Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), Russian Federation
From Moscow to Dallas in 32 minutes; and we can't stop it
Intercontinental ballistic missile
Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology (MITT)
17,400km/h – 10,800mph
Topol-M (Nato code name: SS-27) is an
intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in service with the Russian strategic
rocket forces (RVSN). It was developed by the Moscow Institute of Thermal
Technology (MITT) and is an upgraded version of the RS-12M Topol missile.
"The Topol-M mobile missile is fired from a transporter erector launcher (TEL) canister."
Topol-M is the first ICBM developed by
Two Topol-M silo-based missile systems were deployed in December 2010 in the Tatishchevo Missile Division near
About 52 silo-based and 18 mobile Topol-M missile systems were in service as of January 2011. A total of 450 to 500 missiles are expected to be deployed between 2015 and 2020.
Topol-M ICBM development
The development of Topol-M was initiated by the MITT and Yuzhnoye Design Bureau in late 1980s. The Ukrainian firm Yuzhnoye withdrew from the programme and all documentation was shifted to MITT in 1992, following the dissolution of the
The missile development was consolidated inside
The first missile was test fired in December 1994. The first silo-based regiment was declared operational in 1998. The system was officially accepted into service in April 2000.
The first test of the mobile launcher was conducted in April 2004. The first flight version of the missile was delivered to the
The first three mobile Topol-M missile systems entered service with a missile unit stationed near the town of
ballistic missile system features
The Topol-M is a three-stage solid-propellant ICBM. It carries a single nuclear warhead under US-Russian arms control treaties. The design can support MIRV warheads. The missile can reach a range of 11,000km at a speed of 17,400km/h.
The missile is cold launched using a special booster called PAD which allows the first stage to fire into air by pushing out the missile from the storage container. The motors for the first stage were developed by the Soyuz Federal Centre for Dual-Use Technologies.
Topol-M is directed by autonomous digital inertial navigation system using an onboard GLONASS receiver. The burn time of the engine was minimised to avoid detection by the present and future missile-launch surveillance satellites during boost phase. The missile carries targeting countermeasures and decoys.
It can perform evasive manoeuvres in terminal phase to avoid the hit of interceptor missiles. The flat ballistic trajectory of the missile complicates the interception by the anti-ballistic missile (ABM).
The missile is shielded against radiation, electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and nuclear blasts, and can withstand a hit from laser technology.
Missile launch platform
The silo-based missile deployment site includes ten isolated silos. The underground silos were originally developed for R-36M and UR-100N missiles. The high cost elements such as protective covers and control systems were retained with minor changes. The missile uses the existing launch control and communication systems.
"Topol-M is an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in service with the Russian strategic rocket forces."
The underground site consists of a command and control bunker, security, power supply and nuclear blast detection systems. The launch complex was designed to survive hits from high-precision conventional weapons.
The Topol-M mobile missile is fired from a transporter erector launcher (TEL) canister mounted on the MZKT-79921 cross-country, a modified eight-axle mobile launch vehicle. The TEL was developed by the Titan Central Design Bureau and produced at the Barrikady Plant.
The mobile launcher can launch the missile at any time, even on a rough terrain route. The chassis is fitted with jacks to level the launcher. The onboard gas and hydraulic systems maintain the elevation of the container.
The Global Missiles and Missile Defence Systems Market 2011-2021
A Failure to Intercept
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
The New York Times
July 24, 2013
After 30 years of research and an estimated
$250 billion investment, the Pentagon’s defense program against
intercontinental ballistic missiles from adversaries like Iran and North Korea
had another failed test this month. The advanced missile interceptor launched on July 5
from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California failed to hit its target over the
Pacific Ocean, the third consecutive dud. The military has tested the
ground-based midcourse defense system 16 times; only eight were successful, the
last in 2008.
One might expect the record to be near perfect since the tests are rigged, conducted in what the program’s director, Vice Admiral James Syring of the Navy, calls a “controlled, scripted environment.” The Pentagon is doing a review to determine the cause of the latest failure. But whatever the cause, it is apparent that the program’s weaknesses go beyond this case.
