Malakhit Design Bureau:
Creator of the First Soviet Nuclear Powered Submarine
Moscow VOORUZHENIYE, POLITIKA, KONVERSIYA
No 2 (5), 1994 (signed to press 27 Oct 94) pp 18-21
by Anatoliy Valeryevich Kuteynikov, general designer and chief of Malakhit Design Bureau, corresponding member of St. Petersburg branch of Russian Engineering Academy, State Prize laureate
The Malakhit Design Bureau was created in 1948 for developing submarines with energy sources independent of atmospheric oxygen. Such a submarine (Design Project 617) was created and tested. A government decree came out in 1952 on creating a submarine with an atomic engine, and our design bureau was completely reorganized for this task. The first Soviet nuclear powered submarine was developed in a short period of time (less than 5 years), was built in Severodvinsk and was named Leninskiy Komsomol. A series was produced under this design project, and submarines of this series are in formation to this day. The first submarine with Volna ballistic missiles was diesel powered. In the late 1950's, when the nuclear powered submarine program had been expanded substantially, a portion of the work was transferred from it to the Rubin Central Design Bureau. The design bureau created second-generation submarines, now the basis of the Russian submarine fleet, and later third-generation submarines.
A number of the design bureau's major engineering achievements can be noted, above all the introduction of titanium hulls. A fast submarine with the NATO codename Papa was created with such a hull.
Creation of the submarine Alfa, which to this day is considered unsurpassed, was a great engineering innovation. She is an integrated, automated submarine and she outstripped world submarine construction by 15-20 years. Unfortunately, Russia now cannot produce such submarines.
The design bureau created a unique diesel-powered submarine, Beluga, and as a research submarine she is the best in the world. It must be said that our latest nuclear powered submarines are better than the American ones in noisiness and a number of other parameters, but we are lagging in the element base, electronics, and computer equipment, which naturally affects certain characteristics of our submarines.
The situation in the design bureau now is very difficult. The state is not paying for work already done and accepted. Clients owed us R23 billion as of the middle of June. To this day the Ministry of Defense has not settled for work done in 1993. We would not like to turn a state defense enterprise into a commercial organization. If we take that path, who will create Russian armament and military equipment? The state of the submarine fleet in Russia is becoming alarming. The fleet is aging and practice operation has been reduced sharply. We somehow are extricating ourselves and paying wages for now, and we are succeeding in keeping our workers' wages at a rather decent level for a state enterprise. In June they averaged R130,000, but around 400 workers are receiving R35,000-40,000, i.e., below the subsistence wage. We are forced to do this in order to hold onto highly skilled associates. Our design bureau is aging; the collective's average age has reached 47 years and we absolutely need young cadres. World practice shows that efficient design collectives should have an average age of 30-40. When we were creating the first nuclear powered submarine, the collective's average age was 28. Before the USSR's disintegration the design bureau would get 50-70 young specialists a year, which permitted having the collective's age makeup close to optimum.
It must be said that the number of higher educational institution graduates in our specialty has dropped sharply of late. Thus, Leningrad Shipbuilding Institute previously graduated 30-40 persons in our specialty, but this year only 8. This is explained above all by the fact that our specialty is connected with complicated, difficult work and lengthy detached duty. Previously work in our design bureau was prestigious and paid rather well. Now the situation has changed and young people are not going into higher educational institutions for such specialties. We began paying young specialists R120,000, and those who completed higher educational institutions with honors R140,000. This caused a certain dissatisfaction among those who have worked in the design bureau for a long time now, but that policy permitted taking more than 40 graduates of higher educational institutions into the design bureau in recent months. In addition to nuclear powered submarines, the design bureau has several other engineering directions. Since 1960 it has been engaged in developing manned deep-diving vehicles for the most varied purposes. In particular, they are used in enterprises of Mingeologii [Ministry of Geology] and in fisheries.
There is a specialization in small submarines, the chief designer of which is Yu. K. Minayev. The submarine Piranya was created in the design bureau as a diver submarine, i.e., it supported the delivery of divers to the work site and their exit directly out of the submarine in the depths. A combat version of the submarine armed with torpedoes and mines also was developed. Two such submarines were built; for now there have been no more orders, although there is great interest. Representatives travel here from all over the world, but no one is ordering the submarine for now; it turns out they are coming more for information than for purchases.
