His ships

Radiy Shmakov
leading specialists in design history

Designs, drafted by Georgy Shmakov, an outstanding chief designer of St. Petersburg’s Marine Design Bureau “Malachite”, paved the way for 60-plus 2nd and 3rd generation nuclear submarines, which provided military parity of our country during the Cold War and continue doing it today

Georgy N. Chernishev was a man of a very original personality. He possessed outstanding skills of a leader, expertise and experience, fantastic addiction to work, which earned him a well-deserved authority in his professional community.

Factory’s school

Georgy Chernishev was born in Ukraine’s Nikolayev on August 23, 1919 to a family of workers. He started working at the age of 15, first at a factory school and then Nikolaev Shipyard. Soon after he joined the Nikolayev Shipbuilding Institute, a war broke out. Having been enlisted, Chernishev resumed his training later in Przhevalsk, where the institute had been evacuated. Upon graduating, he was assigned to the TsKB-18 Central Design Bureau (today known as the Rubin Design Bureau), headquartered in Nizhny Novgorod at the time. Having arrived there as a designer, 1st category, sometime into his fledgling career he was promoted to a senior designer. In 1947, Chernishev was picked to join the Alexey Antipin-led group of specialists, deployed in German Blankenburg. The task was to rebuild a special power plant, designed by Helmut Walter, a German engineer. German shipbuilders used it in construction of their 26th series submarines.

In May 1948, after accumulating all materials for rebuilding the combined cycle turbine plant, Chernishev received orders to just reestablished Design Bureau No. 143 (today known as Malachite). He arrived in time to take part in all design and construction phases, as well as dockside trials of the Project 617 submarine, developed at the facility.

Nuclear breakthrough

In September 1952, as a member of only a handful of specialists at SKB-143, led by Vladimir Peregudov and mentored by Academician Anatoly Alexandrov of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Chernishev mounted an effort to develop the first Soviet nuclear submarine. These eventually came to fruition. They managed to prove that it was plausible to create a submarine powered by the first transport-grade, water-steam nuclear plant. Nikolay Dollezhal, a corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences, was named the chief designer. Georgy Chernishev proved himself to be an outstanding professional during the projects.

In April 1953, the USSR Council of Ministers made a decision to go ahead with the development of a conceptual design of the first Soviet nuclear submarine of Project 627, later christened Leninsky Komsomol. Since then and through 1956, Chernishev worked as deputy head of the main nuclear propulsion plant section of newly established SKB-143. Creativity, broad outlook, and permanent desire to look for non-standard solutions were instrumental in designing new nuclear submarines.

November 1956 saw Chernishev deputy chief designer, assisting Vitaly Funikov in Project 639, a submarine carrying R-15 long-range missiles (chief designer Michael Yangel). Two years before this, the engineer had finished a conceptual design, boasting a range of solutions, crucial in submarine building, which would later be integrated into competitive designs of 2nd generation nuclear submarines.

Multipurpose submarine

Given its area of expertise, SKB-143 was tasked to design the Project 671 ASW submarine. Chernishev was named the chief designer. The lead boat was commissioned in November 1967. There is no way to overestimate the impact of this event on the Soviet submarine building. Having gone for an absolutely new architectural solution boasting an axially symmetric shape, the team achieved the best propulsion to length qualities. Her rather developed stern-mounted cross fins provided stability at a record speed of around 34kt. At the same time the submarine maintained a remarkable agility.

The submarine’s shape called for specific solutions, namely adoption of a large diameter pressure hull, deployment of sonar and torpedo systems in the bow, which had already become a standard approach, as well as installation of a single-shaft main turbo gear unit complete with an autonomous turbogenerator in one compartment. Instrumental in achieving high performance was a tough competition for lower displacement. Later on, this came in handy for development of modifications of the design at inland facilities of the country.

Started as an ASW submarine, she evolved into a multi-purpose platform. As she was still in construction, Russia developed missile systems, suitable for launching from torpedo tubes, namely Vyuga, Vodopad, Shkvak, Granat, and Kalibr.

This project earned Chernishev the title of the Hero of the Socialist Labor.

Progressive solutions and resulting high performance laid a solid groundwork for the construction of several modifications. Five years later, the Navy received the lead ship of Project 671RT, boasting enhanced torpedo weapons, advanced long-range torpedoes, 650mm Veter and T-65 missiles, modular design of the steam-turbine plant and lower noise signature. This job won Chernishev the USSR State Prize.