Two studies — one by the National Academy of Sciences released in September and another by a task force of the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board in 2011 — have expressed doubts about whether the technology to intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles can ever be truly reliable and whether the program is worth the cost. Some experts describe its technical core as shattered.
Senator Richard Durbin, a Democrat of Illinois, raised a lot of the right questions when Vice Admiral Syring testified on last Wednesday before the Senate appropriations subcommittee on defense. Mr. Durbin noted that the system’s track record “has not improved over time” and wondered how the Pentagon could be confident defenses will work when tests are conducted against intermediate range missiles but not the longest range and fastest missile, the intercontinental ballistic missile, which could reach the United States.
Predictably, many Congressional Republicans blame the problems on President Obama and budget cuts supported by the Democrats. But experts say design flaws crept into the program during the George W. Bush administration and the problems were compounded by a rush to deploy the system before tests were run. Along with the Pentagon, many Republicans are now pushing for more missile defense tests as well as the development of 14 more ground-based interceptors (for a total of 44 at sites in California and Alaska) for an additional cost of $1 billion. Some lawmakers also want a new missile defense site on the East Coast that could run as high as $3.6 billion.
completed: F as in failed, and failure rate is 50%
US to attempt first missile intercept test since 2008
July 3, 2013
The Pentagon plans on July 5 to attempt the first
successful interception in more than four years of a surrogate missile incoming
toward the U.S.
The test is scheduled to use interceptors tipped with Raytheon Co. “hit-to-kill” warheads that last successfully hit their target during a December 2008 exercise, according to the Missile Defense Agency.
The $34 billion ground-based system of 30 interceptors in Alaska and California, operated by Boeing Co., has been in a testing hiatus after two failures in 2010 using a new, more sophisticated interceptor warhead. This week’s attempt won’t use the new warhead, which will be tested in a separate exercise later this year.
The Missile Defense Agency, U.S. Air Force 30th Space Wing, U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Northern Command plan to conduct the intercept flight with a target missile from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, and an interceptor missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, agency spokesman Richard Lehner said in an e-mailed statement.
This week’s scheduled test is to assure U.S. homeland-defense commanders that the current system remains reliable, said Riki Ellison, chairman of the Alexandria, Virginia-based Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance.
Because of the two 2010 failures “this test is the most significant demonstration of the ground-based interceptors and its fire-control system in the history of the program,” Ellison said. U.S. commanders “responsible for the defense of the United States will base their confidence and reliability on the result of this test.”
Cristina Chaplain, a director with the U.S. Government Accountability Office who oversees preparation of its annual missile defense report, said the test “will provide insights about the capability” of the existing CE-I warheads “against a complex target.”
“It’s important that the CE-I continue testing in light of the challenges being experienced with the second version of the kill vehicle” that’s still under evaluation, Chaplain said.
The December 2008 interception over the Pacific Ocean represented the eighth success in 15 tests since 1999 of the ground-based system using the initial warhead model, according to the agency.
An intercept test using the newer CE-II warhead is scheduled for later this year and, if successful, would trigger an expansion by 2017 of the current ground-based system to 44 from 30 interceptors.
The 14 added interceptors will be located in Alaska and will cost $1 billion, James Miller, undersecretary of defense for policy, told reporters in March.
After the 2010 failures, the agency discovered a flaw in the guidance system of the newest warhead. Pentagon officials, including the top tester Michael Gilmore, say that flaw has been corrected.
Rude awakening to missile-defense
By Scott Ritter / January 4, 2005
The Christian Science Monitor
On Christmas Eve 2004, the Russian Strategic
Missile Force test fired an advanced SS-27 Topol-M road-mobile intercontinental
ballistic Missile (ICBM). This test probably invalidated the entire premise and
technology used in the National Missile Defense (NMD) system currently being
developed and deployed by the Bush administration, and at the same time called
into question the validity of the administration's entire approach to arms
control and disarmament. From 1988 to 1990, I served as one of
the American weapons inspectors at the Votkinsk Machine Building Plant in
Through the work of the inspectors at Votkinsk, as well as several related inspections where US experts were able to view the SS-25 missile system in its operating bases in Siberia, a great deal of data was collected that assisted the US intelligence community in refining its understanding of how the SS-25 operated. This understanding was translated into several countermissile strategies, including aerial interdiction operations and missile-defense concepts.
