, if it looks like Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov might be (just might be)  getting an upper hand on forcing defense producers to his prices instead of vice versa, then the commentaries give insight into what is happening (or may happen) if Serdyukov succeeds in driving hard bargains with the OPK.

Moskovskiy komsomolets’ Olga Bozhyeva asked a general who worked on the GOZ to comment on this year’s situation:

“The Defense Ministry now lacks an organ with responsibility for contracting work, beginning with formation of initial prices and ending with accepting the results.  In the past, the chief of armament’s apparatus performed these functions, currently it’s been transformed into a department with unintelligible functions.  Tax organ officials who’ve come into the Defense Ministry’s key financial posts can’t connect the price of a product with the characteristics of the model being produced and its contribution to the country’s security.  In the Defense Ministry in recent years, three basic methods of calculating the cost of a product have been introduced, but not one of them factors in the substantive part of the work.  They are all built on the principle:  I have a certain amount of money, I want to give you this much of it.  But putting it to concrete use no longer interests anyone.  And it turns out that the methods of calculating prices in the Defense Ministry and in VPK enterprises are different.  The people speak different languages . . . .”

Bozhyeva concludes:

“In a market economy, you have to survive somehow.  Here is not America, where work for the Pentagon brings a good profit.  With us, it only allows you to survive.  And that is if they allow it.  But they don’t let everyone.”

“Here not long ago the Defense Minister got indignant, for example, that shipbuilders [Sevmash] had become so brazen that they also put the cost of kindergartens and other “social benefits” into the price of a missile-carrier [SSBN].”

“I’m not a taxman, evidently, since I don’t understand:  but where can they put it?  Let’s take Severodvinsk here.  It is completely dependent on “Sevmashpredpriyatiye.”  Like it or not, the kindergartens, schools, hospitals, clinics, housing – the factory has to maintain all of it.  And, naturally, they put the upkeep into their production cost.  How can it be otherwise?  If there aren’t kindergartens – there aren’t missile-carriers.”

Editorializing in Nezavisimaya gazeta, Viktor Litovkin writes:

“What are the causes of such an ‘inability to agree?’  In the fact, in my view, that it’s impossible to marry purely administrative approaches to the imposition of concrete military department prices on defense enterprises with largely market relationships which exist for the defense sector today.  With achieving that degree of Gosoboronzakaz profitability in which enterprises have the chance not just to survive, but also develop.  Several defense NII and factory directors, undoubtedly following the example of MIT General Designer Yuriy Solomonov, have already even stopped ‘fearing’ to publicize their disagreements with the Defense Ministry in front of journalists.  General Director of NII Instrument-building named for Tikhomirov, Yuriy Belyy told me ‘in the ordering structures of the military department people have come, who, to put it mildly, don’t understand anything about production and price formation’ (this, by the way, also means Anatoliy Serdyukov. – ‘NVO’ No. 25).  ‘Still they always demand the reduction of invoiced expenditures, reduction of profits, of labor input.  And often arbitrarily disregard prices on final goods.’  This, in his words, is happening all over the defense sector.”

“’If we had the GOZ alone, the enterprise would have died long ago,’ Yuriy Belyy told me.  ‘There are practically no resources remaining for development after GOZ fulfillment.  It isn’t understood that wages take according to some kind of averaging principle.  Invoicing expenses also.  So goes the practical strangulation of the defense sector.  In the country’s leadership they say that the OPK’s profitability is the locomotive of industry, should be not less than 15%, but in fact it’s not more than 5-7%.  And, the main thing, not understood, is with whom to talk in the Defense Ministry.  Completely incompetent people have arrived.  Their mission is not the development of industry, not increasing the country’s defense capability, their mission is to save money by any means.’”

“An enterprise producing a final product, like ‘Dolgorukiy,’ which buys metals, nuclear reactors, various components at market prices from the monopoly producers of these products, can’t give away the good created by its workers lower or a little, one-two percent, higher than its own cost, or lower than its profitability level.  It can’t buy new machine tools, technology, reequip its production line, train and select new highly-qualified personnel, provide them housing . . . .  It can’t not think about tomorrow.”

“And from the other side, if it’s possible to pay the French one and a half billion Euros for ‘Mistrals’ we need or don’t need, then why does ‘Sevmash’ have to give away a strategic submarine extremely essential to the Navy and Russia for free?!”

Bulava Success

Bulava Launch (photo: RIA Novosti / Avrora)

Cheap post with a pretty picture thanks to RIA Novosti.  This was a maximum range test, from the White Sea to a target area in the Pacific Ocean.  It was the 16th test overall, and the second this year.  It makes nine announced successes out of 16.  And that’s four in a row.

If, as it appears, the designers and manufacturers have finally slicked the Bulava’s earlier problems, now Moscow will have to crank up the Bulava SLBM and Borey-class SSBN production lines.

That is a different kind of problem, a problem of the GOZ and the OPK.