To Build a Better Sub

By I. D. Spassky and V. P. Semyonov

The bureau became completely independent in January 1937, having been placed under the Commissariat of Defense Industry and designated Central Design Bureau (CDB-18).

Even during the war, the designers not called to the front-with Leningrad (St. Petersburg) at the front continued design efforts, supporting Arctic, Far East, and inland shipyards that were able to continue limited submarine production. After the war, economic and shipyard conditions in the U.S.S.R. were best suited for giving submarines higher priority in relation to other naval forces.

The first postwar submarines were: Each project was a unique design. Projects 611 and 613 were diesel-electric craft representing the highest capability of Soviet industry at that time. Projects 615A and 617 reflected efforts by designers to develop boats that could remain submerged for long durations because of oxidizers being carried on board. (See Spassky and Semyonov, "Project 617: The Soviet `Whale,"' November/December 1994 Naval History, pp. 40-43.)

In 1946, the Antipin Bureau (named for Engineer-Captain 1st Rank A. A. Antipin) was established briefly to develop submarines based on German closed-cycle propulsion technology. These were the Project 617 and the planned series production Project 616, based on the German Type XXVI. Later, Antipin was transferred to Special Design Bureau 43, set up in 1948 in order to design submarines with high underwater speeds. (It is now known as the St. Petersburg Marine Engineering Bureau Malakhit.) Subsequently, in 1953 the third major submarine design group, TsKB-112, later named Lazurit, was established.

Soon after the end of World War II, the Rubin Bureau entered a new stage of high-priority submarine development with the introduction of missiles to the fleet. The program produced the eight ballistic-missile submarines of Project 658 (NATO name Hotel), the first becoming operational in 1960, simultaneously with the USS George Washington (SSBN-598) in the United States. The U.S.S.R. earlier had begun construction of the Project 629 (Golf) diesel-electric submarines armed with ballistic missiles. These were also designed by CDB-18/Rubin. Project 658 represented the beginning of one of the bureau's main areas of specialization. The first nuclear-powered submarines with ballistic as well as cruise missiles featured surface launching, but later all missile submarines could launch their weapons while submerged.

More powerful submarines followed those from Project 658. Strategic missile submarines of projects Yankee (667A) and subsequent Delta (667B, 667BD, 667BDR, and 667BDRM) classes. Soviet shipyards produced 77 of these large missile submarines from 1967 to 1989.

Based on this experience, the bureau was in a position to solve a more complicated task: to design the Project 941 strategic-missile submarine, generally known as Typhoon. This ship evolved in response by the U.S.S.R. to the development in the United States of the Trident missile system and Ohio (SSBN-726)-class submarines. The specific military and geographic position of the U.S.S.R. and essential differences in some approaches to the development of systems for submarines-including ballistic missiles-greatly affected the architecture of these underwater giants, each carrying 200 warheads. Thus, the Typhoon system has produced not only the largest undersea craft ever built, having a submerged displacement of some 34,000 tons, but a unique submarine design.

Rubin also initiated the use of cruise missiles from submarines, having designed projects P611 (Zulu) and P613 (Whiskey) for missile tests. The experience gained in this work served as a basis for designing diesel-electric missile submarines for Project 651 (Juliett) and later nuclear powered submarines for Project 659 (Echo). These submarines, which were intended for missile attacks against well-protected naval targets such as aircraft carriers, contributed significantly to the change of the balance of forces involved in the struggle for sea control since they became a counterweight to Western surface striking forces.

The logical continuation of their development was the creation of cruiser-type submarines, especially those of Project 949 (Oscar), which were capable of measuring their "Swords" with any heavy surface ship under an "aircraft-carrier umbrella."

One special task included in the bureau's work was development of the deep-water nuclear-powered attack submarine of Project 685 (named Komsomolets-NATO name Mike). This ship was capable of carrying out combat missions that other attack submarines-Soviet and other-were unable to perform. This submarine's unique design opened new horizons in several areas of undersea endeavor.

Rubin has expended considerable effort toward the development of diesel-electric submarines, which are in harmony with the nation's structure of submarine forces. The large series of Projects 611 and 613 were followed by Project 641 (Foxtrot) submarines, which almost immediately earned the reputation of being the best diesel submarines of the fleet.

The next phase of diesel-electric submarine development was the 641B project (Tango), developed by Rubin. New sonar enabled these submarines to achieve superiority over many underwater enemies.

Then Rubin brought forth Project 877 (Kilo), the most silent submarines in service and true underwater hunters. These craft were developed with experience gained from nuclear-powered submarine designs. The application of time-tested technical ideas and approaches has ensured high-performance characteristics and made them popular with foreign customers. In all, 913 submarines have been built from the bureau's designs from 1901 to 1995.

Today, the bureau is fully involved in the design of a new generation of submarines, including the new strategic-missile submarine (Project 935) for the Russian Navy.

But this is not the best of times for Russian shipbuilding: the disintegration of the U.S.S.R. halted cooperation with some suppliers of the most important equipment, and the sharp reduction in funds for defense has forced the industry to live on a "hunger ration." This difficult situation has caused the loss of many highly qualified specialists, especially young ones who are attracted to commercial ventures.

