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Analysis 3/3: Russian Sevmash Shipyard to introduce block-modular submarine construction

A shipyard cannot begin building next-generation vessels without mastering new technologies. Russian Shipyard Sevmash will be ready to introduce block-modular method when the procurement of hull components for another Russian SSBN (ballistic missile submarine) begins.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Russian Navy Project 955A Borei-class submarine Knyaz Vladimir. (Picture source Twitter account Frederik Van Lokeren @KaptainLOMA)

The Russian Defense Ministry faced a choice some time ago: whether to continue the construction of upgraded warships or order a completely new project. The decision in principle has likely been made. It is confirmed by Sevmash, which said in a press release that “a project to switch to block-modular method for the construction of new-generation submarines has been opened.”

The Sevmash shipyard is completing the previous modernization program launched in 2012. It has to develop Sevmash into a modern shipyard capable of building any vessel and comparable to American and West European counterparts in the technical level.

The modernization was financed by several federal programs, including the programs for radiation safety and civilian shipbuilding. Most funds were earmarked by the program to develop the military-industrial complex. The shipyard replaced all the cranes, renewed the tools and measuring equipment, and installed cheaper and more effective lights in workshops.

The overhaul of the construction embankment has been completed. Supplies of steam, compressed air, water, oxygen and other gasses were upgraded. Power cables of the required voltage and frequency were laid.

The berth was the next in the modernization line. Today it can carry hull constructions of 6 thousand tons and transfer them from workshop #7 to workshop #50 and from Sevmash to Zvyozdochka. Sevmash also decreased construction costs and minimized the time. Workshops #55, 50, and 42 have been specialized for end products.

The work in 2020 includes lean manufacturing, advanced control, modern marking technology in the construction of nuclear submarines. Power efficiency is increased and a new line for production with composite materials is prepared.

Large-scale modernization is ongoing in the blacksmith workshop which treats units of future nuclear submarines. In two years, it received 12 new furnaces, upgraded available ones, and is engaged in re-equipment. It is planned to install an automatic electric furnace to treat titanium units for submarines.

The shipyard was not upgraded in 1990s. A lack of finances triggered a 15-year time gap between upgrade programs.

The situation has improved and Sevmash is implementing a program to build two classes of fourth-generation submarines — project 955A Borei-class SSBN (ballistic missile submarine) and project 885M Yasen-class SSGN (nuclear powered cruise missile submarine). It is overhauling and upgrading the Admiral Nakhimov cruiser of project 11442M and producing special underwater hardware. The next logical step is the construction of new-generation nuclear submarines, the Independent Military Review said.

The Knyaz Pozharsky fifth submarine of project 955A (eighth in the series of projects 955 and 955A) was laid in December 2016. Since then there have been no reports about the construction of another SSBN. Defense industry sources alleged a year ago that the ninth SSBN of project 955A had to be laid soon followed by the tenth one. Time has passed, but nothing happened.

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