Tag Archives: Proyekt 955

Aleksandr Nevskiy Launch Planned

According to ITAR-TASS, Sevmash shipbuilders have announced they’ll launch the second proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBN Aleksandr Nevskiy at the end of November.  Nevskiy was laid down on 19 March 2004.  Lead unit Yuriy Dolgorukiy is preparing for a test launch of the Bulava SLBM likely in December.

ITAR-TASS says Borey unit 3 Vladimir Monomakh (laid down in 2006) is on a buildingway at Sevmash.  Nevskiy and Monomakh were not identified as proyekt 955A boats.  The wire service also didn’t mention anything about an official lay down for hull 4 (Sv. Nikolay).  Plans are for not less than 8 of the Borey SSBNs.

Dizzy with Bulava’s Success?

Iosif Vissarionovich might have accused Bulava’s proponents of dizziness after the SLBM’s test firing on October 7.  There’s no mistaking it was a clear boost to a troubled program.  Success always trumps failure.  It may even turn out that all of Bulava’s design, production, and assembly problems are resolved.  But one would think the history and current state of the Bulava would call for more cautious, guarded optimism.  This successful test was necessary, but far from even close to sufficient to complete the program.

The biggest news story after this successful test was the report that, as a result, the Bulava SLBM and Borey-class SSBN weapons system might be accepted into the arms inventory as early as mid-2011.

A highly-placed Navy Main Staff source told Interfaks:

“Before the end of the year, another two test launches of the missile are planned, if they are as successful as today’s launch, then it’s legitimate to consider the issue of the quickest completion of tests of this strategic system.  I’m proposing that the acceptance of Bulava into the arms inventory could happen in the middle of next year.”

He follows adding that serial production of the SLBM and its deployment in proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBNs will ensue.

The Navy Main Staff source doesn’t go into exactly what ‘quickest completion’ entails, but others do.  Presumably, this means another test from Dmitriy Donskoy before the end of October and, if that’s a success, the first launch from Borey-class Yuriy Dolgorukiy before year’s end.

Vesti.ru conjectures that ‘quickest completion’ might mean a second, ‘insurance’ shot from Yuriy Dolgorukiy in early 2011, then a volley firing of two missiles in spring or early summer.  After this, if every test is a success, the weapons system would be accepted, serial production would begin, and Bulava would be deployed on Yuriy Dolgorukiy.  That’s if everything goes right.

An irrationally exuberant Defense Ministry source even told RIA Novosti:

“The successful launch of the missile gives a basis to suppose that the entire system ‘submarine plus missile’ will be accepted into the Russian Navy’s arms inventory by the end of the year or at the beginning of next.”

Former Armaments Chief Anatoliy Sitnov was pretty confident, telling Interfaks and ARMS-TASS that no specialists are expressing doubts about Bulava, and ‘broken links’ in its production process have been overcome.

Old RVSN general Viktor Yesin told Interfaks he agrees it’s possible to plan for completing Bulava testing by mid-2011.  But he retains some caution:

“The tests conducted instill hope that the two flight tests of the Bulava ballistic missile coming before the end of this year will be successful.  If this happens, it’ll be possible to confirm that the designers and producers overcame a period of failures in the creation of the new submarine-launched missile system.”

Yesin also notes that only the telemetry can say if all the Bulava’s systems were working normally.

Forum.msk’s Anatoliy Baranov is skeptical about making Bulava part of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces even if the next two tests are successful, and make the tally 8 successes in 15 attempts.  He says having a missile you want to produce doesn’t mean you can produce it quickly in the necessary quantity:

“Incidentally, no one has answered for the strategic decision which left the country practically without a naval component of strategic nuclear forces [SYaS].  Don’t believe that the resignation of MIT director Solomonov is a sufficient measure of responsibility considering the possible consequences of such a mistake, and the fact that today our naval strategic nuclear forces [MSYaS] already lag the strategic enemy by a factor of 5.  But even given the most successful confluence of circumstances, we will have a gap between old missiles and submarines going out of service and new ones coming into service because the possibilities of domestic industry in serial production of solid-fuel missiles are very limited.  The Votkinsk factory produces 5-6 solid-fuel ‘Topol-M1’ missiles, there aren’t other producers.  This means the production of new missiles of the ‘Bulava’ type puts an extra load on production which already can’t cope with the creation of new land-based missiles — see, straining the RVSN rearmament program even worse.  In the best case, the necessary complement of armaments for the 3 new ‘Borey’ class SSBNs will be produced in nearly 15 years.  This is a catastrophe.”

