Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Submarines to be replaced with underwater tanks?

The prospects of a new submarine fleet, whose creation is clearly and distinctly described in the state armaments program and financially backed only up to 2020, are clear. But what will happen next? The situation with fifth-generation submarines also seems to be clear. However, according to the Russian Navy leadership, sixth-generation submarines may not appear. They will be replaced with unified multi-purpose submarine platforms.

Today the basis of naval strategic nuclear forces of Russia is formed by nuclear submarines of third-generation Project 667 BDRM "Delfin" and 667 BDR "Kalmar" (under NATO classification Delta-IV and Delta-III). All six "Delfin" units are deployed in the Northern Fleet, and all four "Kalmar" units - in the Pacific Fleet.

The vessels, of course, are not new, and all built under the Soviet Union, but they still have operational margins. All "Delfin" units and some "Kalmar" units are regularly upgraded and repaired, and their life span can then be extended by at least another 10 years. The Soviet Union school of naval construction was recognized at the time as the best in the world.  

Of the 24 submarines of the fourth generation that, according to the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, will join the battle fleet before 2020, eight are of Strategic Project 955 ("Borei," three units), and the upgraded 955A ("Borei -A,"  five units). In addition, the Navy will receive eight multi-purpose submarines of project 885 " Yasen." The head boat of project "Severodvinsk" will be deployed in 2013, and the first production one "Kazan" - in 2015.

Eight more boats that will join the fleet by 2020 will be diesel ones. These will be submarines of well-established projects 677 "Lada" and 636 "Varshavyanka."

The continuation of the construction of submarines of Project 636 of third-generation (Advanced Project 877 "Paltus"), according to the information available, is due to the problems identified during the testing of a head boat "Saint- Petersburg."

Despite the fact that this boat was adopted in the so-called pilot operation fleet, its tests are still ongoing. Soon, as early as this year, "St. Petersburg" will set off to deep-water tests in the Northern Fleet.

Other boats of this project, "Kronstadt" and "Sevastopol" whose construction was frozen until this year, will still be completed. "Sevastopol" will be completed with the so-called anaerobic air-independent propulsion system, that is, it will not have the usual diesel engines. This is expected to happen in 2016. The funds have already been allocated, and now it is up to the shipbuilders.

What will happen to the Russian submarine fleet, say, 30-40 years from now? asked high-ranking military navy and shipbuilders of the two leading Russian shipyards for commentary. The military provided equally cautious answer: let's at least do what we have planned for 2020, and then we'll see.

Heads of shipyards are tactful people and also did not go into details. They advised to focus on the statement of the current Russian Navy Commander Admiral Viktor Chirkov who was appointed only last year.

The Admiral provided some details to specialized journals read only by narrow specialists. During the period between 2021 and 2030 the planned replacement of strategic nuclear submarines that have served their time will continue. That is, the above-mentioned "Delfin" and "Kalmar" units of Soviet construction will be replaced by fourth generation ones "Borei," "Ashes," "Lada," and so on.

"At the same time the work on the creation of long-term naval strategic missile systems and submarines of the fifth generation should be commenced. Serial construction of these submarines will unfold after 2030," the shipbuilding journal quoted Chirkov.

We can already draw a conclusion about the basic requirements for the construction of vessels of fifth generation. They will include increased stealth and travel speed at maximum quietness; improved communication and control; robotic equipment that prevents direct confrontation with enemy ships, as well as increased depth of diving.

But the Admiral hinted that the term "sixth-generation submarines" may not emerge. Some specialized shipbuilding journals quoted Admiral Chirkov as follows: "For the stage encompassing the period from 2031 to 2050, serial construction of submarine combat units on the basis of standardized underwater platforms is planned."

What does the term "uniform" mean? According to naval experts, these will be multi-purpose combat modular mobile platforms. A multi-purpose boat will transform into a strategic one and vice versa. This will only require placing an appropriate module on the underwater platform - a missile complex or other weapons with appropriate characteristics. That is, it is sufficient to have a reliable "running part" that can receive certain weapons when needed.

The new land combat weapons complex "Terminator" that the Russian Army does not have yet is already being installed onto different tested tank platforms. According to military experts, Russia may deploy it when it is tested on a unified heavy tracked platform with "Armata" cipher.

It appears that in 30-40 years or so, when the life span of the submarines now under construction is over, we will have some "underwater tanks. As funny as it may sound, it seems to be the most logical way of development of the submarine fleet in the distant future.

Andrei Mikhailov


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