Russia is moving forward with plans to develop a new fifth-generation submarine with preliminary design work on the boat completed, according to Russia’s state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation.
“The preliminary design for the advanced fifth-generation non-nuclear submarine was developed by the Rubin Central Design Bureau has already been completed, and the approval of the draft proposal for the ship’s engineering design is being discussed, Vice President for Naval Construction, Igor Ponomaryov, told TASS news agency on July 11. “The decision on its construction will be taken after the engineering design is completed.”
Not much is known about Russia’s latest submarine project, purportedly code named Project Kalina, except that the new sub will be equipped with an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system, a technology that the Russian defense industry has been struggling with for years. The new boat will also feature new noise reduction technology, automated control systems, and a host of long-range weapons systems.
The Director General of the Rubin Central Design Bureau, Igor Vilnit, has told reporters previously that the new fifth-generation boat will be based on the Project 677 Lada-class diesel-electric attack submarine. Initially, the Lada-class was to be fitted with AIP technology. However, the Rubin Design Bureau has so far not successfully tested an AIP system aboard a submarine.
As I reported in February 2016, According to the head of the Russian Navy’s shipbuilding department, Captain (1st Rank) Vladimir Tryapichnikov, a new AIP system will not be ready until the early 2020s. “We presume that an AIP will be developed in the near future, and the Rubin Design Bureau has started such work recently,” he said in 2016. “They have laid a good foundation … Rubin’s designers keep on working hard [to develop the AIP], and we believe it will be developed in 2021-2022.”
Russia’s Lada-class of submarines has also faced multiple delays over the years:
The Russian Navy initially planned to field three Lada-class submarines by 2018. However, delays in the program have so far only lead to the service entry of the lead vessel of the class, the St. Petersburg in 2010, which has been undergoing operational evaluation ever since.
The St. Petersburg was already laid down in 1997 at the Admiralty Shipyard in St. Petersburg. Construction of its sister ships, the Kronstadt and Velikiy Luki began in 2005 and 2006 respectively, yet production of the two Lada-class subs was put on halt for some time and then restarted in 2013.
The likely commissioning date of the two remaining subs of the class is 2019. Similar to the Lada-class, the principal mission of the new fifth-generation Kalina-class submarine likely will be coastal defense against enemy submarines and surface vessels, surveillance and reconnaissance as well as intelligence gathering missions.