Andrey Ionin doesn’t agree with Sitnov above.  He told Gazeta.ru that the Defense Ministry shouldn’t be impatient:

“A state commission report on successful testing and a formal decision on accepting the system for regular use doesn’t change the fact that the problem of low quality in joint production has not been eliminated.”

Carnegie Center Moscow associate Petr Topychkanov says:

“Three successful tests in a row is not a reason to put a type into serial production.”

But, unlike Baranov, he points out that the production run for Bulava doesn’t have to be too big since there are, and will be, relatively few tubes to fill.

Pavel Felgengauer in Novaya gazeta is skeptical about how close the Bulava RVs came to their intended targets, but, more important for this discussion, he calls saying that Bulava is almost ready for deployment after this successful test a “dangerous adventure.”  He adds:

“And here is a ‘raw’ missile, not completely ready and the not tested ‘Yuriy Dolgorukiy,’ a crew which clearly hasn’t mastered its submarine — and missile launches right away.  Very bold to put it mildly.”

Viktor Baranets sums it up:

“A successful launch instills some optimism.  But it’s still a long time before accepting the missile into the arms inventory.  And of 13 launches only 6 (including yesterday’s) [October 7]  were recognized as successful.  Or ‘partially successful.’  But this is not cause to launch the missile into a serial run.  Higher ‘positive indicators’ are needed.  Our specialists and foreign ones believe the quantity of successful launches should be steadily above 90%.”

Dolgorukiy Factory Testing Complete

Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy

Not a huge news story, but worth keeping continuity on . . . and there are interesting questions — has the fourth Borey really been laid down, and how many launch tubes will be on unit 2, 3, etc.? 

Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy completed its factory underway testing by 24 September, according to the official Russian news services.  A spokeswoman for Sevmash said the current testing plan was fulfilled, and all established tasks were completed.  Captain First Rank Vladimir Shirin called the last at-sea period ‘excellent.’  All systems reportedly worked well, and minor issues noted during previous cruises were resolved.  The Sevmash delivery team and Dolgorukiy crew are preparing to present the submarine to the state acceptance commission.  But according to Grani.ru, a United Shipbuilding Corporation (OSK) source told Interfaks the obvious – acceptance of Dolgorukiy into the Navy inventory is not being considered since its main weapon – the Bulava SLBM – is not ready.  The Defense Ministry is still hoping that the new SSBN will be the launch platform for one of the next three Bulava tests.

The news services noted there are two additional Boreys, not three, on Sevmash’s buildingways.  So one supposes number four, Saint Nikolay, hasn’t been laid down yet.

The news services maintain the line that the Borey-class boats will have 12 launch tubes each, but Grani.ru, like other media outlets, claims Aleksandr Nevskiy and Vladimir Monomakh are proyekt 955A units and will have 16 tubes, while Saint Nikolay will be a proyekt 955U boat, possibly with 20 tubes.

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.”

Factory Testing Update for Yuriy Dolgorukiy

Translation, no commentary . . .

“MOSCOW, 21 July.  ITAR-TASS.  The crew’s readiness to fulfill combat missions is being checked onboard the new generation project 955 ‘Borey’ ballistic missile submarine ‘Yuriy Dolgorukiy.'”

“As the press-service director Yekaterina Pilikina of Severodvinsk enterprise ‘Sevmash’ announced today, ‘the missile-carrier has returned from the latest phase of factory underway testing.  This was the nuclear submarine’s first at-sea period this year,’  she reminded.”

“‘The nuclear submarine was in testing more than two weeks.  Navigation equipment, the submarine’s buoyancy control system were checked, essential yearly checks of several of the submarine’s parameters were done,’ Pilikina announced. ”

“In the estimation of the chief builder for military equipment production at ‘Sevmash’ Vladimir Prokofyev, ‘the outlined plan was completely fulfilled.  There are issues which have to be worked out to prepare the boat for the next at-sea period which will happen in the near future,’ he noted.”