The abysmal performance of American counter-SCUD operations during the Gulf War in 1991 highlighted the deficiencies of the
The rapid collapse of the
After the resounding Republican victory in the midterm 1994 congressional elections, a new program for missile defense was proposed covering three distinct "threat" capabilities ranging from "unsophisticated threats" (an attack of five single-warhead missiles with simple decoys), to highly sophisticated threats (an attack of 20 single-warhead SS-25 type missiles, each with decoys or other defensive countermeasures). Funding for this program ran to some $10.8 billion from 1993 to 2000.
When President Bush came to power in 2001,
there was a dramatic change in posture regarding ballistic missile defense. The
administration announced it was withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile
Treaty, clearing away development and operational constraints. At the same
time, the administration laid out a comprehensive plan that envisioned a
layered missile-defense system. After studying the SS-25 missile for years, the
US military believed it finally had a solution in the form of a multitiered
antiballistic missile system that focused on boost-phase intercept (firing
antimissile missiles that would home in on an ICBM shortly after launch),
space-based laser systems designed to knock out a missile in flight, and
terminal missile intercept systems, which would destroy a missile as it
reentered the earth's atmosphere.
The NMD system being fielded to counter the SS-25, and any similar or less sophisticated threats that may emerge from China, Iran, North Korea, and elsewhere, will probably have cumulative costs between $800 billion and $1.2 trillion by the time it reaches completion in 2015.
However, the Bush administration's dream of a viable NMD has been rendered fantasy by the Russian test of the SS-27 Topol-M. According to the Russians, the Topol-M has high-speed solid-fuel boosters that rapidly lift the missile into the atmosphere, making boost-phase interception impossible unless one is located practically next door to the launcher. The SS-27 has been hardened against laser weapons and has a highly maneuverable post-boost vehicle that can defeat any intercept capability as it dispenses up to three warheads and four sophisticated decoys.
To counter the SS-27 threat, the
The Bush administration would do well to reconsider its commitment to a national missile-defense system, and instead reengage in the kind of treaty-based diplomacy that in the past produced arms control results that were both real and lasting. This would not only save billions, it would make
Made In China/Russia with American Technology
Do people really believe that North Korea, all by itself has the capability to design, manufacture and launch a nuclear weapon or are the North Koreans’ doing the same thing that Apple, and so many other “American” companies do; did the North Koreas’ make it, or is it Made In China?
Any idea where the Chinese got the technology; that came from America
Photos Show China Has
Removed Secret Equipment
From US Spy Plane
April 3, 2001
(UPI) - Chinese officials have removed equipment from a U.S. Navy spy plane
that made an emergency landing at a Chinese base after a mid-air collision with
a fighter jet March 31, a former intelligence official who has seen classified
satellite photos of the base told United Press International Tuesday.
The source also echoed the fears of many Pentagon officials that the Chinese are unlikely to ever return the plane.
"The chances of getting this airplane back are pretty close to nil," he said.
The official said he had seen four images from two KH-11 "Keyhole" satellites, which are clear enough to see details -- including racks of the plane's equipment sitting on the tarmac around the aircraft and damage to the EP-3's propeller, engine and wing.
The EP-3 was forced to make an emergency landing on Hainan Island after a Chinese fighter sent out to intercept the aircraft instead collided with it.
The Chinese fighter and its pilot are still missing. China has blamed the United States for the incident, saying the aircraft violated its airspace.
The sun-synchronous KH-11s pass over the Earth at an altitude of around 500 miles twice a day, taking high-resolution snap shots. The electro-optical pictures have better than one-meter resolution and are beamed to a U.S. ground station in near-real time.
