Our Finest Scientific-Technical Achievements Are Embodied in the Russian Fleet

Moscow VOORUZHENIYE, POLITIKA, KONVERSIYA No 2 (13), 1996 pp 41-46

[Interview with Professor G.P. Voronin, doctor of sciences, by unidentified VOORUZHENIYE, POLITIKA, KONVERSIYA correspondent]

Gennadiy Petrovich Voronin completed studies at the Ryazan Radio Engineering Institute, then worked in the USSR Ministry of the Shipbuilding Industry. He was awarded orders of the USSR for his achievements in the establishment of naval engineering.

Gennadiy Petrovich is a professor, doctor of sciences, and the author of many scientific works. He is an academician of the International Engineering Academy and RAEN, State Prize laureate, and member of the Korolev Institute of Naval Engineers of Great Britain. He holds the title of "Engineer of Europe."

We know that the modern warship is the extremely complex, very expensive result of engineering and technical labor. A powerful Navy was established in the Soviet Union which came to encompass various ships--from torpedo boats to aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines.

[VOORUZHENIYE. POLITIKA. KONVERSIYA] Would you tell us please, Gennadiy Petrovich, in what areas have our engineering-technical concepts outdistanced ideas generated in the West? And what do we consider our greatest achievement in this sphere?

[Voronin] Indeed, in the postwar period our country created an ocean-going navy capable of ensuring protection of the state's interests in the world ocean. This navy was built exclusively on our own country's industrial and scientific base, on the basis of our own experience.

By the outset of the 1990's, Russia's shipbuilding industry produced a third of the world's naval shipbuilding output and was ranked among the top 10 countries with respect to construction of civilian ships. Organized within our country's shipbuilding sector were such unique enterprises as the Nuclear Submarine Construction Center in Severodvinsk--the largest in the world, and the Central Scientific Research Institute imeni Academician A.N. Krylov in St. Petersburg--whose level of technical outfitting is unrivaled. The shipbuilding industry worked in close cooperation with hundreds of enterprises of other sectors of the economy. For example, about 2,000 enterprises and other organizations from more than 20 sectors of industry participated in the work of building aircraft carriers. The process of arming the Navy with ballistic missiles and antiship cruise missiles acquired fundamental significance. We were the first in the world to begin mounting missile systems on ships, including supersonic tactical and operational cruise missiles. At the outset of the 1970's, intercontinental ballistic missiles were installed on our nuclear submarines--the first such application in world practice. The armament of submarines with missiles turned underwater forces into a menacing weapon capable not only of opposing the enemy's aircraft carrier attack groups that had dominated the seas since the days of the Second World War, but also of inflicting strikes throughout the operational depth of any enemy.

In the sphere of power engineering for ships, we have predominated in the introduction of gas turbine power plants and the application of nuclear power plants on board civilian ships, which include, in addition to icebreakers, the unique and most powerful barge hauler in the world-- Sevmorput.

It is Russia's shipbuilders who introduced in shipbuilding practice the use of titanium alloys for submarine hulls and fiberglass for the hulls of ships used to carry out mine countermeasures. The use of high-strength titanium alloys resulted in the construction of unique experimental submarines: the first titanium submarine in the world with record underwater cruising speed of about 45 knots, and the deepest diving nuclear submarine--with submersion depth of over 1,000 meters.

Another prominent achievement of Russian shipbuilding has been the building and series production of warships and civilian vessels operating on air cushion and hydrofoil. Screen gliders were built on the basis of dynamic principles. These could be used both for military missions and peacetime applications. At present there are no analogs to the screen glider in world shipbuilding. We could cite further examples confirming the high level of engineering and technical thought attributable to our country's shipbuilders.

[VOORUZHENIYE. POLITIKA. KONVERSIYA] The Soviet Union had powerful scientific-technical collectives working in the shipbuilding industry, in the sphere of armament and military equipment for the Navy. We know that right now our defense complex finds itself in a very difficult state. To what degree does this relate to the industry that is operating for the Navy? What is being done to preserve this industry's scientific-technical potential?

[Voronin] Beginning in 1991, we saw a decline in production throughout the country's military-industrial complex. The volume of military production in 1995 was approximately 12 percent of the 1991 level. The rate of decline in naval shipbuilding volume turned out to be even greater than that observed in the defense complex as a whole. Today we have about 50 ships in plants, in various stages of readiness, for which the client has terminated financing for construction. The situation is further complicated by the fact that there remains outside Russia's borders a southern cluster of powerful shipbuilding plants at which aircraft carriers and other large ocean-going ships were at one time under construction.