“‘While at sea, the boat’s crew’s readiness to fulfill combat missions was checked,’ Pilikina announced.  ‘The crew commanded by Captain First Rank Vladimir Shirin successfully completed all training tasks.'”  

“Earlier it was announced that before the end of this year the Russian Navy plans to conduct not less than three test launches of the ‘Bulava’ submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missile, and from the ballistic missile submarine ‘Dmitriy Donskoy’ and from the permanent platform for this missile system — nuclear submarine ‘Yuriy Dolgorukiy.’  It is the first ‘Borey’ type submarine.

“At present in ‘Sevmash’ there are three more submarines of this type in various stages of construction.”

“The ‘Borey’ type submarines were designed in St. Petersburg TsKB [Central Design Bureau] of Naval Equipment ‘Rubin.’  According to open source data, several achievements in the creation of shipboard radioelectronic means and noise reduction are employed in the construction of the ‘Boreys.’  They will be armed with the new ‘Bulava’ missile system.  The nuclear submarine can carry 12 solid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles with a MIRVed warhead.  The submarines are outfitted with a surfacing rescue chamber for the entire crew.  The hull of the ‘Borey’ type nuclear submarine is 170 m, the beam is 13.5 m, the submergence depth is 450 m, and the crew is 107 men.  According to the Defense Ministry’s plans, not less than eight nuclear submarines of this project  are to be built.  ‘Borey’ is supposed to be the main naval component of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces in the 21st century.”

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Chernavin on Bulava Design and Testing Problems

Svpressa.ru provided its version of this week’s comments from a Navy Main Staff source: 

“. . . there’s no alternative to equipping new proyekt 955 ‘Borey’ missile cruisers [SSBNs] with the Bulava missile.  Its acceptance into the arms inventory is delayed some, but the testing will be successfully concluded in any event and the missile will be accepted into the arms inventory.  There are no insurmountable obstacles to this.” 

Then former Soviet Navy CINC Vladimir Chernavin answered Svpressa’s questions about naval strategic systems.  He is still focused on what he sees as bad decisions in the process of designing and testing Bulava, rather than defective components and assembly problems.  But like most, he sees no alternative to Bulava at this point. 

Asked why the Navy doesn’t opt for Sineva, Chernavin said: 

“’Sineva’ is a magnificent missile, but it’s liquid-fuelled.  And this is a very dangerous ‘cargo’ for nuclear submarine crews.  The liquid fuel used in it is so corrosive, it burns through metal.  In addition, it’s extremely poisonous.” 

“In Soviet times solid-fueled missiles were put on proyekt 941 nuclear submarines.  But back then for technical reasons we could only make them in very large dimensions.  Proyekt 941 nuclear submarines had 20 90-ton missiles.  And each carried 10 MIRVed, highly accurate nuclear warheads.  The fact is one nuclear submarine [SSBN] could destroy up to 200 important targets, you can say, cities.  The biggest designer of missile-space equipment Vladimir Chelomey and his firm in Miass made all these missiles.  When I was still Soviet Navy CINC, we began to develop a missile [SS-NX-28 or Bark], like the ‘Bulava,’ to replace our heavy missiles on proyekt 941 boats.” 

Fleet Admiral Chernavin

Asked why it didn’t succeed, Chernavin replied: 

“Unfortunately, after Chelomey’s death, the continuity was broken.  One of Chelomey’s assistants headed the firm.  We gave it great resources to perfect this heavy missile – reduced dimensions, increased accuracy.  This work stopped with the USSR’s collapse.  And when the country’s leadership decided to restart it, they took as a basis not a naval missile, but the ground-based ‘Topol M.’  They changed design bureau accordingly.  The idea was tempting – to make one all-purpose missile for ground pounders and for sailors.  This would significantly reduce production costs.” 

But what was the stumbling block? 

