I continue a series of articles devoted to the state of affairs in our surface fleet. IN first material I talked about the strange sale to the Algerian Navy of our two new corvettes of project 20380, which have been built since 2015 at PJSC Shipyard Severnaya Verf for the Russian Navy, and explained what is the difference between this project and project 20385. Project 20386 will have to be discussed separately.
Project 20386. Growing ship
In the fall of 2016, a new warship was laid down on the stocks of the Severnaya Verf shipyard in St. Petersburg, a project 20386 Corvette Daring, later renamed Mercury (in honor of the eponymous Russian 20-gun brig, which won under under the command of Lieutenant Commander Alexander Kazarsky, a victory in an unequal battle with 1829 and 74 gun Turkish battleships). The laying ceremony took place in a solemn atmosphere and was timed to the 110th anniversary of the Russian Navy. However, this event, despite all its pretentiousness, was met with controversy among military experts.
The reason is offensively banal - the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and the Main Headquarters of the Navy of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation have not yet been able to agree on a single concept for the development of the surface component of the country's naval forces. The new corvette was supposed to be the prototype of the ship of the future. During the creation of the ship, the designers of the Central Design Bureau "Almaz" took into account the mistakes and mistakes made during the implementation of the previous project 20380. The developers tried to make a fundamentally new ship, something between the TFR of the near sea zone and the frigate. They attributed their new brainchild to the class of heavy corvettes, but with the same success it could be attributed to the class of frigates, or even light destroyers.
According to the prescribed TK, the project 20386 corvette was supposed to successfully resist the enemy on the near and far approaches to the sea borders of our country. The combat functions assigned to it are impressive even for hardened Moremans. We can say that the designers were tasked with integrating into one project the capabilities inherent in ships of different classes, namely: 1) protection of sea communications within a 200-mile economic zones; 2) counteraction to ships of a potential enemy at any distance from the bases of the fleet; 3) ensuring stable air defense of ship formations against strikes by air attack means; 4) search, detection and destruction of submarines in a given area; 5) providing air defense and fire support for amphibious operations.
The task was to create a combat ship with high striking power and at the same time capable of performing patrol and military-police functions. The developers have fulfilled the task and even exceeded it. If until recently the Russian Navy maintained the tradition of building different types of ships designed to solve similar problems, then the designers of the Almaz Central Marine Design Bureau this time went from the opposite direction - they created a universal ship that could solve diverse tasks on a single platform. Time will tell whether he will go beyond the small series.
In the 21st century, in the structure of the navies of various countries, the tendency to deploy high firepower strike weapons on small displacement ships prevailed. And Russian designers in this matter today have no equal - they are ahead of the rest of the world, saturating small ships with weapons systems of unprecedented power. In the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and in the high offices of the General Staff of the Navy of the Russian Federation, disputes about this are still ongoing - should we give preference to corvettes and frigates of the 1st and 2nd rank or build MRK (small missile ships) of the 3rd rank?
Corvette of the future. Is it just a corvette?
We do not know how everything will end there in high offices, but we can evaluate the results of the work of the designers of the Almaz Central Design Bureau already today. As a result, thanks to innovative technology, incorporated into the design, at the exit we received a fundamentally new ship. This has never happened before in the Russian Navy. The 20386 project was based on the modularity principle, which consists in equipping the ship with temporarily installed weapons, which makes it possible to expand the range of tasks to be solved. In particular, its superstructure is made of composite materials obtained by the method of vacuum infusion, which makes it possible to reduce its radar signature. The same task is served by the use of large-sized cutouts in the freeboard, which can be closed by latch-ports, which make it possible to more fully implement the “Stealth” technology. Compact and powerful drives, hydraulic systems, new materials and control systems were used to accommodate a large complex of transportation means and ship devices. Innovative solutions are also applied in the electric power system, life support system, environmental protection and many others.
The temporarily installed armament of the ship includes a containerized operational-tactical missile system ("Caliber-NK" for 4 missiles). A flexible extended towed antenna of an integrated underwater surveillance system with a launching device mounted on an integrated frame (GAS "Vignette)" is also temporarily installed on the ship. In addition, the ship provides for the possibility of receiving additional landing craft. To move them, standard movable platforms with universal keel blocks are used. A significant difference between project 20386 and previous projects of corvettes is the widespread use of robotic weapon systems and autonomous uninhabited systems. The introduction of the principle of robotization is associated with the trend developing in world practice to remove personnel from direct contact with the enemy. The ship is supposed to accommodate helicopter-type UAVs, unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), similar to those used on mine defense ships, as well as multi-purpose remotely controlled unmanned boats (BEC). It is possible to install other containerized weapons, for example, diving or providing for the deployment of troops. Until the development of the coastal storage system and the maintenance of removable weapons in technical readiness, these containers are supposed to be placed on board, transferring from ship to ship as necessary.
In addition, 20386 differ from their predecessors in integrated information and control systems of open architecture, new electronic weapons and the use of robotic systems (I have already said a little about them above). The helicopter is planned to be stored in an under-deck hangar equipped with a vertical helicopter lift, which frees up the upper deck for lifting and moving modular containers.
Hull, power plant and ship superstructure
The designers achieved even greater success in the design of the hull and superstructure of the ship. The ship's hull is steel smooth-deck. It is fundamentally new in design and differs from generally accepted ones (even from projects 20380/20385), which has become one of its main features. Thanks to the new contours of its underwater part, it was possible to reduce the hydrodynamic resistance of the ship by 25%, which made it possible to reduce the required power of the main power plant. And this automatically led to a decrease in its weight (a less powerful power plant and weighs less), which helped free up about 15-18% of the ship's displacement to increase its combat load. In addition, the decrease in hydrodynamic resistance also led to an increase in the full speed of the ship by 1,5 - 2 knots, bringing it to 30 knots. Improving the seaworthiness of the corvette and its resistance to lateral roll also influenced the combat capabilities of the ship, allowing it to use existing weapons in rough seas up to 5 points (which is 1 point higher than that of foreign classmates). In addition, due to a decrease in the noise level of the power plant mechanisms, the ship's visibility in the hydroacoustic range was also reduced (for this, even for the first time in the practice of Russian shipbuilding on a surface ship, technologies were used that were previously tested on Russian nuclear submarines of the latest generation).