The process of production decline in the shipbuilding industry continues to be seen in 1996. Some 24 shipbuilding plants have been declared bankrupt. The Russian State Nuclear Shipbuilding Center in Severodvinsk is on the verge of shutdown. Here we have seen the collapse of cooperation among enterprises manufacturing component equipment and weapons systems (over 800 enterprises).

Financing has not been secured for ship repair, including the repair of strategic missile-carrying submarines. The norm for periods between ship repairs has been stretched out three- or four-fold, causing a doubling of expenditures on repair work. There is no guarantee that combat readiness of the naval strategic nuclear system will be maintained or developed. As a result, the Russian Navy is aging rapidly and it will be exceedingly difficult to maintain the technical readiness of ships at the required level.

An even more problematic situation is taking shape with respect to the conduct of scientific research and experimental design work. The total volume of scientific research and experimental design work accomplished decreased 25 percent over the past year, and by more than 80 percent as compared with the 1991 level.

Today the volume of financing envisaged for state requisitions amounts to at most half the minimum required level, while actual payments for work accomplished came to approximately half the planned figure. A number of extremely important orientations of scientific research were closed off. The number of employees in scientific organizations dropped by 17 percent in 1995, and by more than 60 percent as compared with 1991. The average age of workers already exceeds 55. Young specialists are not attracted to these organizations, believing the work there is not very promising.

We are obliged to undertake all measures to see to it that we retain the minimum scientific and production potential of our shipbuilding plants and that of the enterprises supplying component equipment. This equipment is needed to keep Russia's Navy in a combat-ready condition today and provide for its qualitative technical development and improvement tomorrow.

A priority task of shipbuilders is to ensure the repair and modernization of our sophisticated ships within the fleet inventory, primarily those within the naval strategic nuclear forces. Nor can we abandon the task of building new ships. Otherwise, the technical level and combat effectiveness of the fleet will be frozen. Finally, our industry should conduct trials and release to the fleet the missile-carrying ship Peter the Great and the large ASW ship Admiral Chabanenko.

We understand that the country's defense budget cannot exceed 5 percent of the gross national product. Given the existing personnel strength of the armed forces that requires funding for its upkeep, we cannot count on any increase in the share of outlays for arms or scientific research and experimental design work in the defense budget. It is therefore absolutely necessary to determine priority spheres of scientific research and experimental design work in the production of modern systems of command and control and radioelectronic equipment for ships, as well as high-accuracy weapons for them. We must seek ways of enhancing the efficacy of our expenditure of allocated funds and of attracting nonbudget sources of financing. Inadequate financing of ships under construction is today leading to an actual doubling of their construction cost. In addition, the prolonged unproductive work capacity of production spaces is hindering enterprise transition to civilian shipbuilding, the conversion process, and the conduct of effective measures for entering market relations. It is therefore necessary to make a decision in the very near future on the partial salvaging of ships for which construction is incomplete.

The particular conditions applicable to the shipbuilding industry--lengthy construction cycle, vast areas required for slipways, docks, testing stations, and depots, the complex scheme of diversified cooperation involved--cause enterprises to suffer tremendous financial losses in paying back credits, land taxes, value-added tax, etc. Their predicament is further complicated by the imposition of fines and penalties. All this requires changes in the taxation procedure, use of a well-grounded system of preferential terms, and regular indexation and firm advance payments for work performed in filling defense requisitions.

The establishment of large-scale integrated structures is an important factor that would assist in stabilizing the financial situation of enterprises. The following structures presently operate in the industry: Russian State Center for Nuclear Shipbuilding, six state scientific centers, and the financial-industrial group High-Speed Fleet, consisting of 17 enterprises and two banking structures. Efforts are underway in the shipbuilding sector to establish a financial-industrial group to consist of 27 enterprises and a bank, as well as two federal scientific production centers. Additional plans call for the establishment of two more financial-industrial groups and four federal scientific production centers.

Such an integration of enterprises, including banking structures, will enable us to more effectively mobilize assets for the implementation of specific programs and projects, will allow enterprises to carry out particular economic management functions on the intermediary level, and will enable them to effectively utilize and develop dual- use technologies as an extremely important orientation in preserving the scientific-technical and personnel potential of shipbuilding.

