VMF: abandonment of anaerobic propulsion for project 677 submarines?

The Russian Military Maritime Fleet (Voyanno-Morskoy Flot (VMF) should receive by 2027 two units ordered in 2019 from project 677 Lada, conventional fourth-generation submarines. They will not be equipped with the anaerobic propulsion system, or AIP for Air Independent Propulsion, developed by the Rubin desk. Moscow remains unable to provide such propulsion to its navy and its partners (versions offered for export: Amur-550 à Amur-1850). All hopes would rest on the fifth generation: the project Viburnum.

Le project 677 Lada had the ambition to succeed the project boats 877, 877EKM and those of the projects 636, 636M, 636.1 and 636.3. This is a new evolution of 877 project the development of which is led by Yuri Kormilitsin of Rubin desk during the 1990s. One of the program's goals is to enable the construction of less expensive submarines. The submarines of project 677 to distinguish themselves from previous boats of the third generation, or even “3 +” generation (projects 636 à 636.3), incorporate a certain number of architectural improvements:

The submarine of project 677 is 72 meters long at its greatest length for a hull diameter of 7,1 meters compared to, respectively, 73,8 and 9,9 meters for the project 636.3. The monocoque architecture, a first since the 1940s, is divided into five watertight compartments, three decks high. The steering gear is cross-shaped, that of the projects 877 à 636.3 has only three bars. The massif retains the shape of its predecessors but unlike them it has been placed on its front and at mid-height two front diving bars.

Compared to 636.3 project, the surface displacement was reduced from 2350 to 1765 tonnes, the diving displacement from 3950 to 2700 tonnes. It runs at 12 knots on the surface, and up to 21 knots when diving (compared to 17 to 20 for projects 877 à 636.3). The tests would not have validated this requirement. The maximum immersion is given for 300 meters. The crew is 34 to 35 sailors (compared to 57 (877 project) to 52 (636.3 project) for predecessors) who can sustain 45 days of operations at sea.

The reduction of the acoustic signature benefits from a new anechoic coating. Suspended installations and structures benefit from the use of vibro-active equipment on anti-vibration devices.

The propulsion is based on a thruster driven by a permanent magnet electric motor (4,1 MW) and whose diving energy can be produced by an AIP propulsion (2 x?) developed by the Rubin desk or supplemented by a lithium-ion battery on, at least, one of the boats placed on hold. Walking on the surface or snorkeling allows the launch of two diesel engines D-49 (2 x 1,2 MW).

Project 677 sonar antenna almost compliant Defense News | Air Independent Propulsion AIP | Russian Federation
The sonar suite (Lira company) developed for the benefit of project 677 includes a quasi-compliant sonar sphere (L-01).

A new automated combat system is being developed for this project, called “ Lithium ". A new sonar suite is also being studied and built for these boats, although it would not have complied with all the requirements of the specifications either. Armament is implemented by six 533 mm torpedo tubes. The maximum capacity for tactical weapons is 18 torpedoes (USET-80K, SAET-60M, UGST ou Shkval) i.e. 6 on the tubes, 12 on the racks or 22 mines DM-1. Up to 10 missiles 3M-54K (anti-ship) and 3M-14K (cruise missile (SLCM) can be launched via torpedo tubes as well as 6 anti-aircraft missiles Igla-1M by launch containers.

The B-585 Saint Petersburg was laid down on December 26, 1997 at the Admiralty shipyards (Saint Petersburg). Its launch took place on October 28, 2004. Sea trials carried out by the manufacturer began in 2005 and ended in 2009 in the Baltic Sea. Admission to active service was then given for 2006 before slipping to 2007. But it was finally only on April 22, 2010 that the submarine was accepted not for active service but for experimentation within the Fleet of the Baltic sea. Anaerobic propulsion then only provided 60% of the expected power.

