Submarine Kronshtadt

Second Lada-class submarine launched 13 years after keel laying

The submarine Kronshtadt has been launched into water at the United Shipbuilding Corporation (OSK) in Saint Petersburg. The ceremony took place on Thursday 20 September 2018. That reports bmpd. This is a milestone in the construction of the submarine, and it is expected that it will be ready for the Navy in 2020.

Kronshtadt is the second submarine of the Lada-class, but it is the first real production unit. The first ship in the class, Sankt-Peterburg, has functioned as a test platform, and several improvements have been implemented before serial production.

The Lada-class (project 677) has a long and troubled history behind it. The big selling feature of the submarine was supposed to be air-independent propulsion (AIP), but Russia has never managed to make the system work. So the Lada-class has the same engine system as the improved Kilo-class (project 636), but it is smaller and less powerful.

Submarine Kronshtadt
Launching ceremony for Lada-class submarine Kronshtadt. Photo: United Shipbuilding Corporation

The design of the submarine began in the early 1980s at the Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering “Rubin”. The construction of Sankt-Peterburg started in 1997, but 21 years later, it has still not finished sea trials and entered operational service. Sankt-Peterburg was launched in 2004, and in 2005 the keel was laid to Kronshtadt. In 2006, construction of the third boat, Sevastopol, began. However, in 2009 the government scrapped the program, and though Sankt-Peterburg was finished and started sea trials in 2010, the construction of the next two ships was completely halted.

In 2013, Russia decided to resume production of the Lada-class. First, they wrote a contract to finish Kronshtadt, and in 2014 they also restarted construction of the third boat. In the meantime, however, they had reused the name Sevastopol for one of the Mistral-class landing ships that they had ordered from France, so they renamed the submarine to Velikiye Luki.

At the launching ceremony of Kronshtadt, the shipyard director Alexander Buzakov did his best to describe the process in positive terms. The artificial break in production has allowed the shipyard to gain valuable experience from the sea trials with Sankt-Peterburg and implement changes for the next ships. This includes improvements to the electrical propulsion system, navigation systems, and the technical control systems.

The shipyard director also used the opportunity to express that he expects to sign a contract for two more Lada-class submarines next year.

The Lada-class is about 67 meters long and 7 meters wide. The displacement is 1765 tons, and the crew size is 36 persons. The maximum submerged speed is 21 knots. It has six torpedo tubes and a total of 18 torpedoes. It is what the Russians call a fourth generation diesel-electric submarine. It does sport more modern technology than the Kilo-class, especially when it comes to sensors and stealth. It is also built in a way that makes it possible to refit an air-independent engine when at some point the Rubin design bureau makes it work well enough for operational use.

The most recent messages indicate that the air-independent engine will be ready in 2021-22. Whether this is another case of over-promising, only time will tell. Until recently, the optimistic expectation was that Russia could start production of a fifth generation submarine called the Kalina-class already in 2017, and that it would be the platform to introduce AIP in Russia’s diesel-electric submarines. But now it seems clear that the Kalina-class will not be ready soon enough, so the Navy has stated that the Lada-class will again be the first diesel-electric submarine in Russia that doesn’t rely on a snorkel.

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