Tag Archives: Akula

Akula Update Progressing, Slowly

Russia’s effort to extend the service lives of its Akula submarines and increase their capability to the level of new Yasen-M boats is progressing, but not as quickly as Moscow planned.

The Russian Navy counts on refueled reactors and new major systems to enable project 971 Akula-class SSNs to operate at least 15 more years. This would provide needed time for construction of new Yasen-M submarines. The modernization of the Akulas, to include possible deployment of Kalibr missiles on them, will bring them closer in capability to new fourth generation Yasen-M SSNs.

Akula-class SSN Vepr returned to service in the Northern Fleet around August 5, according to an OPK source. The submarine arrived at Nerpa, in Snezhnogorsk near Murmansk, in 2012 for repairs and modernization. Vepr was originally scheduled to rejoin the fleet in 2014, but this was delayed several times.

Nice photo of renovated pr. 971 Akula SSN Vepr (K-157) from Murmanskiy vestnik

Vepr is the second renovated Akula. Kuzbass was modernized at Zvezda in Bolshoy Kamen between 2009 and 2016 when it returned to the Pacific Fleet. Kuzbass reportedly received Kalibr cruise missiles during its modernization. But that capability has not been demonstrated.

Vepr gives the Russian Navy maybe three operational Akula SSNs. Six Akulas, all 25 or more years old, are currently located at Zvezdochka, Nerpa, or Zvezda.

The Northern Fleet’s Leopard arrived at Zvezdochka for repair and modernization in 2011 , with a planned return to service in 2015. That deadline passed, as did ones in 2016 and 2018. Completion of work on Leopard is now expected in 2020 or 2021.

Volk arrived at Zvezdochka possibly as early as 2011 and repairs began in 2014. The Pacific Fleet’s Bratsk and Samara arrived in late 2014 on a heavy lift vessel via the Northern Sea Route. Serious work on Bratsk and Samara likely awaits the completion of Leopard and Volk. Volk may be ready in 2023.

Northern Fleet boat Tigr was towed to Nerpa in 2017. According to Izvestiya’s source in the Russian MOD, Tigr will be renovated, armed with Kalibr missiles, and returned to the fleet in 2023.

In mid-2019, a Vladivostok news agency reported the repair and modernization of Magadan had commenced at Zvezda in Bolshoy Kamen, although some initial work may have started in 2018. The submarine arrived at the shipyard in 2015 or even earlier. It will not to return to operational status before 2023.

On September 25, an MOD source claimed it will return in 2021 or early 2022. It will receive a new name given that Magadan has been assigned to a project 636.3 diesel-electric submarine under construction for the Pacific Fleet.

The Akula repair program first and foremost entails refueling the nuclear reactors and restoring the hulls of the SSNs. Reactor and propulsion system components – steam generators, turbines, turbogenerators, motors, gears, shafts, rudders, and propellers – likely require major work.

The modernized Akulas probably are receiving new major ship and combat systems including command, control, and communications, navigation, fire control, sonars and non-acoustic sensors, and weapons possibly including the Kalibr anti-ship and land-attack cruise missile system. Its land-attack 3M-14 missile has a range possibly up to 2,500 km.

Despite frequent announcements that Kalibr is being incorporated, no firing of the missile from a modernized Akula has been reported. A test launch of the new system would be a normal part of combat certification for returning to operational status. Moreover, when it occurs, the MOD can be expected to publicize it widely.

Delays in the Akula repair and modernization program are endemic. In 2016, Zvezdochka’s press-service reported that the shipyard routinely had to begin repair work – dismantling the hull and equipment – while awaiting design documents. Zvezdochka also indicated it faced difficulty in obtaining new or repaired components because some original manufacturers are defunct. The shipyard has retooled and re-equipped to support the program, but making changes inside its shops has pushed the completion of the Akulas to the right.

Russian shipyards are likely at capacity with submarine repairs. Zvezdochka has been maintaining and upgrading Russia’s Project 667BRDM Delta IV-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, and it modernized Oscar II-class cruise missile submarine Orel. This work has slowed progress on the Akulas. Similarly, at Zvezda on the Pacific, modernization of Oscar IIs, specifically Irkutsk — now supposed to be finished in late 2022 or 2023 — competes with work on Akulas.

Despite these challenges, Moscow is committed to returning modernized Akulas to operation to retain its capability for long-range anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare while it awaits new SSNs. The first Project 885M Yasen-M SSN, Kazan, has been undergoing trials since 2017 and is expected to be delivered in 2020. The Russian Navy plans to add seven Yasen-M by 2027, but at the current pace of construction, it is unlikely to have its full complement of new production SSNs before the early 2030s.

