Following the “Armata”: the crisis of the Russian submarine forces

The situation with the Russian submarine forces is beginning, if not to cause concern, then it makes you think very hard. On the one hand, it seems like our submarine fleet, which is not like the surface one, is the guarantor of the country’s security, on the other …

On the other hand, the problems with the submarine fleet did not begin yesterday, and it is a crime to brush them off.

For a long time, our specialized media fed us with information that “just about, the day after tomorrow, maximum next week” will begin deliveries to the fleet of the next “unparalleled in the world” weapons. Naturally, with colorful descriptions of the technology of tomorrow and a hint of how hard it will be for the enemy if something happens.

And then, after the time had passed, “harsh Russian everyday life” began, stories began that all this “technology of tomorrow” would definitely be with us tomorrow, but for now we have nowhere to do with the technology of today.

And those who yesterday cheerfully broadcast that they would enter the army tomorrow, today they began to broadcast that instead of the “Armata” the T-72 would serve well, instead of the “Coalition” – “Akatsiya”, and instead of the Su-57 it is quite good and Su-35.

The Su-35 is really no worse than the Su-57 in the first iteration, fact. Another question is whether it was worth shouting so much about the “fifth generation fighter” …

Everything is about the same in the navy. We are already familiar with the problems in terms of building modern surface ships, apparently, the time has come to assess how things are with our submarine fleet.

Not so long ago, the head of the United Shipbuilding Corporation (United Shipbuilding Corporation), Alexei Rakhmanov, made a statement that the decision to build for the Pacific Fleet not Project 667 Lada boats, but Project 636 Varshavyanka was absolutely correct.

“Varshavyanka”, you know, are more time-tested, and “Lada”, although more modern, but with them, USC would constantly disrupt the delivery time.

I am translating into normal language: the boats of the project 677 “Lada” at the USC are not yet able to build. And so far they have no idea how to do this within the time frame, which, by the way, no one appointed.

Interesting, right? No one sets the deadlines, but the head of the USC is sure in advance that the corporation will not meet them.

Good attitude. So optimistic.

And the fact that Rakhmanov admits that Lada is head and shoulders above Varshavyanka does not add to the good mood. As well as confidence in the future. Because the Lada, which is better than the Varshavyanka, despite the common ancestor, Project 877 Halibut, cannot be built.

One was actually built. Started in 1997, commissioned in 2010. Amazing efficiency, so to speak. But the B-585 “St. Petersburg” did not become a full-fledged combat submarine.

I didn’t, because they could not build and bring it to mind. The volume of imperfections is too great: an unfinished engine, unable to develop more than 50% of its design power, an absolutely inoperative Lira hydroacoustic complex (costing almost one and a half billion rubles, if anything), in fact, an inoperative Lithium information and control system.

Against the background of all of the above, the problems with the TE-2 torpedoes are small things.

It is clear that there could be no question of placing “St. Petersburg” on alert. This is really not a battle boat. Therefore, until now, the B-585 vegetates in the rank of “experimental boat”. On it, perhaps, something is tested, tried, and so on. But the question is: was it built for this?

And two other boats of this long-suffering project are still at the factory. The B-586 “Kronstadt” was laid down in 2005, and should be delivered to the fleet in 2021. The B-587 “Velikie Luki” was laid down a year later, in 2006. Accordingly, they promise to transfer it in 2022.

Building a diesel submarine for more than 15 years is, of course, the level of a “great maritime power”, as some of our “experts” believe. Meanwhile, the Germans have been building their Project 212 boats for 5 years. But this is so … Are the Germans good for us?

So the decision to build Varshavyanka for the Pacific Fleet is a completely sensible and smart decision. The Pacific Fleet is the fleet of the region in which we have problems. First of all, they are territorial, with a country that, unlike Ukraine, which has claims, but does not have a fleet, has an excellent strike fleet.

The decision, of course, was not made from a good life, but exactly the opposite. Again T-72 instead of “Armata”. Alas.

