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The Future of Russia's Fifth Generation Submarines: Non-Nuclear?

By Bruce Rule - Feb 12, 2015


As already discussed in the archived article on the LADA, that class was rejected by the Russian Navy and its foreign sales derivative, the AMUR Class, never sold to abroad. To date, Russia has not produced an operational AIP ((air-independent (fuel cell, etc)) system for submarines. All they have done is to denigrate foreign competitors - such as Germany - claiming their AIP systems are unsafe.


In the linked site, a senior designer at RUBIN, Russia's Central Design Bureau for Submarines, stated the following:

Russia’s 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 Monday.

Large nuclear-powered vessels, including Russia’s Typhoon-class strategic boats, have so far dominated past and current trends in combat submarine construction.

Today, all countries that have their own submarine development programs search for new types of propulsions, alternative hull forms, methods of use of weapons, targeting and information exchange methods based on new physical principles. In this case, in any event automation of fifth-generation submarines will be substantially increased, and the method of their use in combat will be linked with the concept of “network-centric warfare” when the enemy will have to engage in battle not with individual combat units, but with a single, monolithic system that will be composed of surface ships, submarines, air, ground and space-based facilities. All the submarines of the future will be oriented on the functioning of the “network”

“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 submarine’s 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 currently relies 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.