Tests of weapon systems onboard a ship – the culmination of all tests, its very essence, what the submarine is being built for – are carried out after all the others. Moreover, for each type of ship armament, there is a specific training target, on which the whole engagement process, from detection to its complete “destruction”, will be fine-tuned.
A built warship is considered to be a shipyard’s production order until its full acceptance. This is despite the fact that there is already a military crew on it subordinate to the fleet. But the military has enough own tasks and issues to address, so the attitude towards the unaccepted boat in the fleet is like to a stepchild: it seems a pity, but the heart is not in him (her), hands do not reach. They may not allocate a sea area in time, or will forget to provide the necessary escort, or will pretend that they did not understand the question and give a test plan for yesterday. And time is ticking. And each delay affects the human psyche, let alone the delivery deadline.
One early autumn morning, when the still cold sun had just risen over the horizon, we went out to sea to test a weapon system by test-firing at a surface target defined by the fleet command as a large anti-submarine ship. We’re on station in our area and waiting, there is no one: neither big, nor small, nor even medium. Nerves are frayed and all sorts of thoughts climb into my head, right up to the most desperate and dashing ones. And in the meantime, a real-life antisubmarine cruiser bearing the proud name Varyag, with a full package of weapons against us, is undergoing necessary checks near the shore, preparing for independent cruise.
– “Well, here comes a target,” one of the senior acceptance officers says with sadness in his voice, “it would be good to work with it for half an hour, detect, aim, bang...”
He just said so, but I decided to keep up the conversation because of my youth and short temper. “What,” I say “prevents us from making a feat of labor by joint efforts?”
– So, according to regulations, it is supposed to be included in the fleet’s training plan. We are not there yet...
Well, I think: whether we are in the plan or are not there... In the end, everyone knows that we are in a particular grid square of the sea, that we have to test weapon systems. If so, what’s the problem? Electronic and sonar systems came into action, and the hunt for the «enemy» began. In conclusion, the command to place the weapon in ready position must have been sent, while the ship’s recorders would record the whole process for report.
The rested and vigorous brigade commander in a jacket over a T-shirt, who came in the control room to check things out, was very surprised when, in response to a simple and almost rhetorical question, he heard: “We are attacking a large anti-submarine cruiser.»
– Have we got OK? – he asked.
– Negative, – he was told.
– What are you f*****g doing?! – He rushed to the bridge and started giving abort and other commands.
Meanwhile, the cruiser saw on its instruments that someone was trying to establish contact. And, apparently, the ship did not like it very much. Having turned around and headed straight for us, it began smoking and moving at emergency speed to attack the “enemy”! And the “enemy” is already signaling it by all its means that we’re not serious, we’re not the enemy, and we did not want anything like that. The cruiser probably understood, because it turned off the course and moved away at full steam...
The plant and the workshop become a permanent habitat for those who build a ship centimeter by centimeter
A quarter of an hour later we received a “radio message” from the fleet HQ: immediately stop unauthorized firing and return to base. Upon arrival, a staff vehicle took the officers to their command to explain, and later they explained me, the chief delivery commissioner, what I was wrong about, to say the least.
I’m not arguing: there are such features in any endeavor that cannot be found in any smart book. This is imprinted in the mind only with the experience gained. In the fleet, this is called sailing practice. As for the knowledge of the chief delivery commissioner, it should be much more extensive in order to be responsible for own actions and control the situation on the ship.
Following the ill-fated “hunt” for the cruiser Varyag, after I gained experience and the same sailing practice, which presupposes that the chief delivery commissioner gets some sanity and responsibility in actions, the idea that sea trials could be carried out on our own, engaging as few outsiders as possible in the process, found lodgment in my mind. It all began with a tug. During the testing period, the ship is usually provided with a shipyard’s vessel for support. In our case, it was an old dockyard tug Strogy that became the hero of the day.
As has happened before, after waiting in vain for a target in our area, in desperate and irate at the entire Pacific Fleet and its gaffers, we’re stuck in our area for four hours, and everyone clearly recognizes the strict silhouette of Strogy, very close.
Tell me, what’s the difference for the ship’s weapon systems being tested, whom they to recognize, catch at the sight, whom to aim and fire at?
Military specialists did not see any difference and perceived the proposal even with some enthusiasm, noting that the smaller the target, the more difficult it is to keep it in the ship’s means of acoustics, aiming and firing. After all, it is they that are tested.