Foreign economic activity on the part of enterprises-- not just shipbuilding enterprises, but the manufacturers of component equipment, radioelectronic equipment, and naval weaponry as well--can and must become a substantive source of nonbudget financing. We offer outstanding ships for export, including such unique vessels as the screen glider, and a number of types of armament and military equipment whose basic characteristics puts them on the world class level. We are prepared to supply these varieties, not only as armament installed on ships built at our plants, but also to outfit ships and vessels built by foreign firms at their own docks. In order to obtain the maximum effect, it is necessary to develop all forms of scientific-technical cooperation with foreign clients, namely: delivery of equipment, training of foreign personnel, sale of licenses, joint production of export output, etc. Of course, measures with respect to state support for exports are also required.

A tremendous amount of scientific-technical potential has been accumulated by Russia's shipbuilding industry, potential that reaches the highest world level in many respects. Active utilization of this potential for export purposes constitutes an extremely important premise in its preservation and further development.

An extremely important aspect of state policy in the conduct of military reform involves outfitting the Armed Forces with modern armament and military equipment. This is entirely applicable with respect to the Russian Navy, which encompasses every modern variety of armament. In order to realize this objective, it is necessary to confirm as soon as possible and unswervingly implement the 10-year shipbuilding program. This will result in a stabilization of the scientific and industrial potential of our shipbuilding industry.

[VOORUZHENIYE. POLITIKA. KONVERSIYA] One very complex task is the salvaging of depleted equipment. A great many people write that we have large numbers of warships, especially nuclear submarines, that are awaiting dismantling. Can you tell us how this problem is being resolved?

[Voronin] There has virtually never been any industrial salvaging of ships and vessels in our country. The dismantling of ships--the solid hulls of submarines in particular, is no less labor-intensive a task than the welding process. In this regard, whereas the technologies involved in welding hulls were developed in our country over several decades and were always on the highest world level, we never did have developed technologies with respect to stripping our hulls or the special equipment required to do this work. Today our coastal moorings and off-shore waters are saturated over vast areas with the rusting hulls of ships and vessels. Any traveler to Sevastopol will see such a ship graveyard at the end of Northern Bay.

With respect to submarines and other nuclear-powered ships, however, this situation is entirely unacceptable. It is therefore the highest-priority, most important task to ensure the safe and reliable storage of ships and vessels operating under nuclear power that have been designated for elimination. The number of such ships is today approaching 100. The shipbuilding industry is obliged to provide all possible assistance to the Navy in ensuring that it has the technical means, including special ships, to accomplish this task. The current level of special floating platforms available to the Navy for offloading nuclear reactor components from decommissioned ships is completely inadequate.

Today some 50 technological processes have been developed for carrying out the salvaging of nuclear submarines, only 30 of which have been introduced. At the present stage we envision offloading that portion of the body of the ship containing the nuclear reactor and preserving it for subsequent burial in a special depository. In 1992-1995 such efforts were accomplished for 17 nuclear submarines. The central problem was never resolved in this regard, however--the problem of salvaging the radioactive waste. Today every space for radioactive waste storage at enterprises engaged in nuclear submarine salvage is fully loaded. We must build special facilities for the primary processing and temporary storage of liquid and solid radioactive waste products.

The work being accomplished by our enterprises in salvaging nuclear submarines is not receiving financial backing from the client--the Ministry of Defense. Therefore, enterprises engaged in salvaging, particularly at the Far East plant Zvezda and at enterprises in the Northern Region, find themselves in a very serious situation. The special-purpose program for salvaging ships of the Russian Navy, approved by the government within the Federal Program for Industrial Salvaging of Arms and Military Equipment, envisages the creation prior to 1997 of the necessary ship-dismantling capacities at our enterprises, including gantry platforms and shops for processing the scrap metal and dismantling equipment. Only 11 percent of the necessary funding has been allocated up until now, however.

The well-known adage "Don't build--demolish" in no way applies to the substance of the problem of salvaging nuclear submarines. This is acknowledged not only by us, but by other countries as well, including the Americans. Colossal amounts of funding and effort have been invested over the past 40 years in the establishment of atomic energy. The problem of salvaging requires similar effort. This was yet again convincingly illustrated during First Deputy Prime Minister O. Soskovets' most recent trip to the Kola Peninsula in May of this year.