“They didn’t figure that the firm that made the ‘Topol’ had no concept about naval missiles.  I remember a sad instance.  When ‘Topol’ specialists learned that a submarine-launched missile had to launch while the nuclear submarine is moving, they grabbed their heads.  Everyone knows ‘Topol’ fires from a stationary platform.  Everything in the calculations had to be completely changed.  The ground-based design bureau encountered problems that Chelomey had already solved, and it had to reinvent the wheel.  Another, to put it mildly, mistake was committed by cutting costs in the very course of missile development.  With Chelomey it was laid out as follows.   After the creation of a prototype so-called pop-up testing began.  We had an old specially reequipped diesel submarine in the Black Sea for this.  A missile tube was placed in it.  A telemetered missile is ejected from it.  Not less than two of such tests were needed.  Only after this did they proceed to other tests, of which there were a great number.  ‘Market consciousness’ in new Russian conditions gave the project’s directors the idea of economizing on tests.  There were no preliminary tests, but immediately they put ‘Bulava’ on a submarine and all steps were conducted with the wave of a hand, having skipped several phases of testing.  Now we all see what a ‘pretty penny’ this ‘economizing’ has cost the state.  The end of testing is not in sight, but ‘Bulava’ won’t fly.” 

 Does Bulava have any future?  

“I think there’s no longer time to give up.  Whether we want this or not, we have to get ‘Bulava’ in shape.” 

But what if its designers aren’t up to it?  

“I think they’re up to it.  They’ve hit so many bumps that they, on the whole, have gained experience and will guide it to the end, but again this will cost not a little money.  But less now than if we set out today to develop a missile from scratch.  Of course, in principle, it wasn’t necessary to let these people build a naval missile.  Now we have to get unscrewed.  And throw resources around.  But, I’m sure, they’ll still get ‘Bulava’ to fly.”

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.

Three Identical Missiles

The Defense Ministry’s inter-departmental commission didn’t make any announcement about its work or the causes of Bulava SLBM test failures as had been anticipated on 20 May.  If this commission has clues about the missile’s problems, it didn’t reveal them.  But Kommersant concludes that the Defense Ministry hasn’t reliably determined the causes of previous failed launches.

However, on 21 May, Defense Minister Serdyukov announced a new approach to Bulava testing.  The Russians will make three identical missiles and launch them in hopes of pinpointing the same problem in each.  It’s a gamble, but it could work.

RIA Novosti quoted Serdyukov:

“The problem of the unsuccessful ‘Bulava’ missile launches lies in the assembly process.  We do not see any other violations there.  The whole matter is missile assembly quality.  Each unsuccessful launch has its own causes.  They are all different.”

“Now we are working on making three absolutely identical missiles.  We believe that this will allow us to precisely locate the mistake, if there is one, since it must be repeated in all three missiles.  Now we are working on how to control the assembly process in order to know that all the missiles are identical.  Toward November, I think, we can begin launching the missiles.  After this we will be able to identify the cause precisely.”

Earlier reports had said the next Bulava test would occur in June, but Serdyukov now says November at the earliest.  Over six years, only 5 of 12 Bulava launches have been successful or ‘partially successful.’  The missile launched on 9 December 2009 self-destructed after a third stage engine problem.  Grani.ru recalled that other recent problems included steering system and stage separation malfunctions.  Moscow had intended to put the Bulava on its new Borey, or Proyekt 955, SSBNs starting in 2007.

Gzt.ru describes the new three missile approach as an expensive “hit or miss” method.  The Defense Ministry hopes launching identical missiles will point to the same problem in each, if there is one.  But if they still manifest different problems, Moscow will be no closer to pinning them down.  The risk is another year without getting any closer to a new SLBM.

Gzt.ru concludes:

“Serdyukov didn’t specify what will happen if in the November series of launches of ‘Bulava’ each time a different component of the missile fails.  Apparently, this possibility isn’t being considered.”

Also in Gzt.ru, Defense Ministry critic Konstantin Sivkov describes the three missile plan as absurd and expensive.  With each missile costing 300 million rubles, it’s a 1 billion ruble effort and there’s no guarantee the bug, or bugs, will be identified.  He believes the designers will have to conduct stand tests where all components can be checked under controlled conditions.  He blames defective parts allowed into the system due to inadequate production controls.

Gazeta.ru cited one Andrey Ionin, a missile designer, who agrees the problem lies in the absence of technological discipline in the enterprises of the Russian OPK.  He says:

“Cooperation by several hundred enterprises, working under different forms of ownership, in different parts of the country, without observing all rules of technological discipline is pointless.” 