Sorry, Not a Victor

Sorry, Not a Victor (photo: Reuters / Yuriy Maltsev)

Sorry, Not a Victor (photo: Reuters / Yuriy Maltsev)

What great fun when the general press covers Russian military issues!  Business Insider ran this pictorial presuming to show an outdated Victor-class SSN headed for scrap.

In fact, it’s two not-quite-so-old Pacific Fleet Akula submarines headed for overhaul.

But what great pictures!  

One supposes this is how the hull looks when it hasn’t seen a drydock in many years.

Pacific Fleet Akulas Bound for Severodvinsk

Akulas Loaded on Transshelf (photo: www.dockwise.com)

Akulas Loaded on Transshelf (photo: http://www.dockwise.com)

On 9 September, ITAR-TASS reported two Pacific Fleet Akula-class submarines had begun a three-week Northern Sea Route (NSR) transit to Severodvinsk for a “deep modernization” at Zvezdochka.  They will reach the shipyard during the last ten days of the month, according to the Defense Ministry press-service.

Pacific Fleet proyekt 971 / Shchuka-B SSNs Bratsk and Samara were loaded on Dockwise’s heavy transport Transshelf at Avachinskaya Bay on 23 August.

This is the first time two submarines have been transported together. Nuclear-powered icebreakers will accompany Transshelf along the NSR.  Until now, Pacific Fleet Akulas were repaired at Vilyuchinsk or Bolshoy Kamen in the Far East.

Zvezdochka publicized the boats’ imminent departure back on 20 August. Buried in this item is a reported RF government decision on a shipyard division of labor, under which Zvezdochka will modernize Akulas and Zvezda (Bolshoy Kamen) will work on Oscar II-class SSGNs (proyekt 949A / Antey).

But it looks like Zvezdochka already worked on the Northern Fleet’s Oscar IIs in previous years; Pacific Fleet units remain for Zvezda.

Zvezdochka has a contract for four Akula modernizations.  Two Northern Fleet units — Leopard and Volk — are already there.  According to Flot.com, the 21-year-old Improved Akula Leopard arrived in 2013 and will return to the fleet in 2016.  22-year-old Volk got to Zvezdochka this year.  Both were built by Sevmash in Severodvinsk.

Akula II Bratsk and Samara — 24 and 19 years old respectively — were both built at Komsomolsk in the Far East.

Zvezdochka’s “deep modernization” reportedly includes a recore and replacement of all electronic, control, and weapons systems.

Dyachkov’s Interview

Andrey Dyachkov (photo: RIA Novosti / Sergey Safronov)

As General Director of both Sevmash and TsKB MT Rubin, Andrey Dyachkov’s a pretty significant individual when it comes to submarines.  What follows are highlights from his RIA Novosti interview last Friday.

Some blurbs have been published, but one frankly hasn’t had time to see if they captured the importance of what Dyachkov said.  Hence this summary.  It has less elegance (or perhaps fluff) than you may be accustomed to reading on these pages.

Dyachkov said the following:

  • Sevmash and the Defense Ministry signed a contract for the modernized Yasen, or Yasen-M this year.  It will be five units; Severodvinsk plus five.  Severodvinsk will be delivered next year; there were problems with some components obtained from suppliers and the Kalibr missile system needs to complete state testing.  About six months are needed for all this.
  • This year’s huge contract problems were a result of a changed Defense Ministry approach toward price formation Sevmash wasn’t ready for.  But times have changed, and Sevmash recognizes money has to be used more effectively, and ways have to be found to cut production expenditures.
  • Rubin has a contract to design the modernized proyekt 955, Borey, the Borey-A.  The contract should be signed by early 2012.  The lay-down of the first improved Borey will happen next year, and Saint Nikolay is still the working name for the first unit.  No word from the Sevmash chief on the final number of boats until after the contract is signed.  They’ve started laying down Saint Nikolay, but the official ceremony’s still to come.
  • Seventy percent of sub costs are reportedly to pay suppliers.  The main thing is getting them to reduce the cost of their products.  The Defense Ministry might even consider foreign component suppliers for some SSBN components.
  • Sevmash will take on construction of two diesel-electric proyekt 636 from Admiralty Wharves.  This will lighten the workload of the latter, and use excess capacity at the former.
  • Severnoye PKB has a contract to figure out how to modernize Kirov-class CGN Admiral Nakhimov (proyekt 1164, Orlan).  First and foremost, it needs new missiles (Kalibr and Oniks) to replace its Granit.  They are talking only about Nakhimov at this point.
  • Sevmash won’t be repairing CV Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012.  The shipyard is prepared to build a future carrier.
  • Modified Typhoon-class SSBN Dmitriy Donskoy will be kept active at the White Sea Naval Base for sub-on-sub trials of new boats.  Northern Fleet subs won’t be diverted for this task.
  • KB Malakhit has developed repair and modernization plans for the Akula-class (Proyekt 971, Bars).  Money’s been allocated and Zvezdochka will do the work. 
  • Russia may offer up the Amur-1650 diesel sub in next year’s Indian tender.  It could have air-independent propulsion, but Russia doesn’t seem really high on the idea.
  • They want to test Proyekt 677 Lada and its sonar in deeper waters next year.

