70 years under water

70 years under water

Radiy Shmakov
Leading Expert in the History of Design

The march 31, 1948 decree of the USSR council of ministers and the CPSU central commission established design bureau no. 143 for designing unconventionally-powered fast submarines.

In October next year, Bureau No. 16 came into existence and it was expected that it would design light and heavy cruisers. In February 1974, a quarter of a century later, these two design bureaus were merged into one – the Malachit St. Petersburg Marine Engineering Design Bureau

During the Cold War, the combat effectiveness of submarines needed to be dramatically increased. To this end, a single surface/underwater propulsion unit was developed. Since its foundation, the bureau led by Chief and Chief Designer Engineer Captain 1st Rank Alexei Antipin was involved in the development of the Project 617 submarine powered by a steam-gas turbine plant using hydrogen peroxide as an oxidizer. Its construction began in 1951, but two years later the further work, part of the bureau’s personnel and all documentation for the project were transferred to CDB-18 (now the Rubin Central Design Bureau of Marine Engineering). The boat was commissioned in 1956.

But we make rockets

Sixty-four people who remained to work at the bureau were refocused on addressing new and increasingly demanding challenges. The rapid development of science and technology in the first post-war decade led to the arrival of the submarines armed with a new type of weapon, ballistic missiles. In 1954, Malachit, in close cooperation with NII-88’s KB-1 design bureau, under the supervision of Chief Designers Nikolai Isanin and Sergei Korolev, developed the design of the V611, the first domestic submarine missile carrier.

On September 16, 1955, after a series of tests and development testing of the launch complex on shore and marine test stands, a missile was launched from the surfaced Project V611 submarine B-67, built at the Northern Machine-building Enterprise (Sevmash) in the city of Severodvinsk. It was the world’s first launch of a ballistic missile from a submarine. Later, a series of five Project AV611 submarines was built. It was followed by a series of the Project 629 boats: first with the R-11FM missile, designed for surfaced launch, and then with the D-4 missile for underwater launch. Twenty-three submarines were built to Project 629A. Their further refit was carried out at Sevmash, Zvezdochka Production Association and Vladivostok-based Dalzavod.

Building a powerful missile submarine fleet is one of the glorious pages of domestic underwater shipbuilding. For these works, the bureau received the Order of Lenin, and a large group of specialists were awarded orders and medals. Chief Designer Nikolai Isanin received the title of Hero of Socialist Labor.

Nuclear advantage

The development of nuclear-powered submarines continues to be a core area of the bureau’s activities. The application of nuclear power plants addressed the problem of a common engine and led to a radical change in the capabilities and a sharp increase in the combat effectiveness of submarines.

Malachit’s team should be given credit for developing the first Project 627 domestic nuclear submarine, and then a series of twelve Project 627A nuclear submarines. Intense work in this area, which started in the 50’s, was carried out jointly with a huge number of other research institutes, bureaus and scientific organizations. Engineer-Captain 1st Rank Vladimir Peregudov was appointed the chief designer of Project 627 and the head of the bureau in 1952. Academician Anatoly Alexandrov, the deputy director of the Kurchatov Institute, provided scientific guidance on the power plant and the ship as a whole.

A mere six years passed between the adoption of a decision to build the first domestic nuclear submarine and its commissioning into the Navy.

The United States took ten years to do the same thing. Between 1958 and 1964, a series of thirteen Project 627 and 627A nuclear submarines was built. In July 1962, the nuclear submarine K-3 Leninsky Komsomol reached the North Pole for the first time in the history of the submarine fleet.

The nuclear power plant proven on the K-3 with its design and engineering solutions paved the way for building domestic nuclear submarines of all classes and missions, giving rise to nuclear submarine construction in the Soviet Union.

In 1959, the bureau was awarded the Order of Lenin, 104 people were decorated with orders and medals, and Chief Designer Vladimir Peregudov received the title of Hero of Socialist Labor for the development of this ship.

In 1963, following the delivery of the first nuclear submarine to the Navy, a Project 645 submarine with a steam generating unit, which had a liquid metal coolant in the primary circuit, was built according to the bureau’s documentation and commissioned. The chief designer of the project was Vladimir Peregudov succeeded by Alexander Nazarov in 1956. Elevated steam conditions made it possible to develop a plant with reduced weigh-size characteristics and increased efficiency. The boat with such a coolant in the primary loop was the first not only in our country, but also all over the world.