Nevertheless, simultaneous assembly of three missiles could be a way of searching for mistakes in Bulava.

MIT missile designer Yuriy Solomonov has said repeatedly it’s defective materials, production process breakdowns, and the lack of quality control, but neither he nor military men are saying which materials or processes they suspect.  He’s also said Russia lacks 50 materials needed for solid-fuel missile production.

In Kommersant, former RVSN general Viktor Yesin claims the Defense Ministry’s inter-departmental commission investigating Bulava has determined that enterprises didn’t cooperate and provided poor quality parts for the missile.  Still he sees no alternative to Bulava and believes its design is workable.

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.

Trouble Building Submarines at Sevmash

Northern Machinebuilding Enterprise (Sevmash)

Here is 9 February RIA Novosti verbatim:

“Sevmash” Will Not Meet Schedules for Nuclear Submarine Construction Due to Insufficient Personnel

SEVERODVINSK, 9 Feb – RIA Novosti.  The “Sevmash” enterprise in Severodvinsk, Arkhangelsk Oblast will fall behind schedule in constructing nuclear submarines, it was announced to RIA Novosti on Tuesday in the enterprise’s press service.

Information about the lag in the schedule was heard in the session of the interdepartmental coordinating council which took place under the leadership of RF Government Military-Industrial Commission member Vladimir Pospelov and Deputy Navy Commander-in-Chief for Armaments Nikolay Borisov.

Members of the coordinating council discussed the state of affairs in producing nuclear submarines at “Sevmash” – “Yuriy Dolgorukiy,” “Aleksandr Nevskiy,” “Vladimir Monomakh” (project 955 “Borey”), and also “Severodvinsk” and “Kazan.”

“Today, as noted in the session, there is some lag from the construction schedule acknowledged by Sevmash and its partner-enterprises,” stated the press service’s announcement.

Factory General Director Nikolay Kalistratov explained the delay was caused by a lack of qualified personnel.

“It’s essential to apply maximum effort to realize the outlined plans and complete orders on time.  In the near future, we have to attract an additional 500 qualified production workers in the specialties pipefitter, machinist-fitter, ship finisher.  It should also be noted that over two years we’ve increased the number of basic production workers by 2,000 people, but this force is still insufficient,” said the director of the enterprise’s press service.

The directors of TsKB MT [Central Design Bureau of Naval Technology] “Rubin,” SPMBM [St. Petersburg Naval Machinebuilding Bureau] “Malakhit,” “Rosatom” state corporation, RF Ministry of Industry and Trade and other departments also attended the session.

Now at the “Sevmash” factory in various degrees of completion are three strategic nuclear submarines of project 955 “Borey” – “Yuriy Dolgorukiy,” “Aleksandr Nevskiy” and “Vladimir Monomakh.”  Work on construction of the fourth strategic nuclear submarine of this project, with the provisional name “Saint Nikolay” began in December 2009.  In all by 2015 it is planned to build eight nuclear submarines of this class.

This statement seems to imply there’s no problem with money, but, at a certain point, more workers equal money because higher wages should attract them, the northern climate notwithstanding.  So to some degree, this is a Sevmash call for more resources to do the work already on its order books.  Although these Sevmash officials said work’s begun on the fourth 955, RIA Novosti from 8 February made it clear there’s no firm idea of when its keel-laying ceremony would occur.  And Navy CINC Vysotskiy said the problem was “technological,” not related to the fate of the Bulava SLBM or to funding.  So maybe he meant a labor shortage, but, as noted, a lack of labor  is an inability or unwillingness to pay what it costs to do the work.

Yuriy Dolgorukiy SSBN has more sea trials before handover to the Navy. Sevmash says Aleksandr Nevskiy will be launched in 2010 (it was laid down in early 2004).  Vladimir Monomakh is about two years behind it.  The big question for these boats is when and if they’ll have a missile.  Late last year, a number of Russian media outlets claimed SSBN production was frozen due to Bulava’s problems.  But Sevmash’s call for more workers doesn’t track with that.  In October, the Russian government also announced Sevmash would receive 4 billion rubles to add to its working capital for modernization, along with a 6 billion ruble credit from VEB.