Perhaps the Borey and Yasen mods reflect the problems of restarting construction that had been dormant (or at least very slow) for a long time and of using newly-made components rather than older ones.

Update on Next Bulava Test

Today’s Kommersant cites Interfaks saying a session of the state commission deciding on the next Bulava SLBM test will happen during the next week.  Kommersant’s own OPK source confirmed this, calling the session a formality since the commission’s already announced that testing needs to continue in the near future.  The source says, after the commission meets, another week is needed to prepare for a launch, so look for the next test in late August or early September.

Kommersant quotes an unnamed OPK official who said the planned launch in the 11-13 August timeframe was postponed because “additional stand tests of the system were conducted with the goal of more rigorous preparation for the launches.”

Kommersant reminds readers three launches are planned before year’s end — two from Dmitriy Donskoy (proyekt 941U Akula) and one from Yuriy Dolgorukiy (proyekt 955 Borey).

The paper’s OPK source claims, in view of Bulava’s failures, “this strategic missile system will only be accepted into the inventory after a minimum of five consecutive successful tests.”

Bulava SLBM Test Next Month

Bulava

This afternoon a Navy Main Staff source told Interfaks the next Bulava SLBM test will occur in mid-August from modified proyekt 941 Akula (Typhoon-class) SSBN TK-208 Dmitriy Donskoy.  This is earlier than previously announced.  The Navy source also claimed that the new proyekt 955 SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy will be the launch platform for one of this year’s three planned Bulava tests.  He also reiterated that Russian military men are committed to Bulava, seeing no alternative to it as the Navy’s nuclear deterrent for the future.

In May, Defense Minister Serdyukov said three identical Bulava missiles are being assembled in the hope of discovering a common flaw in their construction.  Serdyukov said the next Bulava launch wouldn’t occur before November at the earliest.

Navy CINC on Bulava Findings and Typhoon SSBNs

Speaking Friday in Novorossiysk while accompanying Prime Minister Putin, Navy CINC Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy said the Bulava SLBM commission will report 20 May on its findings regarding the last unsuccessful test launch.  He also promised:

“We are working continuously and checking the entire process of the missile’s development.”

“Continuous work of voyenpredy [military factory representatives] is being implemented.  Right down to a screw, with the submission of corresponding certificates.”

“. . . all enterprises active in Bulava production are working under control of military acceptance.  We are checking the entire process from beginning to end.”

RIA Novosti reminded readers that, despite a string of unsuccessful tests (only 5 of 12 have been considered successful), the Defense Ministry still considers it ‘unrealistic’ to put another type of ballistic missile in new proyekt 955 SSBNs.

In February, Defense Minister Serdyukov expressed his certainty that Bulava problems would not affect the laydown of the next proyekt 955 submarine, the fourth in the series.  Officially, Moscow says Bulava will be carried through until the necessary result is obtained, and the missile will be the basis of sea-based strategic nuclear forces until 2040-2045.

One has to wonder, what happens if, after all the emphasis on eliminating production defects, Bulava still doesn’t fly?  Where does Moscow turn next for answers.

Vysotskiy also told journalists two proyekt 941 Akula (Typhoon-class SSBNs Arkhangelsk TK-17 and Severstal TK-20) will remain in the Russian Navy’s order-of-battle until 2019.  He said:

“They will be in a combat condition until 2019.  They have very great modernization possibilities.” 

This isn’t the first time he’s said this, but he hasn’t said how the 1980s-era SSBNs might be used or altered:

“There are several options, but the decision has yet to be made.” 

Of course, TK-208 Dmitriy Donskoy was modified to be the Bulava test platform.