Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR May 2016 Contents Developmental and prototype units were built and
tested, but the navy did not order them onto serial
ships. It was not until earlier this decade when the
customer made up its mind. After successful runs
of technology demonstrators built under industry’s
initiatives, the navy decided to fund R&D on units
employing the principle of diesel fuel reforming.
After the next series of tests in 2013-2014, work
proceeded towards building a full scale prototype.
Since 2014, Rubin has been working on AIP under
a framework contract from the Russian navy. That
year, the company constructed a full-scale prototype
and made it work to the customer’s specification. In
late 2014-early 2015, ground tests were completed.
The navy issued a positive conclusion. This enabled
the company to proceed with building a production
specimen able to work in a ship environment. As of
December 2015, work was in progress in preparation
for testing at sea. “Sea trials are a must for such units.
We continue to develop and mature the requisite
technologies and hardware in accordance with the
navy’s plans and schedules”, Vilnit told APDR.
APPLICATIONS AND PECULIARITIES
Structurally, AIP is built as a module for insertion into
the submarine’s hull. At IMDS’2013 and 2015 Rubin
exhibited a scale model of “Project 677E/Amur 1650”.
It represents a stretched version of the Lada with an
AIP section inserted forward of the diesels. Rubin
insists that the AIP section can be easily built into
hulls of in-production submarine designs, notably the
Project 677 Lada and its exportable version, the Amur
AIP is among the requirements of the Project 75I
tender on six conventional submarines for the Indian
navy. Russia is one of the countries that received a
Request for Information. For several years now, the
bidders have been awaiting a Request for Proposal.
Rubin says that the Amur 1650 meets all of the
requirements that can be envisioned in the coming
RFP. “It is true to say that we are developing an
exportable version of AIP specifically for the Amur-
1650. The current phase of work centers on the issues
of how to prepare this unit to serial production and how
to fit it into the earlier designed hull. I think that we shall
be able to complete this work in a relatively short time”.
As of early 2016, there was no decision by the
Russian navy to equip any of the already started Lada
hulls with AIP. It is likely that the B-586 and B-587 will
go into commission without AIP. At the same time, AIP
could appear on a fourth Lada that the navy promised
to order. “The current state of events gives me some
assurance that this sort of propulsion will find a place
in the hulls to be constructed for our navy in the
near future. Meanwhile, we continue working on AIP
under respective contracts from the Russian defense
ministry”, Vilnit says.
The AIP engineered by Rubin has some similarities
with the German one on the Type 212/214 submarines.
Common points include the use of fuel cells. The key
difference is that the Germans store hydrogen onboard,
while the Russians do not. “By way of reforming the
diesel fuel, our unit allows you to produce as much
hydrogen as you need for consumption. So, there is no
need to store any. This results in higher safety”.
These words came from Igor Molchanov, chief
designer at Rubin for non-nuclear submarine projects.
In 2013 he promised to complete work on an AIP
production specimen in the 2016-2017 timeframe.
“We consider the AIP issue only in connection with
Ion-Lithium batteries”, he added. “This is because such
a combination allows for a better design of the electric
power system. It also allows us to meet customer’s
Generally speaking, AIP and Ion-Li batteries can
be viewed as independent solutions to increase
underwater endurance of the conventional submarine.
Best results are achieved when both are employed.
With a standard acid battery, the Lada can go
underwater a distance that is some 50% greater
than that for the Type 212. This advantage, however,
evaporates when the German boat uses AIP. Without
snorkeling, she can go distances two-to-three times
greater than the Russian design (which has no AIP). If
the Lada gets equipped with a Ion-Li battery, she would
close the gap. If the newer battery is supplemented by
AIP, the Russian submarine will beat the German in
both range and endurance.
Perhaps such a future prospect prompted the
European manufacturers to look for ways to improve
performance of their products. Starting in 2014, the
German and French began demonstrating at various
defense shows scale models of future submarine
designs with AIP modules based on reforming of
the diesel fuel. Rubin considers this development as
proof that it chose the right way to go. “Creation of
AIP employing the technology of diesel fuel reforming
is something you cannot do overnight. We spent
years on R & D before reaching a point when we could
produce a workable unit”, Vilnit commented. “T his
makes me believe that we are ahead of the competition
in the field of advanced submarine technologies”.
The head of the Russian design house considers
European firms as strong competitors in the global
market for conventional submarines. “Our main
competitors are the Germans and the French, that’s
for sure. Sweden is more of “no” than “yes”. To stay
competitive, you need to go from one project to another
without breaks, build up your knowledge and expertise
on the experience of consequent designs that went
into production and service. European shipbuilders did
so for many years. And yet I am absolutely convinced
that Rubin can withstand technical competition with
anyone. Today, we have a new design, a new class
and a new generation, and that gives us a competitive
Vilnit is skeptical about chances of the newcomers.
“China, South Korea and Japan may attempt to
challenge us. But the performance of their submarines
does not look so good. To win orders, the new
exporters need to sell cheaper, build faster or offer
buyers some other competitive advantages”.
Russia’s geography is unique: her coastline is
washed by the waters of three oceans and dozens
of seas. Many submarines operate in them. The
Russian navy has collected plentiful information and
intelligence on submarines made in the U.S ., U.K .,
Germany, Sweden, France, China and Japan. This
provides grounds for comparative analysis, and one
not favourable to the Japanese. Vilnit says that the
Japanese submarines do not look competitive from
an engineering point of view. “But there could be
some other reasons to go for them, such as political
Lead vessel of Project 677 Lada. Credit: Rubin
42 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter MAY 2016
29/04/2016 6:51 PM
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