Strogy peacefully and calmly stood by nearby the ship and did not suspect anything of the fate prepared for it. Meanwhile, we were preparing for an attack. Our maneuvers (we surfaced to periscope depth several times and then dived) alarmed the experienced captain of the tugboat considerably. Unaware of our plans to use his ship as a target, he moved quickly away towards the shore. With its eleven-knot speed, the tug would reach the saving coastal shoals in about an hour. Our plans were to work with it for at least two hours.
We were hunting for Strogy for a long time, but the goal of the tests was finally achieved. After “working out” on a small tug, the ship’s systems showed their capabilities. But the task facing them and the military testers was not simple at all. The fast Strogy couldn’t understand that, as a target, it should not get away from the ship, but facilitate its early “sinking” in every possible way. But, probably, it is this circumstance that became an intrigue and added a little variety to the heavy and intense test program.
Having “fired” at a surface target, thus having fulfilled all the plans and having done without the help of the fleet, we returned to base. Much later, on the shore, in a friendly conversation with the captain of Strogy, we recalled this episode as one of the most fascinating and interesting. And the captain honestly admitted that our “hunt” for his little ship injected a fair dose of adrenaline into his calmly flowing blood.
The escort ship, allocated by the fleet headquarters for weapon systems development, arrived in the test area with a delay of three days. In order not to quarrel with the fleet, we repeated the same thing with it. However, a small dockyard tug has done us a favor and truly saved the situation. If it hadn’t been around and if the idea to carry out the test program on it hadn’t started up, who knows how long this process would be delayed. And the test deadlines were tight. Whatever it was, everything turned out, and the winner is always right. You must win to avoid being accused of excessive initiative or you’ll be responsible for everything, because you are the chief delivery commissioner.
A submarine is the most sophisticated and expensive military vehicle and, among other things, a kind of home, a hostel for a lot of people. The profession of a submariner, naval sailor or test specialist is difficult and sometimes unsafe. Diving into the depths during tests, people who are under permanent stress and pressure associated with working moments are forced to see the same things and the same people around themselves for a long time. It’s no secret: every day looks like the previous one, and you can’t get away. And sometimes stress is handled in a very original way...
The engineering officer on a ship being handed over was Ivar Khougovich Purnis, a Latvian. I have to tell you, this was the most amusing personality. He was so round, strong, blond-haired man who, unlike native Balts with their straw-colored hair, had buzz-cut thick hair. He spoke smoothly, in a singsong fashion, but when he began to swear – it’s better to hide from him even in a torpedo tube. Somehow we got off on the wrong foot either in work or in a relationship. Well, in short, I got angry with him.
The engineering department is one of the largest on the ship, and its representatives are responsible for the entire electric equipment and machinery of the submarine, and it doesn’t matter whether we talk of the ship’s motion and control or the operation of a vacuum cleaner in a mess room. When the latter is out of order, it is either because there is not current in the outlet, or it is broken, but the engineering department is responsible for everything. The department is also essential and useful during some test modes, and therefore it is sometimes just a production necessity to make friends with its officer and earn his trust.
A submarine ship among other things, is also a kind of home for a large number of people
So, I had a psychological breakdown about the same engineering officer Ivar Khurnovich Purnis. Having driven anger inside myself, I felt that I would not last long. And then there’s a specialist from the Academician Krylov Institute, who specially came to participate in the trials, is bothering me with questions. “How to address our department officer?,” he asks. And I said: “Anvar Sadatych”. I myself do not understand why the Egyptian ruler, who terribly disliked the Communists, stuck to the tongue. But the word is not a sparrow...
Krylov’s specialist went to Purnis and blurted out from the doorway:
– Hello, Anvar Sadatych!
Purnis changed his countenance and barked:
– What?! Go away!
The specialist was then sought across the ship for long. And I had to apologize to Purnis. But, surprisingly, having laughed enough with the trial crew and naval sailors over the stupid joke, I felt relieved and unburdened the soul. Ivar Khugovich, of course, got angry first, but gradually got relaxed. And what to do – work is work, everyday and hard.
Among other things, the ship being tested should carry out search modes. This is when the boat, debugged and tested for noise in the factory conditions, travels below acoustic buoys, and a hydrographic vessel records its noise. Then the latter transfers information, and noise reduction activities on the ship begin. It so happened that one of the brightest representatives of the Pacific Fleet was on my ship during such tests. There is a ton of work around and everybody is busy reducing the noise. He also decided not to be left behind, but his noise reduction methods were, to put it mildly, somewhat peculiar.
