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Soviet and Russian Submarines - Generations

The Soviet and Russian nuclear submarines are divided into four generations according to their construction and combat capabilities. The most characteristic features of the first generation submarines (projects 627, 645, 658, 659, 675) are two shaft two reactors energy generator. The benefits of this construction are the high speed and reliability of energy system due to doubling of all systems. The handicap of the first generation submarines - high level of noise and fire hazard caused by the usage of chemical means for carbon-dioxide absorption. When the Project 667A/Yankee SSBNs went to sea in the late 1960s, the Soviet Navy was given another high-priority mission: Strategic (nuclear) strike against the United States and the protection of its own missile submarines by naval forces. But the Soviet Submarines were inferior to American ones in effectiveness of their missile armament.

The second generation of nuclear submarines (projects 667, 670, 671, 705) became a serious step forward. Since their building, the Soviet submarine building industry occupied the leading position in the world both in qualitative (especially in the areas of usage of titanium technologies, liquid metals heat carriers and automation on the submarines of project 705) and quantitative aspects (during the 70s the USSR built three times more submarines than the USA). But still, the Soviet submarines emitted more noise than the American ones.

The nuclear submarines of the third generation (projects 945, 685, 949, 971) were characterized the increased depth of dive and decrease of noise levels. The unique strategic missiles carriers of project 941, the largest submarines in the world, also belong to this generation.

At present, Russia is building the submarines of the fourth generation (projects 885, 955). In their characteristics, including noise levels, they go at par the most modern foreign analogs. But due to unsatisfactory financing, the possibility of their quick completion is rather distant.

Russia is planning to develop its fifth-generation submarine by 2020 under a 2011-2020 arms procurement program, to be armed with both ballistic and cruise missiles. The distinguishing feature of Russias newest, fifth-generation submarines will be stealth rather than higher speed or greater depth capabilities, Vladimir Dorofeyev, head of the Malakhit Design Bureau, said on 19 March 2013. It is quite possible that new technological solutions will appear to protect submarines from detection, he said in an interview with RIA Novosti. The fifth-generation submarine will acquire new capabilities through close interaction with other components of the Armed Forces, including surface warships, warplanes, spacecraft, satellites, as well as other submarines, based on an integrated information space, he said.

He added, however, that the incorporation of submarines, alongside surface warships and warplanes, into a single communications system is at odds with the idea of a stealth vessel, insofar as the sheer exchange of information is a telltale sign.

But that is a field that requires serious scientific-technical research, Dorofeyev said. Rubin Central Design Bureau head Igor Vilnit said on Monday work is in progress on fifth-generation nuclear-powered and diesel submarines. The new submarine will have a service life of about 50 years, he said. The fifth generation will be distinguished by its lowered noise, automated control systems, reactor safety, and long-range weapons.

Russias fifth-generation strategic and attack submarines will most likely be non-nuclear-powered, more compact and less visible, a senior designer at the Rubin design bureau said 11 November 2013 Monday in an exclusive interview with RIA Novosti. Large nuclear-powered vessels, including Russias Typhoon-class strategic boats, have so far dominated past and current trends in combat submarine construction. I believe future submarines will be smaller, because of the use of more advanced technologies as well as the pursuit of more cost-effective production, Sergei Sukhanov said.

The fifth-generation boat will also be less visible compared with existing submarines. They could also feature a new power plant, including fully electric, Sukhanov said, adding that changes could affect other sub-systems of future submarines. The designer said the most likely substitution for a nuclear reactor on strategic and attack submarines would be an air-independent propulsion plant (AIPP), which would make them stealthier than nuclear-powered boats. The AIPP allows a non-nuclear submarine to operate without the need to access atmospheric oxygen.

While a nuclear submarines reactor must constantly pump coolant, generating some amount of detectable noise, non-nuclear boats running on battery power or AIPP can be practically silent. The endurance of submarines with this type of propulsion should be sufficient [for patrol or strike missions] for a month or even more, Sukhanov said. He said the construction of fifth-generation submarines in Russia could start in the next 10 to 15 years. The Russian Navy relied on third-generation submarines, with fourth-generation subs of the Project 955 Borey class of strategic boats and Project 885 Yasen class of attack boats just beginning to be adopted for service.

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