[VOORUZHENIYE. POLITIKA. KONVERSIYA] The USSR had a large navy. Our situation is constantly changing. The international situation is changing as well. Does Russia today need a very large navy? What missions must the Russian Navy carry out?

[Voronin] Yes, a fairly powerful navy was created in the USSR. This relates to the fact that its establishment was predicated on the confrontation between two camps, a confrontation that could be characterized approximately-- "we against everyone else." But the requirements for supporting the defensive capabilities of the country and our Armed Forces changed with the radical change that took place in the international environment, termination of the period of confrontation, and the end of the Cold War. So does this new environment require Russia to have a navy, and if so--what kind of navy? There exists a great divergence of opinion on this issue. Certain military leaders at a very high level believe that Russia is a land power that does not need a navy, at least not at present, i.e., during the current period of deep economic crisis and acute restrictions in financing abilities. However, the Navy is an important foreign policy attribute of the state, intended to guarantee security and ensure the protection of Russia's national interests at sea.

In order to determine what kind of navy Russia should have, studies were conducted jointly with Russian Navy specialists showing that at the beginning of the 21st century, Russia's Navy should be capable of carrying out the following strategic missions:

--ensuring strategic stability through preservation of the Navy's nuclear missile potential;

--safeguarding the country's territorial integrity and protecting its sovereignty in maritime sectors; --guaranteeing the economic interests of Russia and its allies in the world ocean;

--assisting land forces on maritime flanks.

The first of these missions holds priority significance and must be carried out by the naval strategic nuclear forces. Whereas these forces used to account for up to 30 percent of all the nuclear warheads within our strategic triad, upon implementation of START 2 the share attributable to the naval component may be augmented. To successfully carry out this mission, the Russian Navy must have 10-14 missile-carrying submarines. It is therefore necessary to begin the full-scale repair and modernization of presently operating ships of this class on an urgent basis and to renew the construction of new strategic missile-carrying submarines--which we have not built since 1990. In addition, in order to impart combat stability to these submarines, it is necessary that we have the appropriate support assets. Thus, for every task force of missile-carrying submarines in the Northern and Pacific Fleets, we will require up to 30 basic-class surface ships, six-eight multipurpose nuclear submarines, and five-six diesel-electric submarines, along with shore-based and ship-based aviation.

But this is just one of the missions that must be carried out by general-purpose forces. To accomplish the entire package of missions, calculations show that we must have up to 440-460 modern basic-class ships, including aircraft carriers, 40-50 nuclear multipurpose submarines, 35-45 diesel submarines, 80-100 combat surface ships--both maritime and ocean-going, patrol vessels, amphibious assault craft, minesweepers, combat patrol boats, special- purpose ships, and supply and logistics vessels.

Today Russia cannot have such a fleet. It is therefore important that in maintaining a smaller number of ships, we ensure that they are fully supported with everything they require. In this regard, the combat effectiveness of our ships must be continually enhanced through improvements in armament and military equipment, the development of other ship support systems, and improvements in command and control systems.

[VOORUZHENIYE. POLITIKA. KONVERSIYA] Gennadiy Petrovich, this issue of our journal is dedicated to the 300th anniversary of the Russian Navy, which is being broadly celebrated in our country. On behalf of our readers, who include a great many naval seamen and shipbuilders, allow me to extend congratulations to you on the occasion of this holiday and thank you for this interview.

[Voronin] Thank you. Indeed, despite the difficult situation being experienced by the state and by our society, this is the first time in the entire history of the Navy that we have celebrated its anniversary on such a grand scale. I would like to express my deep conviction that the Russian Fleet will be rejuvenated in the foreseeable future, and I congratulate our naval seamen, shipbuilders, and all Russians who hold the Navy dear on this occasion of the 300th anniversary of its institution.

I would like to express my gratitude to Yu.I. Borodin, director of the Kurs Central Scientific Research Institute, and to institute personnel V.G. Yefremenko, Yu.M. Unkovskiy, and A.M. Yevdokimenko, for their assistance in preparing the materials for our interview.

To the journal VOORUZHENIYE, POLITIKA, KONVERSIYA, I would like to express my desire to see further published articles that are useful to naval shipbuilding and to the Navy.