“Titanium” speed

The development of the world’s first titanium-hull high-speed nuclear-powered submarine of Project 661, led first by Chief Designer Nikolai Isanin and then by Nikolai Shulzhenko, was a peculiar stage of the bureau’s activity. The ship incorporated all the latest achievements of science and technology in shipbuilding, machine building, metallurgy and electronics. A huge contribution to its development was made by the Prometei Central Research Institute of Structural Materials, now part of the Kurchatov Institute. The submarine constructed at Sevmash successfully passed its builders sea and official trials and was transferred to the Navy in 1969. Along with its high indices of combat effectiveness, it reached a top submerged speed of 44.7 knots, an unsurpassed world record.

Work on the design of the Project 705 (705K) integrated automated nuclear submarine with a titanium alloy hull was an equally significant milestone in the underwater shipbuilding industry. The initiative to develop the boat belongs to Vladimir Peregudov, Anatoly Alexandrov and Pavel Kotov. During the development of the project, a qualitative leap forward was made towards more advanced solutions in the field of shipbuilding, electrical engineering, materials science, automation of electronic equipment and boat control processes. A deep search for more rational design principles and standards was carried out. This made it possible to design a relatively small submarine offering high combat effectiveness. A number of revolutionary technical solutions were first implemented in the project. Control of all the technical means aboard the ship was automated and carried out from a single main command post. Control of the ship and weapons was also provided using a battle management system. The designers managed to implement an integrated crew rescue concept on the submarine: all battle posts and quarters were concentrated in one compartment and had transverse bulkheads as strong as the hull itself. In addition, the submarine was equipped with a floating crew rescue chamber.

A nuclear steam generating plant with a liquid metal cooled reactor and reduced weight-size parameters was used on the boat. A small-sized integrated steam-turbine plant was installed on Project 705K. The hull was made of high-strength titanium alloy. In addition, an electric power system using high-frequency alternating current was introduced. New torpedo tubes with an all-depth hydraulic firing system were also developed.

Building the missile submarine fleet is a glorious page of domestic shipbuilding

An experimental submarine, whose technical design was developed in 1963, was built at Sudomeh (now Admiralty Shipyard). In 1971, it successfully passed the sea trials and was transferred to the navy for operational evaluation.

Project 705 was ahead of its time and continued to improve the submarines of the next generations. The chief designer of the project was Mikhail Rusanov, a talented engineer. In 1974 he was succeeded by Viktor Romin. The construction of the series was completed in 1992. Four submarines of the project were built at the Admiralty Shipyard, three - at Sevmash. The Bureau was awarded the Order of the October Revolution and the employees received orders and medals. In addition, four dozen people were awarded Lenin and state prizes.

Second and third generation

The creation of second generation nuclear-powered attack submarines of Projects 671 and their derivatives, 671RT and 671RTM under the supervision of Chief Designer Georgy Chernyshev was a further step in the development of underwater shipbuilding. He was succeeded in 1984 by Chief Designer Radiy Shmakov. The technical design of Project 671 was completed in 1960. The lead nuclear submarine was accepted in November 1967. This was followed by the construction of a huge series of 48 units. At that time these boats were the most perfect ships. The last of them is still in service.

The submarines of this series featured an axisymmetric hull with optimum lines to provide the propulsive efficiency. In addition, they all have a cruciform stern, in which large hydroplanes are supplemented by small hydroplanes intended for control at increased speeds, and a bow section that houses torpedo tubes in the upper part and a sonar system in the lower part. On the Project 671RTM submarine, the SKAT-KS sonar system was located at the bow in the lower part. The submarines were equipped with a single-shaft propulsion plant comprising one turbine and two reactors. The double-hull configuration with greater reserve buoyancy ensured the fulfillment of the requirements for surface unsinkability.

