Monday, August 24, 2009

Russian navy plans to acquire new classes of surface ships

The Russian navy plans to boost rearmament efforts by acquiring new classes of surface ships. The service is due to receive more than 40% of the defense budget this year, according to government officials, though most of the money will be spent on nuclear submarines.

At the International Maritime Defense Show (IMDS) here, June 24-28, navy commander Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky said the service is increasing the construction of new classes of warships. The first results of these efforts will be seen at the next IMDS in 2011.

Some signs of rearmament were on display at the show. In St. Petersburg harbor, the navy exhibited its first Stereguschiy-class corvette, which entered service in February 2008. Another ship on display was the new Project 11540 Yaroslav Mudry frigate that entered service on June 19. The 125-meter-long (410-ft.) ship has a full-load displacement of 4,000 tons, top speed of 30 kt., a 3,000-mi. range and endurance of 30 days.

The navy already operates one ship of the class, the Neustrashymy, that was acquired in 1993. Last winter it participated in an antipiracy mission in the Gulf of Aden. The keel of the Yaroslav Mudry was laid down in Kaliningrad in 1991, but three years later, when the ship was 75% finished, construction was suspended due to a lack of funds. Work resumed in 2002 on an upgraded version of the ship. Yakov Kushnir, chief designer of surface ships at the Zelenodolsk design bureau, told DTI that the frigate has more advanced electronic systems than the older Neustrashymy frigate, including satellite TV communication. The Yaroslav Mudry also was equipped with additional armament—two four-tube launchers for the Uran antiship missile system that uses Kh-35 missiles with a maximum range of 130 km. (80 mi.).

The Yaroslav Mudry is likely to be the last ship of the series. “We will not continue construction of this class,” says Vysotsky. Building ships based on older designs is not worth the money, since the Yaroslav Mudry will stay in service for only 10-15 years. The navy will instead rely on new types such as the Project 22350 frigates. The first such ship—Admiral Gorshkov—has been under construction at the northern shipyard in St. Petersburg since 2006. The service life of the new ships will be 25-45 years, says Vysotsky, who adds that the keel of another frigate will be laid this year.

Russian defense contractors showed a range of surface ships and submarine concepts at the show that they are offering to the navy and for export.

One model displayed by the Malakhit design bureau of St. Petersburg calls for a submarine with an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system—a first for the Russian defense industry. The 870-ton P-650E, the largest member of the Piranha family of small diesel-electric submarines, has a section with a fuel cell module (see diagram). It mixes oxygen from an inner tank and hydrogen from a tank outside the sub’s inner hull to generate electricity for propulsion. Malakhit designed and tested an AIP system in the 1990s, but work was suspended due to a lack of funding. The AIP system can reportedly provide half the vessel’s submerged endurance of 20 days at 4 kt.

The P-650, like other submarines in the family, is for littoral operations. Due to a high degree of automation, it needs only nine crewmen. The sub is armed with torpedoes and mines, and can launch Club antiship missiles through its torpedo tubes. It is also able to insert combat swimming teams.


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