Another minisubmarine, Triton, weighs only 1.5 tonnes. She can be used for research and survey work and for combating underwater terrorists. Triton is operational with the Russian Navy.
A number of pure conversion projects are performed in the design bureau. Several years ago we were assigned to develop equipment for manufacturing gelatin and bone meal. A design was created and prototypes were made, but the client is not paying for this work and we are unable to pay cooperating plants. The state granted us preferential credit of 3 percent, but the credit money was sent through commercial banks; they increase this interest to 13 percent, which naturally will be shifted to the product cost. For whom is this advantageous?
The design bureau has developed designs of hotels, tourist submarines, shops and so on, but no one buys them; no one has money.
The government of Moscow ordered a complex of structures for the Moscow River, but cannot pay for the work. The very same fate befell development of a northern mobile city for the geological survey on the Yamal Peninsula. They traveled here from Sakhalin and asked us to develop power plants for them. They liked our suggestion to create them on the basis of the power plants of nuclear powered submarines being decommissioned, but again there is no money to pay for this work.
We have experience in creating interesting, safe, ecologically clean underground atomic electric power stations. There is a great need for them, but no one has any money.
The design bureau initiated the establishment of the Rosshelf Joint-Stock Company, in which a number of defense complex enterprises have begun to operate. A number of design projects have been developed, including for surface vessels of the auxiliary fleet. Our design projects are recognized as advantageous and we are winning the contest. This was a program of real planned conversion. But in realizing the design projects we encounter the rigid opposition of bureaucrats, who consider it more advantageous to purchase everything abroad.
Thus, the design bureau is conducting varied work not just on underwater subjects. A rather large collective is required for this, but the economic situation led to where around 30 percent of workers left the design bureau in recent years. These basically are the best cadres. They are getting jobs in various commercial structures, where they are paid several times more than in the design bureau. Such a situation is known to be characteristic of the entire defense complex. The amount of RDT&E is being reduced sharply and the country is losing the parity previously achieved with much difficulty.
The modern military submarine is a very complex object whose creation requires the involvement of workers of almost all technical specialties. Previously the entire country built a submarine; hundreds of various enterprises located on the territory of almost all republics took part in fabricating it. After the USSR's disintegration many cooperating enterprises ended up abroad and relations with them have become very complicated. Adjusting new cooperation requires enormous funds, but there is not enough even to pay for work already done.
Privatization of defense enterprises is doing enormous damage to the country's defense capability. Voucher privatization permitted some foreign firms to buy up a number of our defense enterprises cheaply. These firms are beginning to conduct their own policy, which is not connected with Russia's interests in any way. They follow a line toward completing our ships with western equipment. Our plants which previously were manufacturing set-completing articles remain without work. As a result, all cooperation is falling to pieces and it soon will turn out that Russia will be unable to build ships herself. It should be noted here that although the Russian Federation bureaucratic apparatus now surpasses that which existed in the USSR in numbers, the number of specialists in the center who should carry on a unified technical policy in the armament area, particularly for nuclear powered submarines, has been reduced sharply. They no longer are capable of coordinating work being done, not to mention the need for drawing up future plans and programs. In my view, it is absolutely inadmissible to discharge from the Navy's ordering directorates good specialists who have just reached the so-called maximum age. People are taking their place who will not begin to understand very soon just what technical policy is.
Of course, the design bureau requires a technical overhaul. We have considerably more people working here than in similar western design bureaus. We need work automation, but there are no funds to do this. The money we receive from a client does not permit having a profit with which it would be possible to carry out renovation. Prices on materials, electrical power and so on grow continuously, but the cost of our work is agreed upon based on prices existing at the moment contracts are concluded.
The situation in Russia is such that an urgent revival of the Russian Navy is necessary, but the program existing today is a stillborn document. The question of financing it--the main question today--has not been studied at all. Cooperation for creating ships has been destroyed, and credits which Russia is granted by the West are expended as a rule to pay for the work of western firms based on conditions of the credit extension. Shipbuilding as a sector in Russia is perishing.
Previously 20-30 percent of funds were provided for RDT&E, but now they are only 3 percent. If this is not corrected, the results may prove to be very deplorable. While in Tula, the Russian Federation President said that priority financing of RDT&E will be ensured. One would like to believe that the promise will be realized. Despite the very difficult situation, I am firmly convinced that Russia will be restored to life and that it will have a powerful Navy. With this belief, we continue to work to create Russian submarines.
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