The third generation Project 971 attack submarines, designed by General Designer Georgy Chernyshev and Yuri Farafontov, occupy a special place in domestic underwater shipbuilding. With the advent of a series of these ships, the advantage of the best American submarines in quietness and target search and detection efficiency, not to mention the depth of diving, speed and the number ammunition carried, was nullified. Project 971 incorporates an unconventional solution concerning the placement of gears and equipment in multi-deck blocks isolated from the hull by shock absorbers, and a reconfigured steam-turbine unit. New technical solutions were implemented: high-strength steel, a new version of the steam generating unit featuring improved layout and manufacturability, a system of battery-free cooling of the steam generating unit with outboard heat exchangers, a damped main thrust bearing of the shaft line. In addition, the submarine was equipped with a shielding tank to reduce the level of radioactive trail, an outboard reserve propeller system, split stern rudders with three modes of operation, retractable bow hydroplanes with flaps, and small three-position valves of the diving/ascent system.

The submarine was equipped with the Granat missile system and the newest Skat sonar, which significantly enhanced its combat effectiveness. The follow-on boats carried a non-acoustic detection system, decoy launchers, emergency main ballast blowing systems, improved versions of some electronic warfare systems, and dozens of design measures for acoustic field improvement.

In 1984, the lead nuclear submarine built at the Lenin Komsomol Plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur was commissioned and in 1988 – the lead submarine constructed at Sevmash. In 2001, the last, the seventh, the ship of the Gepard series was commissioned in the same shipyard in Severodvinsk. A total of fourteen Project 971 nuclear submarines were built at two shipyards. Work is currently underway to heavily upgrade the boats of this series.

Summing up the results of Malachit’s long-term development efforts on second and third generations nuclear-powered attack submarines, it’s worth noting: the strategy for developing attack nuclear submarines chosen in the late 1950s, as single-shaft underwater ships with optimal dimensions and lines in the form of an axisymmetric body with the appropriate equipment configuration proved its advantage over other ways of design development. This choice ensured the most effective use of available power to achieve the maximum possible speed and maneuverability.

Twenty years of Severodvinsk

In parallel with the design of third-generation nuclear submarines, the St. Petersburg Marine Engineering Bureau started actively working on the concept and configuration of the fourth-generation submarine, designated Project 885. Vladimir Pyalov was appointed Chief and later General Designer of the project.

On December 21, 1993 the lead boat of Project 885 was laid down at the Sevmash Shipyard. However, due to lack of funding, its construction delayed for long. The commissioning of the ship did not take place until December 2013. Although the boat was under construction for almost twenty years, the design data incorporated in it are far from outdated. The builders and sea trials have demonstrated that the Project 885 submarine designated Severodvinsk

is the most advanced attack submarine in the world.

During the construction of Severodvinsk, the detailed design project was adjusted. The follow-on ships are already under construction to modified Project 885M (General Designer Alexander Antonov). Sevmash is building a series of the Project 885M submarines. The first of them, Kazan, was laid down on July 24, 2009, Novosibirsk on July 26, 2013, Krasnoyarsk on July 27, 2014, Arkhangelsk on March 19, 2015, Perm on July 29, 2016 and Ulyanovsk – on July 28, 2017.

Along with traditional nuclear-powered attack submarines, the bureau worked on special purpose non-nuclear submarines. In 1988, the Navy received the Project 865 Piranha class submarine designed to conduct reconnaissance and counter enemy activity in shallow waters. The second submarine of this project was commissioned two years later. The chief designer was Lev Chernopyatov succeeded by Yury Mineev in 1984. Both boats were built at the Admiralty Shipyard. The project features a titanium hull, an outboard complex for storage, delivery and use of diving equipment, as well as mines and torpedoes, small-sized electronic and mechanical equipment, as well as a high degree of automation. Unfortunately, the boats had been in service for less than ten years and were decommissioned and disposed of by the early the 2000.

Underwater consul and others

The design bureau successfully carried out work on deep-sea submersibles and unique deep submergence equipment (chief designers Yevgeny Korsukov, Sergei Bavilin, Yuri Konovalov, Sergei Bavilin and Yuri Konovalov were awarded the title of Hero of Russia). By the end of the 1980s, a project of the Rus manned underwater vehicle designed to perform work and research at various depths of the world’s oceans, down to 6000 meters, was completed. Its spherical pressure hull of 2.1 meters is made of high-strength titanium alloy. In addition to the crew of two or three people, a life-support kit and vehicle and equipment control facilities were placed inside the sphere. The rest of the equipment was made in a submersible version and placed outside the pressure hull. The technical solutions, adopted with a view to use advanced electronics and minimize control energy through the application of a light-weight filler, made it possible to bring the vehicle’s displacement to less than 25 tons.