– “Here I go,” he says “around the compartments on the ship, and the floorings knock beneath me.” Is it good?
– No, - I answer, - it’s not good.
He goes and writes this «defect» in the findings journal! Hello, we came ... A joke is a joke, but we had to glue these rubber floorings at base.
Next time, after visiting a water closet, he noted that the spring-loaded wooden toilet seat, knocked hard on the wall. And he wrote this shortcoming in the journal. Eliminate - and that’s final.
– Well, to hell with him! Don’t we have anything better to do?! - my men are outraged. There is a generator, pumps are still noisy, and he is here with his closet.
– Well, no. If you must, you must.
I suggested to the distinguished noise fighter: go and knock this lid, and we will measure the noise level.
There are few toilets on the boat. So he sits down in one of them and starts knocking with a lid. The people are angry and demand him to clear the common room.
– “Quiet,” says the noise fighter, “test mode is on.”
And keeps on knocking.
When he got bored with it and stopped “testing”, he did come up to me and asked:
– Well, did you record the noise level?
Honestly, I forgot about him. Nevertheless, he was shown a curve of his noises. And then a thick piece of foam rubber was glued to the wall in the water closet. Sitting was not very comfortable, but the wooded lid stopped knocking and thudded into this original noise absorber.
The completion of all works on the boat is called the acceptance sortie. It is ordered, as a rule, by the admiral, who heads the state commission for the acceptance of the ship. He also writes something like a program, where he indicates everything of interest to this bright head under a cap with a golden crab. The participation of the trial crew in this event is minimal. Since we have already done everything we could, there is a minimum of specialists led by the chief delivery commissioner on the boat. Everything is completed, painted and tested.
Just a week before the New Year, the admiral decided to go to sea. Well, let’s go. The boat is in order, we are in happy mood, the weather whispers... The end of December was surprisingly cloudless. The sea is calm. The water in the bay is like a mirror, reflects the sun, which blinds the eyes and plashes of sunlight play and dance on the smooth and black board of the submarine.
However, at the sight of such a calming picture, seasoned sailors, and especially submariners, their most superstitious representatives, have an underlying feeling of anxiety and the heaviness of the heart. No wonder they say that too good is also bad.
The senior builder on the order can be compared with the conductor of the orchestra, who is obliged to know the part of each musician
The boat went to sea, to the point of diving. Having looked around, the commander commands “Dive! Periscope depth” and goes into the cabin to change clothes. In the conning tower, he left his chief mate in charge who stuck to the periscope to sweep the horizon. Two minutes later, the entire crew (and the admiral as well) hear his everyday and some colorless voice over the announcing system: “Interestingly, someone’s emergency buoy is floating past us.” The commander, of course, wonders: “What are the inscriptions on it?” “So I’m looking, comrade commander, our board number is written on it,” the chief mate replies.
A minute later, the half-dressed commander burst into the conning tower, and then it started! “Turbine - stop! Boatsman, surface!” And the picture in the periscope is really funny: our emergency buoy, like a giant float during the bite, dives and emerges. I personally had the impression that it exactly follows the rhythm of the propeller revolutions. There is only one conclusion: a loose cable of the buoy is wound on the propeller blades.
This was the end of the acceptance sortie. However, what happened to the boat further is called “showered” in the seaward language. Two dockyards tugboats towed us to the base, and then the storm, and turmoil, and everyone is looking for someone to blame ... Then all kinds of emergencies began to arise, and the trial team rushed to eliminate them.
The boat, however, was handed over on time. On December 31, the admiral signed an act of final acceptance of the ship without fanfare and champagne, and I understood one interesting thing: whatever happens on the boat, it’s very easy to find someone to blame. No wonder he is called the chief delivery commissioner.
The birth of the ship is long, difficult and sometimes painful process. In the endless succession of working days, thousands of people, familiar and unfamiliar with each other, well-educated and not so much, both aged and wise and enthusiastic young people, are obsessed with one goal: to build, outfit, breathe life and teach the multi-ton mastodon to live autonomously.
For the sake of this goal, many pleasures of life are forgotten and the plant and the workshop become a place of almost permanent habitat (with a break for a short sleep at home) for those who build a ship centimeter by centimeter.