The EP-3 is an electronic signals surveillance aircraft and is loaded with sophisticated equipment used to collect intelligence on an adversary's weapons, command and control capabilities and operations. The equipment is mounted on metal racks inside the shell of the 100-foot long plane, which carries a crew of 24.
The EP-3 could not have landed in a better place for China or a worse one for U.S. military intelligence. Hainan island is host to one of China's largest electronic-signals-intelligence complexes and is manned by experts who can glean critical information on the aircraft's capabilities if they gain access to the Navy's EP-3, also a "SIGINT" collector, Pentagon sources said. Hainan is also home to a major Chinese satellite-communications intercept facility.
The United States claims that the aircraft, because it made an emergency landing, should be considered sovereign territory like a U.S. embassy and is therefore off limits to the Chinese.
President Bush Monday warned China against "further" tampering with or damage to the aircraft.
"The airplane itself, military aircraft of all countries in situations like this, have sovereign immunity. That is, no other country can go aboard them or keep them," said U.S. Pacific Command chief Adm. Dennis Blair said Sunday in a press conference.
However, the Navy presumes Chinese boarded the plane shortly after it landed on a military base on Hainan Island. The last radio message from the crew said it was being ordered to shut down its operation.
In the event of just such a landing, the crew was trained to destroy classified paperwork and wipe clean computer memories, and may have even physically destroyed some of the equipment.
"If I were them I would have been pitching stuff out the back," said a U.S. intelligence official.
The Chinese military is well-known for its ability to reverse engineer sophisticated equipment -- that is, deconstruct a finished product to discern how it works, its capabilities and recreate it for their own use, the official said.
Pentagon officials say they are concerned the aircraft will never be returned. They speculate that China will say it is holding it as evidence of U.S. violation of international law.
They made clear Tuesday that even if the Chinese strip and dismantle the aircraft in order to reverse engineer it, the U.S. would still -- for political reasons -- demand its return.
China accuses U.S. plane of ramming fighter jet
By WILLIAM LOWTHER, Daily Mail
President George W Bush was facing his first international crisis last night after a Chinese fighter jet and a U.S. spy plane collided over the South China Sea.
The top secret EP-3, with 24 crew on board, was forced to land on the Chinese island of Hainan where it was immediately placed under heavy guard.
The Chinese F-8 fighter fell into the sea and searchers have found no trace of the pilot.
While Washington tried to play down the seriousness of the incident last night, China was accusing America of invading its airspace and ramming one of its jets.
U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Colonel Dewey Ford said: 'The planes actually bumped into each other.'
Pentagon officials insist the aircraft - a Navy surveillance plane described as the most sensitive in the U.S. inventory - was flying in international airspace when it was suddenly approached by two Chinese fighters.
The fighters flew within a few feet and appeared to be preparing to force the EP-3 to land.
In an effort to get away, the American pilot suddenly changed direction.
But one of the Chinese fighter pilots did not react quickly enough, causing the two planes to 'bump' in midair.
While no Americans were injured, the plane was too badly damaged for the pilot to return to base in Okinawa, Japan.
At first, U.S. officials believed the Chinese had deliberately bumped the spy plane to force it to land, but Pentagon officials later acknowledged the collision was an accident.
President Bush has demanded the crew be treated well and returned to American hands immediately.
Last night, U.S. sources said the initial reaction from China had been 'positive' with indications that the crew could be released today.
However, the Chinese have also said the American plane was illegally in Chinese airspace and was responsible for the accident.
'A Chinese aircraft was conducting normal flight operations six miles south of Hainan island when a U.S. plane suddenly veered towards it,' the foreign ministry in Beijing said.
'The nose and left wing of the U.S. plane hit the Chinese plane and caused it to crash. China is now searching for the crew.'
The statement also threatened further 'representations' over the U.S. plane entering Chinese airspace and landing without permission.
Pentagon sources said the Chinese were asking for compensation for the crash.
'They'll try to drag this out as long as possible,' said one source.
For China, the capture of an EP-3 is a major intelligence coup.