In parallel with the Rus, the Consul submersible was built for marine geologists. Its pressure hull with portholes and lightweight structures welded to it passed hydraulic tests in the Krylov Central Research Institute’s high-pressure testing tank. Construction of the Rus vehicle at the Admiralty Shipyard was completed in 1999. At that time, mooring tests were carried out and the vehicle was submitted for builders sea trials and official tests on the Baltic Sea.

However, the commissioning of the vehicles had been delayed for long years due to the developments of the 1990s. Deep-sea testing of the Rus vehicle in the Atlantic was not conducted until 2006 and the acceptance certificate was approved in 2007. The Consul was commissioned in 2015.

The bureau has been the prime designer of deep-sea manned technical facilities for the development of the world’s oceans since 1970. The Bentos underwater laboratory with a diving depth of 300 meters, Sever-2 deep submergence search and exploration vehicles able to dive to 2000 meters, Poisk-6 deep submergence vehicle were built to Malakhit’s project documentation.

A drastic reduction in state funding in the early 1990s forced the bureau to intensively look for new ideas and develop commercial projects.

For example, in 1991 the bureau developed a project of automated equipment lines covering the whole process cycle for prepackaged gelatin, glue and bone meal.

These lines were fabricated at the Baltic and Vyborg plants and mounted at the Usolye-Siberian glue plant and the Mogilev gelatin plant in Belarus, where they continue to successfully operate to date.

The rationality and systemic nature of technical solutions are expressed in their outer beauty

In 1994, the bureau started working on projects related to the development of gas condensate and oil fields on the Arctic shelf of Russia. As a result, it fulfilled an order to develop an integrated drilling support tender for the floating drilling complex Obskiy-1 (chief designer Vladimir Komarov, succeeded by Vladimir Antonov in 2003).

Work has been underway since 2010 to develop an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system. To date, an AIP plant configuration with a closed-cycle gas turbine engine has been developed and patented. Design studies of a promising gas turbine engine for operation in a closed loop were carried out jointly with the NPO Saturn Research and Production Association. Together with the Geliymash Research and Production Association, a system of exhaust utilization through CO2 liquefaction and a system of alternate cryogenic storage of media were studied. In addition, the issues of using alternative types of fuel, the development of the primary AIP equipment and the necessary cooperation were addressed. The design studies for future orders, as well as for upgrading some of the existing ones were carried out. A specialized stand for experimental research of power equipment was designed and built. A working prototype of an AIP system with a closed-cycle gas turbine engine was developed, fabricated and successfully tested. As a result of the work, the assumption that the latter can operate under increased total backpressure behind the turbine and rarefaction upstream of the compressor, as well as under deteriorated self-cooling conditions was substantiated.

It should be emphasized that the tests in closed cycle conditions involved a conventional (non-dedicated) turbine, which was not specially designed to operate under such conditions. No changes were made to its key units (turbocharger, impeller, fuel-injection equipment) and its automation unit in comparison with the basic configuration, but nevertheless it functioned successfully.

This suggests that an engine specially designed to take into account these operating conditions will be much more efficient than the “conventional” prototype.

One of the achievements is the practical proof of the feasibility to develop a common (single) engine for surface and underwater operation modes. This qualitative breakthrough makes it possible to develop a ship of essentially a new class - with the main common AIP plant and extended submerged endurance.

The national design school for nuclear-powered attack submarines and unique manned deep submergence vehicles for the development of the world’s oceans that has evolved at Malachit is characterized by the adoption of the most advanced, innovative solutions based on state-of-the-art scientific development, a clear understanding of the country’s defense needs and national interests in the development of the world’s oceans with regard to the real capabilities and prospects of domestic industry.

The bureau’s products are distinguished by a high level of industrial design, where the rationality and systemic nature of technical solutions are expressed in their outer beauty.

The bureau regularly undertakes research and development efforts in all areas of its activities, including the development of projects for fifth-generation nuclear-powered attack submarines and manned deep submergence vehicles.

For seven decades of its existence, the St. Petersburg-based Malachit Marine Design Bureau has been making a worthy contribution to the development of the country’s defense and industrial complex and ensuring the national security of Russia.