Controversy about readiness of new high-tech sub

Media reports claim navy refuses to accept Russia’s brand new “Severodvinsk” multi-purpose submarine, while United Shipbuilding Corporation says testing will be completed and the sub delivered by year-end.


BarentsObserver’s reporting about delivering of “Severodvinsk” is becoming a multiple-year row of headlines entitled “ready by year-end.” The submarine, of which the construction started 20 years ago, was originally scheduled for commissioning in 1998. Eleven years later, the plan was to deliver the sub in 2010. Rescheduled to 2011. Rescheduled to 2012. Rescheduled to 2013. And today, a new dispute between the builder and the navy about the sub’s readiness has emerged.

The newspaper Military Industrial Courier this week reports that navy sailors are not at all satisfied with the technical readiness of the submarine after the last few months of test sailing in the White Sea. 

There are problems with the bearing liners of the propeller shafts. The shafts, connected from the turbine that run by steam from the reactor, can’t increase the speed the way it should without risking that the liner falls apart. 

“Tests again show unresolved technical problems. It is too early for the fleet to take over the vessel. Now we have prepared a report on the test results to the Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu, where our arguments about the causes of failure are,” a senior naval officer says to Military Industrial Courier under condition of anonymity.

The newspaper sources also lodge claims that not everything works well with the weapons onboard either, including problems with firing the supersonic cruise missiles. 

In total, “Severodvinsk” has been on 14 sea trails since her maiden voyage in 2011. The last test trials started on May 27 and where supposed to continue until mid-August, but the sub had to return to the Sevmash yard in Severodvinsk on July 19 to fix some technical problems. On July 30, the submarine again set sail for the White Sea. Another round of tests is scheduled for November and December.

On Tuesday, United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), owner of the Sevmash yard, issued a press-release strongly disproving any technical problems. 

“All tests were successful according to the plan…,” the press-release from the USC reads and continues:

“The nuclear submarine performed four trial runs, starting navigation on May 30, which is a record for testing in the White Sea. All of the trial runs, envisioned in the plan, were successfully performed, and all tactical-technical characteristics of the weapon systems and military hardware, installed aboard the submarine, including the speed and maneuverability characteristics, and the technical parameters of the main power plant, have been proven.”

A state commission will after the coming sea trails decides the technical readiness of the submarine and sign the transfer to the navy. “Severodvinsk” will sail for the Northern fleet with submarine bases on the coast of the Kola Peninsula.