Sources say the four-engine aircraft contains intelligence gathering computers, cameras, sensors and eavesdropping equipment that is far more advanced than anything China has developed.
And while the Chinese argue about compensation, they can also keep hold of the EP-3, allowing technicians and scientists to conduct a detailed analysis.
Mr Bush has asked the Chinese to allow the U.S. to fly out a substitute crew and repair team to fly the plane back to its Japanese base immediately. But Chinese officials are stalling on this issue.
The incident could not come at a more sensitive time. Despite major objections from China, Mr Bush is currently considering the highly delicate and potentially explosive policy of selling weapons to Taiwan.
A confidential review by the U.S. Navy has just concluded that Taiwan needs a significant infusion of new weapons - including a sophisticated radar system - if it is to continue to maintain a realistic defence against Chinese threats of invasion.
At the same time, China is continuing a military build-up which appears to be directed against Taiwan.
In fact, sources say the EP-3's flight was almost certainly undertaken to gather information about that build-up.
China Gets a Reverse Path to Secrets
April 13, 2001|RODGER BAKER and VIKTOR GOBAREV | Rodger Baker and Viktor Gobarev are senior analysts for an Internet service based in Austin, Texas, that provides intelligence reports to corporate customers. Terese Schlachter contributed to this report
There are clear winners and losers stemming from the incident in Hainan. The People's Liberation Army has gained valuable knowledge and technology from the United States with which to protect its secrets and understand how Washington uses its own. The Chinese government has put a finer point on its geopolitical position.
China is undergoing a major modernization of its military forces, focusing most heavily on developing a navy capable of operating from its 7,400-mile shoreline far out into the South China Sea. Some of the technology on board the U.S. Navy EP-3 could play well into their efforts. Beijing has been working to overcome its deficiency in protecting and intercepting military communications and radar traffic--two things the EP-3 was designed to do. The electronic capabilities they might steal would have taken them years to develop on their own.
The U.S. spy plane on Hainan island could provide Beijing not only with technology and information to help hide its own military activities from the U.S. and others but also with critical knowledge of how to monitor other countries' military operations and gauge their motives. Although an increasingly difficult task, technological know-how gained from reverse engineering--breaking down and reformulating the electronic components and other high-tech eavesdropping devices--could propel China and its military further toward its long-term goal of being a major conventional military power.
The EP-3 system is designed to detect and classify a wide range of electronic signals, from satellite transmissions to radar waves. That technology could be used to block China's own emissions and prevent the U.S. and others from listening in. By knowing the frequencies the U.S. zeros in on, Beijing can set about developing effective counter measures.
It's likely that missions flown by the EP-3 were specifically for information gathering of this sort. U.S. crew members were most likely listening for emissions from a new class of submarine--two vessels specifically. One is a Russian designed Kilo-class submarine, equipped with anti-ship weapons. The other is a more powerful, 6,000-ton Victor III submarine. It is designed to launch cruise missiles while submerged, a feat the Chinese navy has long been incapable of mastering. If it has in fact launched such a sub, U.S. aircraft carriers in the area would become vulnerable. Thus the mission, and thus the Chinese insistence that the U.S. stay away. Sources inside China confirm that the Chinese military's sharp reaction to the incident was because of Beijing's desperation to keep the tests under wraps. The technology gleaned from the U.S. spy plane may help them do just that.
One of China's main military objectives is in the area of intelligence. "Beijing's highest priority for strategic modernization is in the realm of information," says Mark Stokes of the Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute. "One of the most important pillars in China's quest for information dominance is denying an adversary information on [military] plans, force deployments and vulnerabilities."
The EP-3 landing provided the perfect opportunity to push forward with that priority. And China is equipped with one skill that will make it happen: a mastery of reverse engineering. Reverse engineering has come in handy to the Chinese on a number of occasions, most recently when it reportedly pilfered U.S. nuclear weapons secrets.