Especially considering the indisputable fact that “Varshavyanka” is still the modernization of “Halibut”, project 877. And this project was born in the 70s of the last century. With all the ensuing consequences. You can modernize the project half a century ago as much as you like, it will certainly get better, but …

“Halibuts” for their time were just fine boats. “Varshavyanka”, which turned out to be made simpler and quieter, – too. Quite decent boats, there is nothing to say.

And the nickname “Black Hole” given by potential opponents is not without reason. Indeed, the Varshavyanka were quite quiet boats.

I even read such nonsense that the Varshavyanka was planned to be used in hypothetical duels against the American Los Angeles class nuclear submarines. Precisely as less noisy.

Los Angeles Submarine

The opinion, of course, is flattering. I don’t understand how the Varshavyanka, whose speed under water did not exceed 20 knots, could catch the Los Angeles, whose speed was 10 knots higher. Of course, diesel boats, which are ten times cheaper in cost, capable of withstanding nuclear-powered ships, seems to be yes. But not serious from the first to the last letter.

But, thank God, it did not come to such confrontations, and then the Americans got even faster and quieter “Seawulfs” and “Virginias”, which won both in stealth and in sonar equipment. However, in terms of hydroacoustics, the Americans have always been stronger, it’s a shame, but a fact.

And in general, it is worth noting that our potential opponents did not sit idly by, and diesel-electric submarines with air-independent power plants began to appear in them. These new submarines in stealth could be equal to nuclear submarines, plus increased autonomy – and “Varshavyanka” “suddenly” ceased to be the best diesel submarine in the world.

Of course, they bought it. Great maritime powers like Algeria. But we must admit that the boats of the new generation, developed by Germany, Norway, Sweden and even Spain, have overtaken our diesel-electric submarines in many respects.

As a result, it turns out that we need a new diesel submarine. And even with a modern power plant. But it is impossible to build it for many reasons, therefore …

So let’s take a look at the Baltic. The balance of power.

Germany: 6 submarines of project 212. New.
Sweden: 5 PL. Not as new as the German ones, but still.
Netherlands: 4 PL. Swedish level.
Poland: 4 PL. New.
Norway: 6 PL. Sweden level.

Total: 25 submarines from countries belonging to the camp of potential adversaries.

What do we have? And everything is luxurious here: ONE Submarine. B-806 “Dmitrov”. And this is not “Varshavyanka”, it is still “Halibut”, in service since 1986.

Luxurious, right? Against the background of German and Polish boats made in 2002 and later, it is simply incomparable.

Do you think that in the Pacific Ocean, where they made the epoch-making decision to build Varshavyanka, is it better there?

No, it’s even worse there.

The First Fleet is, of course, the US Navy. There the main striking role is played by the atomic Virginias, against which the Varshavyanka, if they have minimal chances, is really only in the form of launching a torpedo from the “quietly in ambush” position.

“Quietly from an ambush” in the ocean is a bad idea. All other actions connected with giving a course – and the American boat will knit ours in a knot.

The second fleet is Japanese. Japanese “Dragons” are very strong boats.

Secondly, we do not compete with Japan in terms of electronics, firstly, these are the next generation boats. They are powered by Stirling engines from Kawasaki, which immediately makes So Ryu-class boats difficult opponents, since they are more autonomous, quieter and more sophisticated in terms of tracking and aiming equipment.

12 “Dragons” were built, but who said that the Japanese will calm down? Recently, imperial ambitions have also been whipping over the edge there. And the boats are good, and the friends-owners-occupiers will help …

The third fleet is South Korean. It is clear that we have nothing to share with the Koreans, but who is Seoul’s main ally / advisor? Moscow? No, Washington. Hence, South Korea should be considered an ally of that side. Moreover, North Korea, behind which China looms, is on the other side of the political scales.

So what does South Korea have? And they have order.

The first generation is type 209 / KSS-I. The German project, which was bought by many countries that have not managed to succeed in building submarines themselves. Even today, a very quiet boat, perfect for coastal outrages.

