Ship-Shape Submarines

Russia is ready for Project 75(I) competition

Russian Navy’s Project 677 nuclear-powered submarine
Russian Navy’s Project 677 nuclear-powered submarine

Moscow: India continues to buy a lot from overseas weapon manufacturers, but in the past few years, the focus has been shifting to license production and technology offsets. The process of selecting a specimen, which can be copied locally, is now more guarded. In such a situation, it is best for collaborators to have their products ordered by the armed forces of their home country.

Seen from this perspective, chances of the Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering ‘Rubin’ and its industrial partners have gone up, especially, after the Russian ministry of defence ordered quantity production of Project 955/A nuclear-powered underwater cruisers, and Project 636.3 and Project 677 diesel-electric submarines. Export version of the Project 677, the Amur 1650, is on offer in India in the ongoing Project 75(I) competition for six units. This summer saw two more Rubin-designed ships become a reality. On 30 July 2012 Russia’s President Vladimir Putin travelled to Severodvinsk to lay down the foundation of Duke Vladimir (named after the Kievan Rus ruler whose reign extended from 978 to 1015 AD) – the first in the series of five Project 955A underwater cruisers, coming after three Project 955s which have already been built. On August 17, Russian navy commander Admiral Victor Chirkov led a similar ceremony in St. Petersburg for the Old Oskol, a third in the series of six Project 636.3 diesel-electric submarines for the Black Sea Fleet.

Speaking to the media on these occasions, both Putin and Chirkov promised more orders for local shipbuilders. Putin said that 4.44 trillion roubles will be spent on construction of new ships for the Russian navy’s “multi-purpose groupings of general use”, adding that one-third of that sum will be provided in the next five years. Another important statement made by Putin on July 30 was: “By 2020, the navy will take delivery of 51 surface combatant and 16 multi-purpose submarines.”

According to the Armament Program 2011-2020, during the next eight years, the Russian Navy shall receive eight Project 955/A strategic underwater cruisers; eight Project 885 fast-attack submarines; 15 frigates and 35 corvettes. This will boost the share of modern equipment in the navy’s arsenal to 30 per cent by 2016 and further to 70 per cent by 2020. Putin stressed the need to equip new ships with modern long range rocketry. “It is exactly the weaponry that always determined power and worthiness of combat ships in wartime,” he said.

Priorities of the Russian Navy
Chirkov stated that the naval ship-building programme 2011-2020 “will be materialized completely.” In particular, the navy expects 14-20 non-nuclear submarines, most of which will be from the stable of Project 636.3 and 677. The admiral said, “We will go forward without changing earlier decisions. Instead, we will work so as to unify ships of various types and upgrade them as necessary so as to achieve a greater degree of cross-type unification, and ensure the newly launched ships carry state-of-the-art weaponry.”

Three years ago, the Russian Navy placed order for six Project 636.3 submarines. First of them, the Novorossiysk, was laid down at the Admiralty Shipyards in St. Petersburg in August 2010 (commissioning expected in late 2013) and the second, the Rostov-upon-Don, in November 2011. They have standard displacement of 2,350 t, underwater speed up to 20 knots, endurance of 45 days and compliment of 52.

Compared to Project 877 and ships which are already in service of the Russian Navy such as the exportable Project 877EKM and Project 636, the new Project 636.3 “is more stealthy, with new acoustics systems and means of communications. Besides, she has a higher degree of automation and newer weaponry. The new submarine is highly capable, and can stay in service for a few dozen years. The most important thing for us about these submarines is that with them the navy can go into the next decade with state-of-the-art technologies and capabilities.” Chirkov added that the Project 636.3 has no equal among western diesel-electric submarines simply because the Russian design has a much more powerful missile system.

With Project 636.3, Chirkov also noticed an improved comfort of the crew. “She has a good mess room, and fairly good living quarters – all this provides a sufficient level of comfort to enable the crews to carry out their tasks not only in coastal defense, but also on an a blue-water mission.”

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