The best is the enemy of the good: why the Kazan submarine is sent for revision

The best is the enemy of the good: why the Kazan submarine is sent for revision
The best is the enemy of the good: why the Kazan submarine is sent for revision
5 March 2021, 09:58Army
According to one version, the Russian military had an idea to equip the new boats with long-range Kalibr-M cruise missiles.

Victor Kuzovkov

Surprisingly, the deadline for the transfer of the Kazan nuclear submarine belonging to the improved Yasen-M project to the fleet has been postponed again. Again, because initially it was supposed to become part of the fleet back in 2019, but then, after a series of tests, it was sent to the Sevmash plant, where it was originally built, to eliminate the imperfections. The reason was the inconsistency of a number of auxiliary units and assemblies with the technical specifications. That is, to call a spade a spade, the shipbuilders tried to "cheat" a little, hoping that the desire of the military to report on the receipt of a new ship would outweigh the admissions committee's adherence to principle.

As a result, the submarine, without revealing specific problems (this, by the way, is a secret to this day), was sent for revision. Initially, it was assumed that it will be completed in 2020, and then the nuclear submarine will be accepted into the fleet. But that was not the case - only in the fall of last year it was announced that Kazan was about to go to trial. And since the tests of such a huge and complex ship dragged on for a long time, this automatically meant the postponement of the delivery date of the ship. And rightly so - information soon appeared that the lead boat of the improved Yasen-M project would be commissioned in February this year.

It would seem that you can already open the champagne. But no, the dates have been postponed again, this time to May-June of this year. Before that, the submarine will make one more exit to the sea, after which all units and mechanisms of the nuclear submarine will be revised. Also, a source in the defense industry complex said a very interesting thing: according to him, "the program of launches of the Kalibr and Onyx cruise missiles has been completed by the Kazan nuclear submarine, no other launches are planned." And this is a very interesting statement, since many experts expected that the Kazan nuclear submarine would become the carrier of the Zircon anti-ship missile, and the delays in its commissioning were related precisely to the attempt to “make friends” this boat with the latest hypersonic anti-ship missile. But now it turns out that there are no plans to launch the Zircon anti-ship missile system from Kazan. Is this a disclaimer? Or a factual confirmation that the Zircons will not become the standard armament of the Yasen-M submarines?

The latter option initially looks rather controversial. The fact is that the weight and size characteristics of the Zircon hypersonic anti-ship missile system allow them to be launched from the same launchers that are used to launch the Kalibr missile launcher. That is, it is not so difficult to make friends with a new rocket with existing and promising carriers. Moreover, the Severodvinsk nuclear submarine, which belongs to the Yasen project, which is basic for Kazan, and has, in fact, the same launchers, is already officially participating in the state tests of the Zircon anti-ship missile system. By the end of this year, it should conduct a series of firing both on the surface and underwater, in particular, to confirm the possibility of using new missiles from the standard launchers for this project. That is, it seems that our worries are in vain - if the above tests are successful, the Zircon hypersonic anti-ship missiles can be safely deployed on all Yasen and Yasen-M boats.

By the way, the differences between the submarines of the two mentioned projects are very interesting. According to available information, the modernized nuclear submarine 08851 (885M, code "Yasen-M") became almost ten meters shorter, received a more powerful aft plumage, as well as a new sonar station. It is also claimed that the new submarines have become even quieter. Additional launchers for anti-torpedoes appeared, but the number of main torpedo tubes decreased from 10 to 8. But the number of vertical launchers for missiles increased by exactly the same figure - from 8 to 10.

Each launcher has 4 Onyx or Zircon anti-ship missiles, or 5 Caliber cruise missiles. Therefore, an increase in the number of launchers is fully justified - this is an additional ten cruise missiles, or eight anti-ship missiles. And it seems that everything in the Kazan design is well thought out and fully justified. But then it is completely incomprehensible, where did the technical problems come from that do not allow the already long-suffering nuclear submarine to be accepted into the fleet?

One of the versions that can be seriously considered is the desire of the military to equip the new boats with long-range Caliber-M cruise missiles. According to the available information, this CD will be significantly larger and heavier than the base model. So, for example, only the weight of the warhead will increase from 500 kg to 1 ton. At the same time, the range should grow from 2,000 kilometers to 4,500 kilometers. How this will affect the size, we can only judge presumably, but it is possible that new missiles will require new or upgraded launchers. True, it is also possible to simply reduce the number of missiles in the launcher, to four or even three pieces. But even in this case, some work will still have to be done.

If so, the reasons for the delay in the final acceptance of the Kazan nuclear submarine are becoming clear. In general, this is very much in the spirit of the Soviet and then the Russian Navy. For a long time we have had this problem, when a ship is being built according to one project, and is being built quite quickly, but then the military comes up with something to improve, put new weapons, electronics on the ship, and so on. And since these weapons or electronics were often still only in the project or barely out for testing, the delivery of the ship was delayed and depended not on the efficiency of shipbuilders, but on the success or failure of testing new systems. As a result, the ships of the Soviet Navy often stood on the stocks for years, and then spent several more years at the outfitting wall, waiting for the latest "super-duper" missiles or electronic filling to pass all stages of tests and approvals.

The described situation is very similar to the one we observe with Kazan. The fact is that most of the technologies used to create this submarine were previously tested at the Severodvinsk nuclear submarine. That is, the creation of a new boat, even a modernized one, should not have become such an insoluble technological task for Sevmash. And if so, it seems quite correct to assume that the main stumbling block was the desire to make some improvements to the project right during construction. And this, as we know, rarely goes away painlessly.

It is difficult to say if this is the right approach. More precisely, it is almost certainly possible to say that this approach is terrible at a long distance - the deadlines for the delivery of ships, the deadlines for laying new ones are disrupted, the construction or completion of the series is often disrupted, in particular, due to the catastrophic rise in the cost of construction. In this regard, I would like to recall the experience of the Americans, who almost never suffer from this kind. Moreover, their new aircraft carrier, Gerald R. Ford, was accepted into the fleet, despite significant shortcomings and identified shortcomings. It's just that the command decided that they were not critical for the survivability of the ship, but with its main function, namely the launch and acceptance of aircraft, it copes in its current state. And voila - the ship is in service, imperfections are being corrected, design flaws are being corrected on the next ships of the series. Perfect option? It's hard to say until not a single anti-ship missile hit the side of this aircraft carrier. But it looks very rational ...

However, one should nevertheless agree that sometimes such an approach can be justified. For example, if it is planned to build a large enough series of ships, it seems reasonable to suffer a little longer with the lead ship of the project, but get the most efficient ships at once. The Yasen-M nuclear submarine is still planned to be built 8 units - a fairly large series for today's Russia. In addition, the Novosibirsk nuclear submarine of the same project, built later than Kazan, does not seem to have such problems - that is, the torment of the lead boat was not in vain and the following ships immediately surrender in a more combat-ready form. In any case, we have the prerequisites to think that way.

So far, there is no talk about moving "to the right" and the general terms of construction of the entire series of nuclear submarines "Yasen-M". That is, despite the difficulties, there is still progress, and quite confident.

Still, the nuclear submarine "Kazan" is a bit of a pity. We and "Severodvinsk" are still in "trial operation", that is, formally, it cannot even be called a full-fledged combat ship, since it is difficult to be both a combat ship and a test bench, agree? A similar fate, probably, can befall the first boat of the modernized project "Yasen-M" - it is difficult to say how successful all the experiments carried out on the ship were, and how this will affect its combat capabilities...

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