Russian Navy takes delivery of a new submarine for lease to India

December 29, 2009, Moskow -- The nuclear submarine K-152 Nerpa has joined the Russian Navy. The new Project 971U boat is planned to be leased to India, to which it will sail next summer. An Indian crew will undergo training aboard it before the hand-over ceremony.

Its trials, which began in 2008, were interrupted by a tragic accident on September 8, 2008, when an unauthorized release of a fire-fighting gas killed 20 men and injured more than 20 others. The accident caused a delay in the tests and the submarine joined the Navy several months later than scheduled.

The submarine's lease to India seems to be a foregone conclusion, but also inspires thoughts of the age of Russian naval combat units. The last multi-role nuclear submarine entered service in 2001. It was Nerpa's sister ship Gepard. To date, the Navy has an inventory of 12 submarines of this type, not counting Nerpa. Their average age is over 15 years. The Navy also includes multi-role nuclear submarines of other projects - four 671RTMKs, three 945s and nine anti-aircraft 949As. Within the next 10 to 15 years, they will be decommissioned because of "physical aging."

Two multi-role nuclear submarines of Project 885 are currently under construction, with the type ship - Severodvinsk - expected to hit the water soon. But existing plans provide for the building of only six submarines of this type in the next ten years, and they clearly cannot replace all 28 multi-role submarines in service. As a result, unless some prompt measures are taken, all Russian nuclear submarines will be a force in name only in fifteen years, unable to fulfill combat missions.

Strategic submarines also offer a bleak outlook. Shipyards are currently building Project 955 missile-carrying boats. Eight such ships, planned to be built, will be able to perform their tasks, but abortive tests of the Bulava missile are delaying their commissioning. Also, to stay as a compact formation, these missile carrying submarines need a cover escort, including multi-role submarines.

There is little optimism for diesel-powered submarines, too. Their average age is approaching a critical level. Currently, Russia is building a series of Project 677 submarines, although the type ship - St. Petersburg - whose trials began in 2007 is still not commissioned and available construction facilities are clearly not meeting naval requirements.

Whether or not a new state armaments program for 2010-2020 will solve the problem is not yet clear. To maintain the current inventory of submarines required by the Navy, it is necessary to increase sharply their numbers being built, and above all multi-role and diesel ones. But nothing seems to augur such an increase.

In a way the problem can be tackled by repairing and upgrading existing submarines, but repairs do not preclude new construction.

In view of the high costs of Project 885 submarines under construction, a way out could be a low-budget nuclear multi-role submarine, of lesser size and fewer weapons than the 13,000-tonne and heavily armed Severodvinsk. The United States made a similar decision in the 1990s when it opted for compact-sized and less expensive submarines of the Virginia type, compared with larger and higher-priced Sea Wolf-type submarines.

A total of 12 to 15 such ships, coupled with the construction of a smaller series of Project 885 boats and the upgrading of the more recent submarines of Soviet manufacture could keep up the potential of the Russian submarine arm.

According to available information, blueprints for such a nuclear submarine are being drawn up at the Malakhit Design Bureau, but whether the ministry plans to build one is unknown.

Problems connected with the renovation of diesel boats could, according to experts, be solved by placing orders for Project 636M submarines, which have already been constructed in a series, possess decent characteristics and are presently offered for export. The building of 8 to 10 such submarines could give breathing space for addressing issues associated with the construction of Project 677 submarines.

But the key factor necessary to build a state-of-the-art Navy, including its submarine arm, is an understanding of the role of the Navy and its importance for Russia by the country's top leaders and their political will to translate this understanding into practice.

RIA Novosti/Ilya Kramnik

PCU New Mexico Delivered to Navy Four Months Early

The Virginia-class attack submarine Pre-Commissioning Unit New Mexico (SSN 779) undergoes Bravo sea trials Nov. 26, 2009 in the Atlantic Ocean. The Navy took delivery of New Mexico from Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding four months earlier than the contract delivery date. (Photo: courtesy of Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding/Chris Oxley/Released)

December 29, 2009, Washington -- The Navy took delivery of its newest attack submarine, PCU New Mexico (SSN 779), from Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding (NGSB) Dec. 29, four months earlier than its contract delivery date. New Mexico is the sixth Virginia-class submarine and the third delivered by NGSB.

"New Mexico performed superbly on sea trials," said Rear Adm. William Hilarides, program executive officer for submarines. "Her early delivery keeps us firmly on pace for a 60-month construction span by the end of the Block II contract."

Capt. Michael Jabaley, Virginia-class Program manager, commented, "With the delivery of the sixth submarine, the Virginia Program continues to provide needed capability to the fleet."

USS North Carolina (SSN 777) and USS New Hampshire (SSN 778), the two submarines delivered prior to New Mexico, were completed after 82 and 71 months, respectively. New Mexico completed construction in just 70 months.

"Raising the bar yet again, the Virginia shipbuilding team has completed the fastest delivery to date, with further improvement soon to follow. This improvement in performance positions the team to double the production rate to two submarines per year in 2011. Keeping the production rate at two per year is critical to maintaining the Navy's Attack Submarine inventory," Jabaley added.