A modern submarine is the embodiment of a perfect engineering thought. All the most advanced achievements in science and engineering are present here. It’s said that cosmonaut Valery Ryumin, our illustrious countryman, who saw a newbuild submarine under construction during his visit, was struck by the uniqueness of the submarines and uttered the phrase that was permanently imprinted in the memory of Amur shipbuilders: “What you are building is truly fantastic. Like a flight into space, which is reality for me now, was once a fantasy. You have gone further: you forced the spacecraft to sail under water...”
It’s not the Gods who bake pots, and people build ships. The senior builder on a newbuild order can be compared with the orchestral conductor, who is obliged to know the part of each musical instrument and when each of them should sound, so that, filling up with the new sound, the orchestra’s many voices would draw a complete and colorful picture of the symphonic work in the imagination of the listeners. The duty of the senior builder is to achieve the most even progress in the construction work, without advancing or lagging behind the schedule in certain areas. For that, you need to know the whole ship, every “part”, and every “instrument”. That is not taught in the classroom. That comes with every new built and delivered boat, with a pile of closed building and mooring certificates, which, like a score, are put on the desktop of the “conductor” of the ship symphony...
The boat was moved out of the shop on April 15. According to all calculations, the time frame seems like something from science fiction. There was still slush ice on the Amur River at this time. The degree of the boat’s readiness for sea trials was the most appropriate, therefore we first went out to a sea area reserved for trials as soon as late June. Sea trials ended in late December and during the entire this period the ship was at the base no more than three days. This is just a clean, illustrative example of the fact that the tests of the ship were underway all time frame allotted for this process. And this time is yours. Former senior order builder, now appointed by the order of the director of the enterprise as the chief delivery commissioner of the built ship, you alone make decisions at sea and take responsibility. Without even noticing how, you become the “author of the work,” and, like him, either booing or laurels of a winner, a bonus and a vacation await you in the final.
A well-built ship handed-over with no pressure is just a dream. However, it does not work without pressure. On tests, you lead a trial team of over one hundred high-class specialists. You yourself choose those with whom you go to the sea, and they choose you too. It turns out as in the song: «Who will make a mistaken, who will guess...»
No one has ever formed a trial team on the basis of psychological compatibility
Test engineer’s bread is salty from sweat, is black from dirt and gets stuck on the teeth with the monotonous day routine. Someone is joking: a tin can and you’re sardines in it. Indeed, it’s packed at sea on trials. You could stand in the line for the toilet all day.
However, there are no useless passengers on the ship, because everyone’s busy doing their own thing and everyone will find it. It is inappropriate, believe me, to leave a specialist ashore, so that later, if something happens, to break the test program, rush after him to the base, and go back to the sea. None of the guys grumbles, does not require a separate cabin and an eight-hour working day. And riots at sea are suppressed harshly and mercilessly: a discharge and exclusion from the list of the trial team. As a result, the «rebel» loses neither more nor less than a third, or even half of what he earns on the shore in a year. Damn it, money is not the point…
It is known that astronauts are checked for psychological compatibility for a long time. There are a lot of tests, techniques and schemes according to which you can build a highly comfortable team. But will it be productive? Will it be able, following the techniques, to maintain the purity of the relationship while doing hard work? Moreover, this work is hard both physically and intellectually: sometimes the cause of misunderstanding a malfunction becomes the starting point of mental overstrain.
No one has ever built a trial team on the basis of psychological compatibility, professional one was preferable. Indeed, if there is one joy for all, there is one problem for all. In an enclosed space, when the past day looks like today, when sometimes you lose track of days at all, living not by hours, but by the periods of time allotted by the test program for your work, when the same, already rather annoying faces and the chief delivery commissioner, who thinks he is God on the ship, are around you...
I noticed how carefully and sometimes greedily the guys read my various orders and announcements, which I post on the order board from time to time. How they miss newspapers, the usual coastal phenomenon. Someone had the idea to release a handwritten wall newspaper at sea under the poetic name “Not in core”. This is not in the sense of life, but in the sense of electrical cable. Every issue of this newspaper was accompanied by a rush to read it - they took a turn. A healthy friendly laughter of adult men turned them into boys for some time laughing at a senior mechanic (“grandfather”) or at the chief delivery commissioner was impressive even at sea.
Something inexplicable, just wonderful happened sometimes. Suddenly, out of nowhere, tiny, nimble birds a little larger than a fly flew across the ship’s compartments. At first we took them for flies, but, looking closer, someone recognized them as Japanese flycatchers. Their appearance on the boat was perceived with a almost childlike immediacy...