Second generation. Again “German women”, project 214 / KSS-II. 9 have already been built and more are under construction. These boats are more modern than our Varshavyanka boats.

Third generation. On trials boat SS 083 DosanAnChang-Ho, project KSS-III. It is believed (theoretically) that this boat will become the world’s best non-nuclear submarine for an indefinite period. Air independent power systems, excellent underwater speed (20 knots), cruising range of 10,000 miles.

There is a suspicion that the Korean shipbuilders, who are now definitely the best in the world, were supplied by someone very kind with good and modern technologies, putting the Koreans into a new orbit. And this is a very unpleasant moment, because who knows, will the Koreans limit themselves to the declared nine boats of the KSS-III project, or, like the Japanese, will they have an appetite for eating?

So, it turns out, to say that the situation in the Pacific is not in our favor is to say nothing. 20 (out of 70 of the total number, for example) American nuclear submarines (well, there are no diesel submarines in the USA at all), 12 Japanese, about 20 South Korean … Even the Korean ones can be ignored, and here’s why.

At the Pacific Fleet in our ranks:
– 1 Project 971 nuclear torpedo submarine (three under repair);
– 5 diesel-electric submarines of project 877 “Halibut” (built in the 90s);
– 1 diesel-electric submarine of project 633 “Varshavyanka”.

Well, really, the Koreans can not be called to the war. And so the alignment will be 5 to 1 not in our favor.

Yes, we will talk about nuclear submarines in the next article, everything is more than interesting there too.

And most importantly, we somehow have no allies. Yes, North Korea’s non-nuclear submarine fleet consists of more than 70 diesel-electric submarines. But, like everything else in the DPRK, this is old stuff bought back in the USSR and from the countries participating in the Warsaw Pact on the cheap.

China … I don’t even want to talk about China, because China has its own road.

So six “Varshavyanka”, albeit modernized for the KR “Caliber” – this is an average such argument. What’s the point in a modern cruise missile if its carrier is “burned” as soon as it leaves the harbor?

Of course, “Caliber” with a “special warhead”, that is, a nuclear warhead – yes, this is a very high-quality argument in the “who is cooler” dispute. But the argument still needs to be conveyed to the opponent. But with this just problems can arise.

So the ratio is not 5 to 1, but 3 to 1, plus “Calibers” – this is already more tolerant, if …

If they are built.

But with this we have again … as always. It seems that the boats have been mastered, everything seems to be there, but, alas, USC (according to the press service of the corporation) in August “was a little out of the construction schedule.” And the laying of the fifth and sixth boats has not yet taken place “due to problems with suppliers.”

If you look at the dry numbers, how long it takes to build one diesel-electric submarine in different countries, then bad thoughts begin to swarm in my head.

The Germans build their Project 212 boats for an average of 5 years.
The Japanese build So Ryu boats in an average of 4 years.
Koreans build Project 214 boats in an average of 2 years.

This term is very unstable in our country. It may take from 2 to 15 years to build one boat of the “Varshavyanka” type. And how we know how to “shift to the right” all conceivable and inconceivable terms, I think, is not worth telling.

The result is not very beautiful. We are not able to build a new boat with a modern power plant. Lada has been tortured since the 80s of the last century and cannot do anything like that. There is no air-independent power plant, and nothing can be done about this either.

So it turns out that we have only one thing left: to rivet the old and uncompetitive “Varshavyanka”, obviously inferior to more modern German, Japanese and Korean boats and hope for some kind of miracle.

But a miracle is unlikely to happen. This is not for you to draw 70% of the votes, full-fledged work is needed here. And with this case in our country, from year to year, it is getting worse and worse.

So for now, the submarine “Lada” is sent to the wake of the “Armata”. And we will build Varshavyanka, that is, T-72. And to repair “Halibuts” to serve a little more.

Now many will confidently say: we have excellent nuclear submarine cruisers. We have nothing to fear!

We will talk about the problems of building a nuclear submarine fleet in the second part.

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