July 25, 2017

Russia's Haphazard Husky Program of 3 Submarine Types

Russia's submarine programs continue to be haphazard with Husky the latest envisaged.


Dave Majumdar for National Interest has written a fine article How Russia's New Husky-Class Submarines Borrow from the U.S. Navy's Playbook


Unfortunately for Russia it did not emulate America's successful strategy of evolutionary scheduling and longer build runs. Russia seems to be maintaining its inefficient and expensive submarine building programs by publicising the 3 submarine program currently codenamed "Husky".

Russia only commissioned the lead Borey/Borei SSBN and Yasen class SSN/SSGN in 2013 - see  here and here respectively. This means the first Husky SSBN, SSN and SSGN might not be commissioned for 30 years, in 2047. Such an early announcement of the Husky concepts may owe more to the hoped for career continuity of submarines design bureaus and junior-middle ranking  designers than timely planning schedules.

Russia is also repeating its build-only-a-few-subs tradition rather than the US and Japanese longer build, gradual evolution approach. Only 8 Boreys (right sidebar) and 6 to 10 (right sidebar) Yasens will be built. Small batches loses economies of scale. 

However, Russia does seem to be following the sound US strategy of placing vertical missile launch plugs onto a SSN concept, in order to create the SSGN concept. The SSBN will involve more extensive changes with a long plug and bigger draught missile compartment hump. This will be needes to accommodate the SSBN's longer (or is that taller) compartment of at least 12.1m for Bulava missiles .

With a 3 type semi-common submarine program might Russia fall into some of the structural and weight problems of the 3 type F-35 program? The F-35s have long lost their cost cutting  commonality "dividends". The F-35s have steadily become dissimilar due to different structure and load requirements (optimistically planned in 3 F-35 variants that would share 80% of their parts. However, by April 2017 the variants were sharing at most 20% common design). May much larger Husky SSBNs have far different stealth characteristics (eg. larger pressure hull dimensions and water flow (hydrodynamic noise) characterisks than the smaller SSNs? 

In the 1980s upscaling a smaller Swedish submarine design for the Collins' design caused marked hydrodynamic noise problems.  

This likely drop in common design percentage may also impact US plans that assume Columbia-class SSBNs can adopt many parts and solutions of the Virginia-class.

Russia could claim it has much shorter production runs than the US because Russia's defence budget is now just about one-ninth that of the US. But one could question the lack of an evolutionary continuous build.

Oh well, what's bad for Russia is probably good for Western democracies (though the Trump clan would disagree).

The commonality cost/efficiency "dividend" of the 3 Huskies is even more ambitious than the 2 class Virginia-Columbia dividend.  The Columbia-class (aka Ohio replacement) SSBN is to carry many of the external and internal characteristics of the Virginia. But the Virginia structure laid down in 1999 may be very different from than engineering solutions desired in 2021, when the first Columbia is due to be laid down.


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