Meanwhile, the designer continued independent efforts to improve the baseline model. These led to the Project 671RTM lead ship, commissioned in 1977. She received cutting-edge redioelectronics, Skat-S sonar equipment, Medveditsa navigation equipment, and Omnibus tactical data system. Moreover, the team further reduced the noise signature. The project took advantage of just developed nonacoustic systems and precision weapons, suitable for attacks on targets in the potential enemy’s territory.

So outstanding were the characteristics of the Shchuka (Russian for pike), as the project later was dubbed, that the go-ahead was granted later to build a large class of 26 submarines, with two facilities sharing the workload, St. Petersburg’s Admiralty Shipyard and Komsomolsk-on-Amur’s Leninsky Komsomol. The final boat bringing up the rear of the class was commissioned in 1992. For this endeavor, Chernishev was awarded the Order of Lenin. The Project 671/671RT/671RTM submarines, totaling 48 pieces, proved to be true “working horses,” always returning to their home ports, reliable boats of their time.

Third generation

In 1974, Chernishev was dual-hatted as the head and chief designer of the Malachite design bureau, combining the staffs of SKB-143 and TsKB16, a.k.a. Volna Central Design Bureau. Chernishev deserves the credit for the impeccably executed merger, leaving offended no one on both teams and granting promotions based on merits to those, demonstrating remarkable skills and expertise.

Organizational difficulties triggered by this notwithstanding, the facility continued researches in an attempt to develop a third-generation submarine. The year 1976 saw the presentation of an abbreviated conceptual design, dubbed Project 971. The lead submarine passed all required tests and was commissioned in 1984. In the same year, Chernishev was named the chief designer of the new project.

The job to build Project 971 submarines was assigned to two shipyards in Komsomolk-on-Amur and Severodvinsk.

Having been relieved from his obligations as the chief designer of Projects 671, 671RT and 671RTM, Georgy Chernishev focused on the development of the Project 971 class of submarines.

As for the other three projects, the Ministry of Shipbuilding Industry unloaded them on Radiy Shmakov in 1984.

Projects 971 and 671 are special milestones in Chernishev’s biography. The new research again resulted in a baseline model of a multipurpose nuclear submarine, boasting balanced characteristics and built-in modernization margin. However, what really matters in the design is its extremely low noise signature and deployment of an advanced sonar suite.

Chernishev was adamant in achieving parity with the U.S. in the capability to detect submarines. Only Project 971 presented him with an opportunity to reach the goal in a concerted effort with contractors, research institutions and his own staff. It was an enormous endeavor, which saw integration of multiple proposals of researches and customers, as well as implementation of non-standard technical solutions. Going through her trials, the lead ship proved her superiority to the Los Angeles class. This put an end to our long fight to bridge the gap in such an important characteristic of submarines as stealthiness. In this respect, there is no ways to overestimate Georgy Chernishev’s contribution to this solution of state magnitude. For this job Chernishev was awarded the State Prize of the Russian Federation.

Audacity and responsibility

The success of turning torpedo-armed submarines into torpedo- and missile-armed multipurpose superperformance platforms was shaped by Chernishev’s personal qualities to a great extent. First and foremost, it is the burden of responsibility that the chief designer had to shoulder every time he made a decision in his project. It would not be out of place to note his talent, multiplied by his hardworking personality, sense of responsibility, as well as the capacity to analyze thoughtfully and meticulously multiple options and pick only the right ones. Similar to the conductor of a large orchestra, composed of a variety of musical instruments, who brings harmony and richness of sounds, Chernishev created pieces of his own – streamlined, gorgeous and elegant submarines. He was extremely tolerant to opponents and possessed a sense of humor. Over the 45 years of his work, Chernishev often found himself in situations, when he had to prove himself right, argue, insist and persuade. Thought, it was not a rare occasion when he got what he needed. He had this everlasting desire to boost the effectiveness of submarines not only at the designing phase but during the construction as well. That is what happened to torpedo and missile weapons, sonar and non-acoustic equipment. Borne out of pure initiative of the chief designer, Projects 671RTM and 971 came totally unplanned. Solutions were audacious, but not a single error emerged. A wise and conscientious man, Chernishev understood that the Navy needed not only effective, but reliable submarines as well. He respected submariners, appreciated their expertise, referred to their knowledge, and was always attentive to suggestions of the Navy.

Georgy Chernishev died in 1997. He rests in Volokovskoye Cemetery, St. Petersburg. In his memory, a memorial plaque was unveiled on the facade of Malachite’s building. His name was given to a physical field measuring vessel of the Russian Northern Fleet and a stand was put up in the design bureau, speaking volumes about his endeavors.