consultant of the Department of the Underwater Shipbuilding History, Rubin Design Bureau
The history of submarine building in Russia dates back to the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Following the report by Chief Inspector of Shipbuilding Nikolai Kuteynikov on the results of his foreign trip, the Russian Maritime Department decided to design a domestic semi-submerged destroyer. To this end, specialists with professional education and experience were invited: Chief Assistant Shipbuilder at the Russian Admiralty Ivan Bubnov, senior mechanical engineer Ivan Goryunov and Lieutenant Mikhail Beklemishev. The Submarine Construction Commission that they set up became the first professional organization in Russia engaged in submarine design and construction. In July 1901, the project of destroyer No. 113 was developed and approved, and the Baltic Plant in St. Petersburg was given an order to build it. Construction and trials were completed in October 1903. In 1904, the destroyer was given the name Delfin (Dolphin) and in 1906 it joined the Russian Navy, becoming the first in-service domestic submarine.
The first-born was followed by the submarines Kasatka, Minoga, Akula, Morzh and Bars, built to Ivan Bubnov’s designs. The Russian design school grew and gained experience. In 1909, the Construction Commission at the Baltic Plant was transformed into the Underwater Navigation Department (Podpla Department). Because of the distinctive architectural features, the design of the first Russian submarines became internationally known as «the Russian type», thus recognizing the identity of the domestic design school.
In addition to the Podpla Department, design departments at the Izhor, Metal, Putilov and Nevsky Plants were engaged in designing submarines in Russia in the first decades of the century. All projects were considered by the Russian Maritime Ministry on a competitive basis, and the winners received orders for construction. Subpla department’s projects were considered the best: of 34 submarines built to domestic projects, 32 were proposed by Ivan Bubnov, and the other two by Mikhail Naletov (Krab) and Stepan Dzhevetsky (Pochtovy).
The revolution of 1917 and the Civil War 1918-1921 led to a forced interruption in shipbuilding and, as a result, to the loss of experienced, qualified specialists. Domestic submarine industry was set back in its development by a decade. Almost everything had to start over again. In 1926, a program was adopted, which provided for also the construction of submarines for the Soviet Navy. A bureau for the design and construction of submarines (Technical Bureau No. 4) was set up at the Baltic Plant. It was headed by Boris Malinin, who had worked since 1914 in the Podpla technical bureau as a design engineer involved in the construction of the Bars-type submarines.
In his autobiography Malinin wrote: «The period between November 1926 and June 1930 was the most tense and difficult in all my activities. We had to simultaneously solve three tasks that were closely linked to each other: to develop drawings and build boats, the type of which was unknown until then; to create a theory of the submarine, which we also did not have in the country, and immediately put it into practice; to train submariner designers in the design process, since by the time the Design and Construction Bureau was formed there were only 7 people, including myself.»
The Dekabrist-class (Series I) submarine was developed and put into construction in late 1926. Leninets-class (Series II) and Shchuka-class (Series III) submarines were also developed under Malinin supervision. These designs were improved during series construction and became the mainstay for a number of series of submarines.
The decade of the 1930s – 1940s was a period of rapid development of the Russian submarine design school and production capabilities. A total of 206 submarines of various classes and purposes were built to 19 projects developed by TsKB-18 (that name was assigned to the single submarine design bureau in the USSR at that time after several transformations and renaming in 1937) and commissioned into the Soviet Navy.
During the Great Patriotic War, TsKB-18’s activities were focused on providing assistance to submarine squadrons, studying the experience of submariners’ combat operations, performing research and development work to improve the combat and operational characteristics of existing submarines. Much attention was paid to lessons learned from the design activities in the pre-war period – a lot of work was done to compile the Submarine Designer’s Handbook, which was used both in the design practice and in the preparation of a course of lectures for students.
TsKB-18’s activities were highly appreciated by the State. In 1944, the bureau was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor. Its designers received State prizes, orders and medals.
The front-line soldiers who returned to peaceful life completed the education interrupted by the war. TsKB-18’s team was joined by young specialists who graduated from universities. The bureau started designing new submarines, drawing on the combat experience of submariners and the study of foreign practice. Project 613 medium submarine (chief designer Vladimir Peregudov) and Project 611 large submarine (chief designer Sergey Yegorov) were the first to appear after the war.
In 1956, TsKB-18 began developing nuclear submarine projects – Project 658 with ballistic missiles and Project 659 with cruise missiles.
Nuclear power has revolutionized submarine building. Submarines have become really underwater ships, staying submerged within their endurance limit and having unlimited range of navigation, rather than diving ones. The opportunities that nuclear energy has opened up for designers have questioned the further construction and development of diesel-electric (SSK) submarines. Largely due to the well-reasoned position of TsKB-18’s management, the development of non-nuclear submarines in the domestic submarine industry did not stop. Along with nuclear submarines, diesel-electric submarines were also developed and were highly appreciated for their performance. Projects 641, 877, 636 SSKs and their versions have proven themselves in service with the Russian Navy. They have also become an important export component in the field of international military-technical cooperation and joined navies of 16 countries.
Nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) became the most important component of the strategic forces during the military-political confrontation between the USSR and the United States, which came shortly after the end of World War II. Three generations of SSBNs, developed by the Rubin Design Bureau under the supervision of General Designer Academician Sergey Kovalev, ensured and maintained strategic parity.
Rubin-designed nuclear cruise missile submarines (SSGNs), capable of striking shore and sea targets, have become the primary weapon against large surface action groups. In the 1960s, Project 659 (chief designers Pavel Pustyntsev and Nikolai Klimov) and Project 675 (chief designer Pavel Pustyntsev) nuclear guided missile submarines were built. Projects 949 and 949A SSGNs (chief designers Pavel Pustyntsev and Igor Baranov) were commissioned into the Soviet Navy in 1980.
Along with the nuclear missile submarines, the Project 685 deep-diving nuclear submarine (chief designers Nikolai Klimov and Yuri Kormilitsin) was developed at Rubin Design Bureau.
In the 1990s, Rubin’s management made efforts that helped the company not only to retain qualified specialists, but also diversify production. A number of conversion projects were carried out, including those not related to submarine building. This significantly expanded the scope of activity of the highly specialized design bureau. CDB ME Rubin has turned into a modern diversified company.
Rubin started developing marine robotic systems. For the first time in Russia, an integrated deepwater system with an autonomous unmanned underwater vehicle, capable of diving to the maximum depths of the world’s oceans, has been developed. Yet, the implementation of state defense order remains a priority for the bureau. Series construction of fourth-generation nuclear and non-nuclear submarines to its designs is underway.
The first Russian submarine Delfin joined the Russian Navy in 1906
CEO Rubin Design Bureau
– 120 years is not so much in the scale of Russian history, but it’s a whole era for domestic submarine building. The first professional organization in Russia for submarine design and construction, now called the Rubin Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering, has gone a long way from the first Russian combat submarine Delfin to nuclear ballistic missile submarines.
Over 85% of 1,100+ submarines that were part of the Russian Navy in different years have been built to projects developed by our design bureau: all submarines that took part in the First World War and the Great Patriotic War, four generations of SSBNs and SSKs, several series of SSGNs. The Rubin-developed Project 685 Komsomolets nuclear submarine has set an unsurpassed world diving depth record for combatant submarines.
These achievements would not have been possible without our partners, first of all, the Sevmash Production Association, the Admiralty Shipyard, the Zvyozdochka Shipbuilding and Ship Repair Center, the Amur Shipbuilding Plant, the Krasnoe Sormovo Plant, and a number of others.
Rubin is the only Russian design bureau awarded four orders and the merits of our team were honored with commendations of the President of the Russian Federation. The personal merits of our specialists were awarded the Lenin Prizes of the USSR, the State Prizes of the USSR and the Russian Federation, awards of the Government of the Russian Federation, high state decorations.
We support the construction and trials of marine equipment built to our projects, ensure the life cycle of in-service submarines, lay the groundwork to ensure the timely development of next-generation equipment. This work is carried out for strengthening both Russia’s defense capacity and our country’s position in the external naval shipbuilding market.
Two significant events occurred for our entire corporation in 2020: the lead nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) Knyaz Vladimir joined the Navy and the diesel-electric attack submarine (SSK) St. Petersburg successfully completed trial operation. In the same year, Rubin, together with the Foundation for Advanced Research, developed an autonomous unmanned underwater vehicle for ultra-deep diving. On May 9, 2020, the Vityaz vehicle successfully dived to the bottom the Mariana Trench, the deepest point of the world’s oceans. The success of the Vityaz’s record-breaking dive clearly demonstrated the capabilities of modern marine robotics. Rubin’s goal is to expand its product lineup, contributing to Russia’s technological independence in this segment.
Much has been achieved jointly with USC enterprises. I’m sure that our expertise and experience in addressing the most challenging engineering problems will be the key to further sustainable development and successful work.
Rubin conversion projects
Development of offshore ice-resistant structures for offshore oil and gas production;
railway rolling stock: the Sokol high-speed electric train was developed in 2000 in cooperation with defense enterprises located in the North-Western region of the Russian Federation and the RF Ministry of Railways’ institutes, a new type tram car was also designed;
development of environmental protection equipment;
power generation equipment: engineering studies on nuclear power station options based on marine nuclear power plants as well as on a floating power unit, the main component of a new-generation floating nuclear power station, were carried out;
sea recreation facilities: the first Russian recreational submarines Neptun and Sadko were built;
participation in the Sea Launch international project – development of a floating spaceport;
participation in the development of the floating gate system of the St. Petersburg flood prevention facility complex;
- research and development work as a prime contractor under the FTP «Civil Marine Engineering Development».