The extent to which China can reverse
engineer the EP-3's onboard systems will probably depend on two factors: how
much the crew destroyed before landing and how much of the aircraft's high-tech
systems are software-based versus hardware-based. The software is the prize
because it is computer code that allows the aircraft to process what it is
listening to, while the hardware is not as important from an intelligence
This article is going to be reduced to what used to be called the “Readers Digest” Version; full article can be found on line
Cold war Submarine Warfare
Throughout the cold war, large and medium sized powers were looking to build nuclear-powered submarines that were quieter and therefore more difficult to track and intercept. Given the importance of remaining undetected on nuclear deterrent patrols, espionage missions and other activities, the technology needed to make submarine propulsion quieter was much sought after.
In the early
1980s agents acting on behalf of the Soviet government through Tekmashimport - a KGB-linked
Soviet trade organisation - were able to procure a selection of highly advanced
milling machines which could be used to cut propellers for new submarines from
stainless steel or bronze, making them smoother and, subsequently, their
for international security and US-Japan relations must also be considered. In
pursuing just $17 million and $10.4 million worth of business, respectively, it
has been alleged that Toshiba Machine and Kongsberg caused somewhere between $1
billion and $100 billion (1980s prices) worth of damage to the US Navy. The
sale was alleged to have made Soviet submarines twenty-fold quieter and much
more difficult to track in a very short space of time. The actual cost of the
damage to western interests is difficult to determine.
AKULA! The Soviet Shark
Original article for SUBSIM Review
by Neal Stevens Nov. 1999
The shark. The most feared creature in the sea. Silent and lethal, this killing machine of nature can strike at a moment’s notice. The Russian word for shark is akula. In NATO, Akula is the designation given to the newest and most technologically advanced attack submarine of the Russian Navy. The Akula class submarine is Russia’s answer to the American Los Angeles class fast attack subs. Common opinion holds that Russian submarines are noisy and technologically inferior to their American and British counterparts. Expert opinion, however, knows what lies behind the traditional Russian veil of secrecy. With the Akula, the former Soviet Union has caught the US in the undersea arms race.
The Akula class nuclear submarine is officially deemed Project 971 Shuka B (shuka is an aggressive breed of fresh water pike). Soviet naval engineers designed Akula as the follow-up to the Victor and Sierra classes to set a new standard in stealth and serve as the vanguard of the modern Russian Navy. First of her class, the K-480 (named Bars, Russian for panther) was laid down in 1982 at the Komsomol'sk Shipyard on the Amur River (Eastern Russia) under the authority of the Malakhit Design Bureau. The Soviet Navy launched Bars in 1983 and commissioned her in December 1984. Most of the first eight Akula class submarines were built in Komsomol’sk until activities there ceased in 1993. The remaining submarines have been built or are under construction at the Sevmash Shipyard in Severodvinsk (Northern Russia near Arkhangel’sk), now the primary shipyard for the Russian Navy.
With the Russian economy presently in disarray, shipyard activities face spiraling uncertainty. Production of most surface ships has halted. Output of Akula submarines remained steady at one-to-two a year until 1995. Funding delays and shipyards strikes have delayed completion of additonal units. To illustrate this, consider the Akula submarine Gepard. Her keel was laid down in 1991 with the sub scheduled to enter active service in 1996. According to the Severodvinsk daily Severny Rabochy, Gepard is still in the yard. The sub's crew was scheduled to arrive on board in early 1998 while the Gepard is still under construction. Western experts puts the total number of Akulas at around 13~14. At current building rates, perhaps one new nuclear submarine will be delivered every three years.
When discussing the actual physical characteristic of a piece of Russian military hardware, one must always keep in mind the degree of security the government imposes on information. It is generally believed that an Akula displaces an estimated 7500 tons surfaced, 9100 tons submerged, with a length of 108-113 meters and a beam of 13.5 meters. Intelligence believes propulsion is derived from a pressurized water reactor with a model OK-650 b high-density reactor core, generating a total of 200 mwt and a shaft power of 43,000 hp. The uranium fuel is highly enriched, producing substantially more power than American submarine reactors. Some sources credit Akula with two reactors. Thomas Jandl, director of Bellona USA (a Norwegian-based environmental group), says, "My colleagues tell me that the Akula has only one reactor, as opposed to older Russian subs, which had two. The Akula does not follow the two-reactor tradition." Whichever the case may be, the Akula is capable of underwater speeds of 35 knots (claimed) and this, too, may be a conservative rating.