New Mexico's delivery in 2009 wraps up a successful year for the Virginia-class program. Earlier accomplishments include beginning the construction of PCU North Dakota (SSN 784) March 2; the keel-laying ceremony of PCU California's (SSN 781) May 1; USS Texas (SSN 775) completion of the Virginia-class submarines' first Arctic Ocean testing in November; transfers of USS Hawaii (SSN 776) and Texas to their new homeport of Pearl Harbor in July and November respectively; and the christening ceremony of PCU Missouri's (SSN 780) Dec. 5.

Virginia-class submarines are flexible, multimission platforms designed to operate in both open-ocean and littoral waters. Their inherent stealth, endurance, and firepower enable them to support the United States seapower core capabilities of forward presence, deterrence, sea control, power projection, and maritime security.

India To Let Singapore Technologies Join Howitzer Trials

FH 2000 52 Calibre 155mm Field Howitzer operated by Indonesia Army.

December 28, 2009, New Delhi -- The Indian government has allowed the Army to invite formerly banned Singapore Technologies to participate in trials to purchase 155mm/52 caliber towed artillery guns.

The company had been banned, along with six other defense companies, in June 2009 in connection with alleged corruption charges. However, the government's move now will allow trials to be held within a month, said a senior Indian Army official.

A senior Indian Defence Ministry official said that even if it wins, Singapore Technologies will not be given a contract until it is cleared of all charges by India's Central Bureau of Investigation.

In March 2008, the Indian Army had floated a tender for the off-the-shelf purchase of 400 155 mm/52 caliber towed artillery guns and the licensed production of approximately 1,180 guns on a transfer-of-technology basis.

Tenders were given to eight companies from Europe, Asia and the Middle East, but in the end the Army's Technical Evaluation Committee qualified only BAE Systems and Singapore Technologies.

Singapore Technologies is also competing to sell 155mm ultra light artillery guns, although it is unclear if the company will be allowed to participate in field trials, Indian Defence Ministry sources said.


Yak-130 Combat-Trainer Aircraft Successfully Completes Russian State Joint Tests

December 28, 2009 The commander-in-chief of the Air Force of Russia Colonel General Alexander Zelin has signed the «Certificate about ending of the state joint tests of a combat-trainer aircraft Yak-130». This document allows operation of Yak-130 aircraft in units of the Air Force of the Russian Federation for training and combat purposes

Colonel General Alexander Zelin has congratulated the team of developers of Yak-130 with the successful ending of tests and has accentuated that the plane corresponds to modern requirements to combat-trainer vehicles. The commander-in-chief has declared: «The plane is simple in control and is equipped by arms unique for planes of such class. After flying this machine young pilots will feel confidence in operating of combat planes». According to Colonel General Zelin, Yak-130 accumulates so many new scientific ideas that for a long time no other plane can be equal to it. The commander-in-chief also has noticed that has personally familiarized with Yak-130 in flight.

The president of Irkut, General Director of Yakovlev Design Bureau Oleg Demchenko said: «Ending of the state tests of Yak-130 in 2009 was one of the main tasks for our company. Yak-130 has not only the unique characteristics, but also a unique history of creation. It is the first plane completely designed and constructed during the Post-Soviet period. For the first time we have created an aircraft using digital technologies at every stage of designing and manufactures preparation that allowed reducing laboriousness, lower duration of the production cycle, increase product’s quality and set up a basis for the mass serial production of the new aircraft. Oleg Demchenko has also noticed that the Russian Air Forces are the priority customer for Irkut Corporation.

Trainer-combat aircraft of the new generation Yak-130 was developed by JSC “A.S. Yakovlev Design Bureau” be a part of Irkut Corporation.

Yak-130 was chosen for basic and advanced military flight school to prepare pilots of the Air Force of Russia.

In April 2009 Yak-130 passed the first stage of state joint tests with basic armament configuration. In December 2009 the tests with the enlarged armament configuration were completed.

The aircraft is intended as for combat training of the air staff so as for combat use in normal and low weather on earth and land targets. Nine stations allow the aircraft to carry up to 3000 kg of payload.

Advanced aerodynamics, new generation inboard avionics equipment, state of art newest power plant and aircraft systems provide:

· effective training of air staff and combat missions;

· high level of operating safety;

· low cost of flight hour and life cycle.

Aircraft performance characteristics and maneuverability of Yak-130 are similar to the modern fighters on subsonic speed of flight. The plane will allow to solve at the advanced level a problem of training of pilots for the Russian and foreign warplanes of generation “4+” and “5”.

Yak-130 is the basic component of the training complex of Russian Air Force including integrated system of the objective control, educational computer classes, aerobatic and specialized training simulator.

The Irkut Corporation concluded the contract with Algeria on delivery of Yak-130 and carrying out its contractual obligations. Pre-contract negotiations are carried on for the delivery of Yak-130 to a number of countries.


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