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A Classic Example of the Soviet/Russian Axiom: "Better is the Enemy of Good Enough."

By Bruce Rule - Mar 8, 2014


The axiom (motto) “Better is the Enemy of Good Enough” is reputed to have hung on the wall in the office of ADM Sergey Gorshkov, for many years the Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Navy.

In essence, the phrase means that one should not seek (expend funds) to improve a system or capability that already is satisfactory. Often the US approach has been the opposite: improve an existing capability or develop a new capability because it is a challenge and a technology demonstrator either domestic or international.


Do the Russian still follow the above quoted axiom? You bet; enter our old friend the PG-141, a 5500-6000 hp submarine main propulsion dc motor.

First employed in 1963 on both shaft lines of the JULIETT Class SSG (16 units) for which the design was completed in the last quarter of 1960, it was subsequently used in single-shaft-line applications in the BRAVO (4 units), the BELUGA (one unit), the KILO (Project 877 and variants) (46 units), the KILO (Project 636) (as the PG-141M) (12 units with 12 more under construction) and planned for the KILO (Project 636.3) (6 units under construction) as well as the ST PETERSBURG (Project 677E) now apparently in suspended production.

As previously discussed, it is highly probable the PG-141M installed on all Project 636 KILOs – with the letter “M” standing for modification – employs a “build-in speed reducer,” the Russian term for a reduction gear, to reduce the maximum propeller shaft speed from 500 rpm (KILO Project 877) to 250 rpm. A likely candidate is a planetary system, star design: power input through the sun; power output through the planet-carrier directly to the propeller shaft.

So, in its various modifications, the PG-141, first employed more than 50 years ago, remains the main propulsion dc motor of choice for Russian diesel-powered submarines. Indeed, “Better is the enemy of good enough,” and the PG-141 appears to have been good enough then (1960) and is still good enough now for use in Project 636.3 KILOs.