The Akula uses a double hull construction. The living spaces, torpedo tubes, and most of the machinery exists within the stronger inner hull. The ballast tanks and specially adapted gear are located between the inner and outer hulls. Double hull construction calls for greater propulsion requirements and includes limber holes for the free-flooding sections between the hulls. These holes are an inherent source of unwanted noise. Akula class submarines, however, incorporate limber hole covers that can be closed to reduce or eliminate this tattletale. Offsetting the extra weight, double hull construction dramatically increases the reserve buoyancy of a submarine by as much as three times over that of a single hull craft. The greater capacity for absorbing enemy fire and still being capable of reaching the surface must have a very good effect on the morale of the 80 crewmen.
An Akula has a very distinctive profile; a broad beam, sleek lines, and the conspicuous stern pod which houses a hydrophonic towed array. Hull material is high strength steel. The Akula does not have a titanium hull after many problems with that material during early construction. Diving depth approaches 500 meters, possibly ten percent more, placing the Akula ahead of the American Los Angeles class. The engineers have taken great care to blend the sail into the hull producing superior hydrodynamic qualities. The result makes American submarines look blocky and piecemeal in comparison. Decreased water resistance adds knots to an already potent powerplant.
The combination of a high-density reactor and streamlined hull contours make the Akula class capable of speeds that outperform NATO submarines. Careful study of Akulas captured on film reveals another velocity weapon. Parallel sections of small-diameter tubing running down the hull are thought to be a system that, when the need arises, can emit a polymer substance that may greatly enhance underwater speeds under combat conditions.
The Akula is quite capable of gunning as well as running. Armed with four 533mm and four 650mm torpedo tubes, Akula deploys twice as much ordnance as the Los Angeles class. Loadout consists of twenty SET 53 torpedoes, four SS-N-21 nuclear cruise missiles, four SS-N-15 nuclear torpedoes, and ten ultra-heavyweight SET 65 ASUW torpedoes. Both the SET 53 and SET 65 torpedoes are wireguided and possess active, passive, and wake-homing capabilities. The SET 65 pack a 900kg punch, enough to take out a carrier with one unit.
Significant modifications were made to the original Project 971 Akula design beginning with the fifth unit. Classified as "Akula II", these modifications include a four-meter extension that may accommodate VLS tubes and advanced technology sensors.
Tactics and Defense
Known countermeasures are the standard gas-producing decoy units, a holdover from the German Pillenwaffer, sonar jamming, and an ingenious acoustic decoy commonly referred to as the nixie. The nixie is a small torpedo that emulates the sound signature of the parent sub. Once launched, the nixie veers from the submarine’s track at three knots. The emissions coming from the nixie obscures the actual noise generated by the creeping submarine. While the tracking submarine is deceived into tracking and launching on a decoy, the Akula may silently alter course and counterattack. At the very least, a nixie will force the NATO submarine to track multiple targets, uncertain which is the Akula.
However, even more intriguing is the layman’s theory that the newer Russian subs can actually operate at lower sound levels than documented. Learning of the spectacular achievements of US sub quiteness from the Walker revelations (see below), Soviet military doctrine may dictate that all submarines routinely emit a level of noise that exceeds their minimum capability. The theory follows that NATO submarines track, record, and catalogue the Akulas at these artificial sound levels and US naval intelligence may be misled into believing that the profiles represent the best the opposition can do. In the event of actual conflict, doctrine would then direct the Russian submarines to shift into a combat mode of silent running and eliminate the false noise levels, effectively disappearing from NATO’s view. "The submarine versus submarine engagement profile is a lot more complicated than the simple comparison of radiated noise, which is too often used to oversimplify relative effectiveness," a Navy expert said. "Other equally important factors include tactical handling and sonar performance, and even non-acoustic sensors must be taken into account."