Shipbuilding-and the entire defense industry is facing possibly irreversible changes; restoring the submarine fleet will take decades. Under these complicated conditions, the Rubin Bureau continues to solve difficult problems posed by the Russian Navy. To continue its work, a design bureau must find new partners, and such searching has been fruitful. Breaking the barriers between government ministries has compensated to some extent for the loss of traditional suppliers. New contacts with manufacturers that had never been connected with shipbuilding and are not burdened with stereotypes in submarine construction can, in some cases, allow production of highly efficient equipment. Rubin has maintained a good business relationship with submarine shipyards, with research institutes, and with other enterprises participating in submarine development.

Reality also makes Rubin pay closer attention to the everyday needs of the Russian Navy: to assist in submarine operations, repairs, and modernization with minimum cost. Difficult problems also arise in the training of crews to master the increasingly sophisticated military equipment and in the disposal of decommissioned nuclear-powered submarines. In particular, the bureau's experience in modeling complicated processes, such as a submarine's motion dynamics or control of its multiple systems, allows the development of systems to enable the submarine crew to train better in damage control.

More than a dozen other navies have operated more than 50 Russian-built submarines since World War II. Of current significance is the world-wide market for the Varshavyanka submarine project (Project 877; NATO name Kilo). These submarines were developed on the basis of national requirements but modified to the needs of foreign customers. The design has proved to be most flexible, with Algeria, India, Iran, Poland, and Romania currently operating Project 877 submarines.

Successful technical solutions permitted the incorporation of new features without changing the submarine hull, resulting in Project 636, which performs better underwater and has greater detection range against low-noise targets and higher combat capabilities. Submarines of this configuration have been transferred to China, further enlarging the number of navies operating the Kilo.

Not wishing to rest on its laurels, Rubin has started work on the next generation of export submarines: The Amur "family" of submarines, which will be produced during the first years of the next century. This family-which includes a displacement range from 400 to 2,000 tons-takes into account such features as easy and simple operation, less labor cost in construction (compared with submarines of previous generations), and advanced combat capabilities. Also included will be options for air-independent propulsion. Arrangements for sales of such submarines, of course, includes appropriate crew training, a continuing challenge.

After 96 years of submarine design and development, Rubin-like other components of the Russian defense industry-must now undertake "conversion" activities, shifting its resources to non-military operations. At Rubin, these include the design of rolling stock for high speed railways, offshore marine oil-and gas-producing platforms, electric power complexes, underwater tourist boats and underwater vehicles, and environmental protection equipment.

The development of non-military undersea craft has been especially challenging. Rubin had developed the first deep-water vehicle built in the U.S.S.R., the Sever-2, delivered in 1970 to the Ministry of Fisheries. Rubin had begun more advanced designs, which were transferred to the Volna enterprise, now part of the Malakhit Bureau.

Rubin restarted civilian submersible work in 1985 with the development of an underwater tourist vehicle named Neptun. This 40-passenger craft was built in 1991, with an improved craft, also for 40 passengers, now under construction. Proposals are being developed for a series of such commercial vehicles.

Beyond commercial vehicles and the other products undertaken in the conversion program, Rubin continues, of course, to specialize in submarines and submarine-related technologies. Russia will need military submarines in the future, but what kind of undersea craft and how many will depend upon several factors. First, the world recently has acquired unprecedented dynamics. Our country and its political-economic characteristics have changed, as has the world situation. Relationships among countries have become more complicated. Many countries consider the protection of their marine interests to be the principal tenet of their foreign policy, and their interests are often in conflict with those of other countries. It is not difficult to predict that in time these will become more acute with increased use of the ocean and sea floor for a variety of economic purposes.

New technologies are appearing at an increasing rate in our age, it has been called a technology "explosion." At present it is difficult to predict what "gifts," both in submarine and antisubmarine, will come from this explosion.

Thus, military forces can be expected to play a major role in the future, and submarines will be a key component of those forces. Their designs must provide combat capabilities along with flexibility, affordable cost, and operational cost-effectiveness (e.g., crew numbers and training). It is difficult but possible to conceive of future submarines that could follow "double" technologies that suggest the use of similar submarine designs for both military and civil purposes (research transport, sea floor resource exploitation, etc.). One concept in this regard is the so-called "basic model" submarine, variants of which could be employed in several roles.

All of this confirms the necessity to develop a systematic approach to submarine design. It is impossible to make substantive improvements to submarines without new methods of making optimal use of their designs. This, in turn, will require new "tools" for the designer. A submarine design for the 21 st century must incorporate multiple scientific disciplines. The task of forward-looking designers is to predict the optimum qualities of future submarines.

The Rubin Design Bureau and other Russian design and scientific organizations must work under complex conditions. But designers always have had complex problems to overcome; the technical ones were sometimes the simplest. Most important is that the staff of Rubin and colleagues in other organizations do not lose their "will for life." If this flame continues to burn, in spite of today's problems, Russian submarines will continue to be among the most advanced in the world in the next century, the fourth century of existence for the Russian Navy.

Rubin Honors

The high quality of Rubin designs is reflected by the bureau's staff: Two academicians of the Russian Academy of Sciences, an academician and two corresponding members of St. Petersburg Engineering Academy, a corresponding member of the International Academy of Informatics, three Doctors of Sciences, and 33 candidates of technical sciences work at Rubin. Many of these men and women have been awarded orders and medals and become Stalin, Lenin, and State Prize Winners. The bureau itself has been awarded two Lenin Orders, the Order of October Revolution, and the Order of the Red Banner of Labor for its work on submarine designs for the U.S.S.R. Navy.


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