Sea trials continued until November 2011 and it was said that the submarine would not be admitted to active service. This resulted in the freezing of the construction of the two other boats placed on hold. U-turn in July 2012: the Chief of Staff of the Russian Navy, Admiral Viktor Viktorovich Chirkov (2012 – 2016) accepts the B-585 Saint Petersburg in service and construction of the other two units resumes. The submarine was transferred to Polyarny (flotilla of the Kola Peninsula (Northern Fleet) in the summer of 2013, with the intention of remaining within it. And the experiments continued in an attempt to complete the building with regard to all the contentious points, putting it at odds with the specifications, the main one of which remained anaerobic propulsion.

The B-586 Kronstadt (or Kronstadt depending on the spellings) was laid down on July 28, 2005. The hull was launched on September 20, 2018. It is assumed that manufacturer tests are or have been conducted since then. It should join the ranks of the Baltic Sea Fleet in 2020, although some sources say November 25, 2021. The B-586 Kronstadt is the first Russian submarine to receive a lithium-ion battery whose Rubin desk claimed to have successfully completed testing in September 2014.

The B-587 Velikiye Luki was laid down on November 10, 2006 as B-587 Sevastopol. Exceptionally, it was put back on hold on March 19, 2015 for modification work. Its hull should be launched a second time, in 2020. Admission to active service could be pronounced on November 25, 2021 when it will join the Baltic Sea Fleet.

June 28, 2019, on the sidelines of the arms show ARMY-19, a contract was signed for the construction of two additional submarines of the project 677 Lada, the Russian Navy having expressed its desire in this direction in 2017. They would be jointly laid down in 2022 at the Admiralty shipyards. Entries to the service are targeted for 2025 for the first and 2027 for the second. On December 16, 2019, Alexander Buzakov declared during an interview given to the Sputnik media that these two boats will not be equipped with the AIP propulsion developed by the Rubin desk.

B 585 Saint Petersburg anechoic coating Defense News | Air Independent Propulsion AIP | Russian Federation
The anechoic coating of the B-585 Saint Petersburg (2010) is remarkable for the shape of the anechoic tiles and their apparent structure which appears to be very different from other productions that have been observed so far.

Le Rubin desk has been in charge of the development of anaerobic propulsion since around the beginning of the 2000s. The technology explored was based on hydrogen. Rather than providing an engine with hydrogen, which would have required the embarkation of one or more tanks with the associated risks, not to mention the infrastructure on land, a system producing hydrogen in vivo was preferred. . THE Rubin desk evokes a “reformer” succeeding in extracting hydrogen from on-board diesel, allowing the production of electricity in a closed circuit to recharge or power lithium-ion batteries.

Land tests of the AIP propulsion system Rubin desk completed, at the latest, at the beginning of 2013. The special submarine B-90 Sarov (project 20120 Sargan) was used for sea trials of the said system, from 2013 until, at least, 2014. These trials would have been a success, at least to the point of being able to equip future units of the 677 project, either after the B-587, or even 636.3 project during major technical shutdowns. Difficulties encountered on the B-585 Saint Petersburg (2005 – 2019) would never have made it possible to achieve the technical specifications of the specifications regarding the required electrical power.

The first three boats of the 677 project are deemed to be sufficiently different to complicate their maintenance in operational condition. THE 677 project will perhaps be redefined into projects, for example, projects 677.1, 677.2. It is unknown whether the boats ordered in 2019 will constitute a variant or will be linked to one of the previous standards.

The state arms program (Gosudarstvennaya Programma Vooruzheniy (GPV) 2011 – 2020 aimed at the construction of 20 conventionally powered submarines, or 6 636.3 project and 14 project 677 Lada. Technical difficulties (2005 – 2019) have gradually reversed this distribution. Besides the six 636.3 project put on hold for the benefit of the Black Sea Fleet, an order for six boats was placed in 2016 for the Pacific Fleet the Admiralty shipyards hope to sign in 2020 for a third series of six submarines of the 636.3 project for Baltic Sea Fleet. The VMF targeted 8 units of 677 project : will the last three boats be ordered?

Le project 677 Lada seemed to be able to bring a certain number of architectural innovations to drastically reduce costs. The revival of 636.3 project, and what seems to be an abandonment of anaerobic propulsion in its current state, portends the project being put on hold Viburnum, the new class of conventional submarines developed by TsKB Rubin, in the mid-2020s.

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