Gains Through Borrowed Technology
As we have seen, the Russian naval mindset stresses performance over stealth. The Akula follows a line of boats that can outdive, outrun, and outshoot American subs in most categories. The notable exception is quietness. One American submarine captain described the acoustic profile of a seventies Russian sub as similar to that of a "threshing machine". American submarines are capable of a highly touted degree of stealth that no Russian sub can match. That is, until Akula. Western intelligence experts had expected the US lead in submarine acoustics to last well into the 21st century. The advent of the Akula class has many NATO military planners convinced that US subs have lost the advantage they enjoyed since the end of the Second World War.
Originally, the Soviet fast attacks (Victor class) were deployed in the sixties off the US coasts to shadow US boomers. When this strategy failed because the boomers were too quiet, the Soviet fast attacks received reassignments to escort their own boomers and provide retaliation deterrent against US fast attacks. To overtake the Americans, Russian engineers adopted and improved the machinery rafting designs that had proven successful in damping the turbine noise on American nuclear submarines. However, as one high-ranking American officer cautiously stated during an interview, the Russian technology may achieve a high level of noise suppression initially but degrades after service. The signature of an Akula grows more prominent with age, whether through inferior design, materials, or maintenance.
Other reported Russian design innovations included three separate anechoic coatings on the hull. The most significant achievements in reducing radiated noise were obtained through espionage. The spying efforts of American naval personnel John Walker and radioman Jerry Whitworth made the Soviet Union’s military chiefs aware of how far advanced American submarines were. Substantial efforts to marginalize the sound profile of the Akula can be traced to intelligence gained from the Walker spy ring. A separate but equally empowering sequence of events for the Russians was the illegal sale of propeller milling technology by the Japanese firm Toshiba and the Norwegian firm Kongsberg. The combined results generated a steep drop in broadband acoustic noise profiles.
Leading the Undersea Arms Race
Rapid gains are not won without some setbacks. Four Soviet-era submarines have been lost with the loss of over 500 men. There have been ten known nuclear accidents and many lesser accidents involving fires. Some of the blame, no doubt, is due to the acquisition of technology through espionage rather than painstaking research that includes thorough comprehension. There have been no known accidents of the Akula class boats operating from the Northern and Pacific Fleets, which leads one to believe the Russians have survived their lengthy trials and have produced a world-class product. Although Western military buffs are often quick to dismiss the former Soviet Union as technologically inept, the Akula class has raised serious doubts of who is leading whom.
This turnaround was painfully evident when US officials recently acknowledged for the first time that US submarines could not readily locate an Akula submarine operating off the coast of the USA. "It is difficult to find the most advanced Russian Akula class submarines when they operate at tactical speed or less," Admiral Jeremy Boorda said. Other military experts sounded the alarm as early as 1988. Anthony Batista, senior staff member of the Armed Forces Committee declared, "The Akula is the best submarine in the world today." A recent report from the Office of Naval Intelligence noted that the improved Akula submarines could indeed surpass the quieting of the Los Angeles class at tactical speeds. On August 9, 1995, during a lobbying effort on behalf of the Seawolf and the following Virginia class submarines, retired Vice Admiral E.A. Burkhalter announced that the $7 billion-per-year Russian program had produced "the Akula submarine, which is quieter than Seawolf." In an effort to raise public awareness, Martin Marietta, a leading defense contractor, ran ads featuring the Akula class in a number of newspapers including the San Diego Union-Tribune. While it may be difficult to separate the hype military supporters chronically use to "talk up a potential threat, in order to justify their own building programs" from the actual capabilities obscured by Russian secrecy, one impression remains: America can no longer claim uncontested dominance of the oceanic strata.
Kenneth Rapoza, Contributor|
click on link for pic. best can do with the time I have right now.
China finally gets her wish: 24 Sukhoi SU-35s from Russia, with love. And a warning: don't you dare try and reverse engineer this beast.A recent official visit to Moscow brought back some new souvenirs for the Chinese military.