In addition to the series of submarines being developed in the USSR as part of the design of the 4th generation nuclear submarine, there was also the Malachite SPMBM project, the results of which could well be attributed to this generation, although it had its origins in the mid-late 1960s, i.e. earlier than many other developments. This is the project 958 submarine sonar watch and lighting underwater environment (GAD OPO) under the code Afalina ["Bottlenose dolphin"].
Russia and its Navy do not have underwater tracking systems (FOSS) to the entire depth of the operational zones of the fleets and along the entire perimeter of Russia's maritime borders, which is the largest scientific and strategic miscalculation made more than half a century ago and not yet resolved, despite to the decree of the President of the Russian Federation of March 4, 2000 on the creation of the Unified State System for Illumination of Surface and Underwater Conditions (EGSONPO). Unlike Russia, the United States, raising this problem to the rank of strategic, solved it back in the 1960–80s of the last century, creating a stationary underwater surveillance system “SOSUS”, which in the following years was increased by long-range sonar vessels, continuing to develop it at the present time.
The development of the legendary Soviet project 958 "Bottlenose Dolphin" - an underwater analogue of the AWACS aircraft, designed for information support and target designation of naval groups and strike submarines of the Navy. Project. 958 "Bottlenose dolphin" from the SPMBM "Malachite" was never implemented in practice, but became the starting point for Project 945 (multi-purpose submarine with a titanium hull) and Project 971 "Schuka-B", which became the main type of Russian 3rd generation multipurpose submarines.
Sound propagates in water almost 5 times faster than in air, and the damping of sound vibrations occurs tens of times slower. The noise of ship propellers and the clanging of anti-submarine helicopter blades, barrage at low altitude above the water, can spread over many hundreds of kilometers. And if so, it is worth creating a special boat, a “hearing aid”, that will slowly creep in the depths, collecting and analyzing the sounds of the ocean.
At that time, in the Soviet Union, a series of scientific research projects was carried out within the framework of the “Needle” theme, the main purpose of which was to disrupt a nuclear missile strike on the territory of the country from the sea, for which it was planned to develop two types of deep-sea small-sized fighter boats. The first type - project 693 was designed to find and destroy the enemy SSBNs independently or in a group without special target designation. The second type - project 657 was aimed at the flagships discovered by SSBNs, which provided external target designation for nuclear submarines of other projects. Such a flagship should have become specialized underwater carriers of heavy-duty sonar equipment, the development of which was carried out under the theme of "Bottlenose Dolphin".
It is worth noting that the development of the 958 project was also associated with the appearance of boats of the 971 project, which was initially held in the design bureau as an abridged outline version of the Bottlenose Dolphin, but was actually a pre-draft project for the new submarine, until it was deployed in 1976 independent work on the topic "Pike-B".
In the process of working on this new project, the concept of its application radically changed, caused by the appearance in the United States in the early 1970s of the Ohio-class SSBNs armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles. This allowed the United States to move the combat patrol areas of its boats closer to its territorial waters and cover them with powerful anti-submarine defense forces. This Soviet view of American SSBN patrol practices mirrored Soviet bastion patrols in near waters [whether this reflected actual American practices is a different question. The culmination of the development of such a concept was the commissioning of the United States Navy of Ohio-type boats in 1981.
The Soviets believed the combat patrol areas of these SSBNs in the Atlantic Ocean were in the Bermuda region and in the Sargasso Sea. Thus, the need for submarine interceptors and nuclear submarines flagships patrolling in the Arctic and their near territorial waters in the Barents Sea had almost disappeared. However, project 958 was not closed, moreover, in relation to it, new requirements were set that extremely dragged out its development and did not allow completing the project even at the time of the collapse of the USSR. Given this, "Bottlenose dolphin" smoothly "flowed" from the 3rd generation of nuclear submarines to the 4th.
In the latest version of the tactical and technical assignment for project 958, the boat was conceived with illuminating the underwater situation in the marine and oceanic areas of the possible launching positions of enemy missile submarines in the area of ??its complete superiority in order to detect SSBNs at long ranges, track them, classify and transmit information about the detected goals, as well as their destruction. The tactical and technical elements were specially selected based on the advantage in the range of possible mutual detection over SSBNs of the Ohio type and multipurpose submarines of the Los Angeles Improved type. Such tactics of warfare in ultra-long water areas can be compared with the tactics of penetrating the "bastions" of the Navy of the USSR, implemented later in the submarine type "Sea Wolf".
To solve the main problems, Project 958 provided for the Irtysh State Joint-Stock Company in the most powerful configuration with the Amphora spherical antenna and a series of extended onboard sonar antennas with a total area of ??several tens of square meters, which was not planned then on any of the Soviet or foreign nuclear submarine projects. For reference, a similar level of coverage of the hull with conformal hydro-acoustic antennas was achieved only in the 2000s on British boats of the “Astute” type. The dimensions of the sonar complex led to a significant lengthening of the bow of the boat. At the same time, nasal horizontal rudders were placed on the fence of retractable devices, and six torpedo tubes of 533 mm caliber were located at an angle to the diametrical plane of the hull in its central part. The rest of the appearance of the 958 project corresponded to other Soviet 4th generation boats and had many similarities with the project 885 of the same design bureau in terms of tail feathering, “limousine” type cabin with a pop-up rescue chamber, etc. In addition to the main nasal antennas of the SJSC “Irtysh-Amphora”, several smaller cross-shaped antennas were located in the bow of the hull, as well as on the upper and lower surfaces. A few more antennas were dispersed in the middle and aft parts of the hull and also on the upper and lower surfaces were several smaller cross-shaped antennas.
On-board electronic equipment was supposed to include the Zona direction finder, the Synthesis space navigation system, Radian radar and many other systems.
All the achievements of the Malachite SPMSBM had been incorporated into the project in terms of a significant reduction in underwater noise and the level of interference with the operation of its own HAC, carried out for submarines of projects 991, 696, 971 and others. Nevertheless, as mentioned above, the development of the project was hindered by the cessation of the existence of the Soviet Union. In addition, the implementation of the Bottlenose Dolphin in the metal would most likely require gigantic financial investments in the conversion of the military-industrial complex, which illustrates the history of the creation and construction of the “Sea Wolf” submarine in the USA with a similar application concept. Otherwise, it would be impossible to ensure a high probability of survival in the face of strong opposition from the enemy’s PLO, and the boats themselves would become virtually disposable.
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