The ship being handed over is still the property of the shipyard, but from the moment of its launching, the ship’s crew begins to settle down, get used to and train. The commander of the future warship is not a minor person during trials. The success of the whole testing process depends sometimes (and more often always) on its readiness for cooperation, mutual understanding and an even relationship with the chief delivery commissioner. The relationship between the commander, a military man, limited by regulations, and the chief delivery commissioner, a “free” man and a little tyrant, are at the core of not only the working process. These people are not shy about displaying warmth and humanity towards one another while working conflicts and misunderstandings proceed, as a rule, without exacerbations.
The commander of one of my boats was Captain 1st rank Sergei Golobokov. Once we travelled a surface run from one sea area to another. At this time, the commander must be in the conning tower together with a signalman or a navigator (to read the navigator’s observation, if it happens at night). The chief delivery commissioner is the only civilian admitted to the command post. So, I receive an invitation from the commander to go up to him as soon as possible. I rise, take a deep breath of fresh sea air and hear the muffled voice of the commander, as if he is afraid to scare away someone: “Look,” he shows somewhere ahead. And there is a huge mountain of water in front of the boat, a white breaker reared up by the smooth blunt nose of the multi-toned submarine. On both sides of this mountain are two waterfalls of sea water. And suddenly ... What a delusion? On the very border of the reared sea, where splashes do not reach,… a gray heron stands motionless.... With its leg tucked in, like a sturdy tin soldier, it rests on the black «back» of the sea monster. How did she get here? ..
The brightest and most precious memory of Golobokov is associated with his unusual gift for my birthday. It happens that birthdays fall just on the testing period. And what will you give to a man on the high seas? Only that which is impossible to find on the shore and that it will be difficult to forget...
We worked in surfacing mode. The commander, as expected, in the conning tower, I went to rest in my cabin that looked like a wardrobe. Suddenly, the commander calls me, I hear, he gives some commands. Then he turns to me and says: “People get presents for their birthday. I want to give you this ... ” I glanced - and, honestly, my heart sank with delight ... The commander turned the boat and set it so that it rested with its blunt, shiny nose right at the beginning of the golden path lined by an immaculately round Moon hanging over the horizon. Without a single splash of the sea, this moonlight path lay on the black velvet of water. “Happy birthday, comrade chief delivery commissioner,” said the Captain 1st rank, smiling.
Born on August 18, 1942 in the village of Trusovo, Kurinsky District, Altai Territory. He spent his childhood years in the same place until after the war his father, a career officer, brought his family, which already had two sons, to the Far East. After retirement, Ivan Andreevich Uvarov worked at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Polytechnic College, taught history and social studies. Young Slava Uvarov, upon graduation from a seven-year school, entered the mechanical department of this educational institution. He passed sailing practice on the Amur River and worked in the specialty at Dalzavod Plant in Vladivostok. There, realizing that “there’s nothing but diesel fuel in the blood,” he entered the evening department of the Polytechnic Institute named after Valery Kuibyshev.
In the early 1960s, returning to Komsomolsk-on-Amur, he got a job at the shipyard (then the Lenin Komsomol Shipyard). He worked as a master, a designer. Mikhail S. Shakhmeister, the chief builder of the plant, noticed the sensible guy and took him to his department. Soon, Vyacheslav Uvarov began working as a mechanical builder, eventually becoming the deputy senior builder on the RTM project submarines, the senior builder and chief delivery commissioner of third-generation Project 971 nuclear-powered submarines.
Then there was a break in his work at the Amur Shipbuilding Plant, when Uvarov, as head of the group supervising the construction of dry cargo vessels for the Far Eastern Shipping Company, stopped dealing with submarine-building issues, but remained loyal to the Amur Shipbuilding Plant and the “submarine fraternity,” generously sharing experiences, memories and feelings ...
A wonderful storyteller, possessing huge charisma and a great sense of humor, he was always the soul of the company and the first to attract attention. People laughed and grieved at his stories and sea tales, and he, like a huge hundred-year-old oak tree, could hide with its crown all those who fell under his personal charm.
He passed away on February 21, 2009. Just before his passing, he uttered words that, in essence, became the quintessence of his life: “I am like a huge old baobab, with the only difference being that I will be surrounded until my death by impudent underbrush that grows on my roots, feeding on my life forces”.