The main power plant is a combined gas turbine unit with partial electric propulsion as part of two M90FR gas turbine engines with a capacity of 27500 hp. (made by NPO "ODK-Saturn") and two electric motors ADR-1600V with a capacity of 2200 hp. (manufactured by JSC Power Machines), which transmit torque to two shafts and two variable pitch propellers (CPP) through the 6РП gear unit and the inter-gear transmission (manufactured by PJSC Zvezda). I draw your attention to the latter, before that on projects 20380/20385 there were fixed-pitch propellers (FPPs). Knowledgeable people will understand what this gives the ship.
The superstructure of the ship goes from side to side and is made of multilayer composite materials (low-combustible multilayer fiberglass and structural materials based on carbon fiber with high strength characteristics). This technological solution made it possible to free up some more weight of the ship's payload to increase its firepower, since the superstructure made of fiberglass turned out to be 2-3 times lighter than a similar structure made of steel. In addition, the use of composites also meets the requirements of low radar signature (requirements for stealth technology). As a result, due to the above-mentioned architectural features of the hull and superstructure, in combination with the special coatings used; missile armament and antenna posts built into the hull; using materials with high radio-absorbing properties; local protection of individual elements of the hull, weapons and technical means, which have a decisive effect on the formation of physical fields of the upper hemisphere of the ship, the designers managed to achieve a significant reduction in its visibility in the radar and infrared ranges (the average circular effective dispersion surface (EPR) was reduced by approximately 3 times, compared to ships of old projects).
Armament and other performance characteristics
At the same time, the armament of the dream corvette was kept at the level of the previous project 20385 (and it was the most armed in its class). The number of tactical strike missiles was reduced from eight to four (the UKSK 3S14 installed there is sharpened for the use of the entire family of sea-based missiles we have - from cruise "Caliber" to supersonic anti-ship "Onyx" and hypersonic "Zircons"). To do this, the ship had to be lengthened by another couple of meters (109 meters versus 106,3 meters on project 20385), and in order to avoid trim on the bow and loss of seaworthiness, they added a meter and a half on both sides, both from the bow and from the stern ...
At the same time, the total displacement of the ship increased to 3400 tons (and this is already comparable to the displacement of the light frigate of Project 11356R, which has 4035 tons); the cruising range on the economic course (at 14 knots) increased to 5000 nautical miles (against 4000 miles for its predecessors), equal in this to frigates; full speed increased to 30 knots; the number of the crew at the same time decreased to 80 people (against 100 on previous projects), as a result of which the autonomy of navigation increased to 30 days, equal in this to frigates (on previous projects it was 2 times less).
As a result, the designers of the Almaz Central Marine Design Bureau received at the exit not a corvette, but a light frigate, attention, not even a distant sea, but an oceanic zone. I don’t know what will happen to the light frigates of Project 11356R. There is already an engine for them (Rybinsk engine builders have tried), but the ship of the 90s of the last century has long been morally obsolete (the spoon is good for dinner!), And building ships that are outdated on the stocks is more expensive. Therefore, I do not exclude that the series will be closed, and that "Admiral Kornilov", awaiting his fate on the stocks of the Kaliningrad plant "Yantar", will suffer the fate of two other admirals - "Butakov" and "Istomin", he will also be sold to the Indians.
If the corvettes of projects 20380/20385, through the efforts of their creators, brilliantly closed the problems facing the fleet in the near sea zone, then project 20386, according to the customer's plan, was supposed to solve the assigned tasks already in the far sea and ocean zones. It became the subject of a deep evolution of projects 20380/20385, but as always in such cases, it has outgrown its parents on the head, becoming in fact an experimental project of a multipurpose universal light URO frigate of the 2nd rank both in price, and in displacement, and in armament, and in autonomous navigation range (at a price even overtaking the light 2nd rank frigate of project 11356R and coming close to the heavy 1st rank frigate of project 22350).
The developers built a corvette, but actually built a frigate. Do not be confused by the price, it reflects only the cost of the filling of the product, and it was stuffed in accordance with the tasks facing the ships of the far sea zone, trying to maximize all the advantages of the revolutionary platform of the project 20380 corvette, which became the prototype of the series, while saving as much as possible in service. Because of this, the project 20386 corvette has become a kind of intermediate option between the basic 20380 project and the overloaded 20385 armament. Surpassing the first in firepower, the anti-ship complex of which the anti-ship missile system 3S24 "Uranus" was replaced by the shock UVP 3S14, and yielding in terms of ammunition to the second (on the 20385th UVP 3S14 is designed for eight attack tactical missiles, while on the 20386th the designers were limited four).
In the future, the corvettes of this project can become a good support for the Russian Navy. Recent events in the Middle East speak in favor of the fact that almost all operational and tactical tasks can be solved by warships of smaller displacement. The presence of strike missile weapons makes modern frigates and corvettes an effective deterrent. Therefore, a large series of ships of this type, given the relatively low design cost, can within a short time solve the problems of technical equipment of the Russian fleet with new combat units.
We will talk about the series in the final text, from which it will become clear why we still sold the two newest corvettes of the project 20380 "Zealous" and "Strict" to Algeria, while they were contracted for the Black Sea Fleet.