How To Build A Submarine.

How To Build A Submarine.
The process of submarine manufacturing isn't less complex than building of a space ship. A giant submarine is a fruit of team work of dozens of thousands of peaple. And it is not a job of workers only but job of scientists in design bureaus, metallurgists and millitary specialists too. Several years may pass from the starting moment for design of new project till the moment of laying down a subsequent submarine and sometimes even decades. Builders and designers don't have a right for mistake. A negligently welded seam or badly placed wiring, the slightest mistake on bench test of devices can result to death of the crew or even to a global catastrophe. Building a nuclear submarine boat is a very serious business.

"Take aviation for example. They build several airplanes. They crash them, They break them and then start a serial production. While we can't do that. We build a boat and right after it was commissioned and passed trials it must go for combat patral."

Manufacturing of a submarine somehow resembles a building kit. Here they assemble disassemble and assemble back again in the same manner. Only that the parts of that building kit are many times more complex and bigger.

"This is a hull processing workshop. Construction of any ship starts exactly from metal cutting. Here they cut details from 12 meters long till so small like this one."

Thickness of metal sheets from where these parts get cut of can vary from 5mm to 20cm. Right here in the 5th workshop of Sevmash, those part will be polished to ideally even surface, they smooth out their edges and if it necessary they can bend them too and exactly under that angle which is demanded by the specific from of nuclear submarine. The hull processing workshop is probably the most automated and computerized in the entire enterprise. They don't cut anything by manual patterns from blueprints on tracing paper for long time already. All shapes are installed in computer's memory which controls the cutters. An experienced gas burner operator need one minute top in order to give computer an order to cut a new detail. And an experienced doesn't mean an elderly man. Many young people work in the 5th workshop.

New generation chooses new generation technology. "The job is interesting. We work with machinery and computers here. The job isn't physically difficult. We don't have to carry loads here. Everything is done by cranes. They explained the job to me once and I understood everything right away."

The future submarine which yet consists of dozen of thousands tiny fragment moves from the 5th workshop to the hull-welding workshop. Here the details turn to read fragments and sections of the future boat.

"The max dimensions of structures which we can produce here is up to 600 tons. Main occupations in our workshop are assembly operator of metallic vessels and electric welder."

However no matter how big these parts are or how much they weight, they still will be placed in the panoramic gammagraphy chamber. This hugh cylinder is an X-ray office. Only that they don't x-ray human body parts but submarine parts. Entire body sections can fit here in order to control the quality of every welded seam. The ship x-ray office of Sevmash works with its full capacity today. Five submarines are being simultaneously at the enterprise. Four of them belong to the latest, the 4th generation. After a forced break when works on all military orders were essentially frozen here, the hull-welding facility gets back to its normal pace of production now.

Maybe we wouldn't be able to produce all of main orders by the Navy, but regarding the tonnage of our production, during the last year while having less people, we produced as much as we producing in 1985 when the workshop started working with its planned capacity. The ready and checked section now move to the slip workshop on rails. There they take their placed on a slip train. This construction consists of girders placed on special carriages. The assembled hull of the submarine passes through hydraulic trials. If they passed successfully then the already formed construction gets cut to block-modules. All necessary devices and mechanisms get rolled in them from the open ends. Boat's systems, pipelines and wiring cables get mounted. The entire household stuffing of the boat gets installed in the slip workshop too, till washbasins and shower cabins.

Before the beginning of final assembly of the boat all the hardware planned to be installed, together will all new devices, weapon, electronics, pass long lab and field trials. Only after their successful completion, people of the plant start assembling the new boat's hull. The most important thing is to test the equipment of our co-exectives. To make sure that it works well. To work out the acoustics in the sea. Because imagine what will happen if it will go for service and its acoustics won't work? That will be a tragedy. The filled block-modules get connected and welded again. The strong hull is then dressed in a light hull. And the almost ready submarine passes workshop trails of every piece of equipment. If there are no problems in their operation then the sub gets out of the workshop to the World. And it gets lowered in yet dry reservoir of filling pool. Water gets pumped in there and the boat floats.

When people of Sevmash say "The ship is trying the water" they mean a water of this exact hugh filling pool. A ready ship gets out from the sheds exactly here. Here it comes to light. The size of the pool is impressive. However a nuclear submarine is also not a small vessel. When they place a huge body of the submarine here, the entire process reminds a washing of a hippo in a regular bathtub. Exquisite accuracy in ship control is demanded from tug crews, who push the boat to the gates of the filling pool. Sometimes the operation of talking a sub to big water takes an entire day light time. Since recent times subs get out from the pool not with help of tugs but inside an unique floating dock "Sukhona", which was also built at the Severnoye Mashinostroitelnoye Predpriyatie. The "Sukhona" takes the body of the boat when it is still on the ground. Then the dock goes into the water, and when it gets to open waters, it releases or pushes the boat out of its womb. This way is much safer.

However even this phase doesn't mark the end of building process. They will continue its finishing for a long time. Its hydroacustic system, hull's strength, correct work of all equipment will be tested over and over again. And only after the moment when all sub systems will get an ok from the manufacturer, designers and clients, it will be handed to Navy sailors for trials in the open sea. If they also complete with success, then the boat becomes a full worthy combat until of the Russian Navy.

Every lay down and every commissioning of new sub were always special days for Sevmash.It's beginning and an end of specific phase in life. Many events happen in lives of every Sevmashovets - some got his kids married, others went to retirement. It's a custom here to count the time itself by constructed boats. They say like "That happened when the "Guepard" was moved to water." or "That happened when the "Bars" was laid down." Lying down of ships is not a rare event in last 5 years. Four boat of the lastest generation are under construction and they will become a backbone of Russian submarine fleet in the future.

Here it is - the result of work of the entire plant - an almost ready combat boat - the nuclear submarine "Belgorod". Level of its completion is estimated approximately at 75%. And we can only hope that the State will find funds to complete it. The twin brother of tragically lost "Kursk" is located in the slip workshop of Northern Machinery-building Enterprise, since 1992. The "Belgorod", the nuclear submarine of the 3rd generation, the last submarine of project 949. Belgorod is completed by 3/4 already, but all work on its completion are practically frozen. Up there, they still can't decide to complete or not the construction. After the events with "Kursk", the Project recieved many improvements and upgrades. And the people of enterprise think that dragging time for completion of its construction is simply inadvisable.

We would like a lot to see a decision in favor of Russian Navy and we would hand on this boat to service of the Motherland. It's not difficult to understand the builders of Severodvinsk. Because the "Belgorod" is not just a piece of metal, which can be cut, molded, sold out, at any moment. It's a part of their life. An alloy of designers thoughts and work of thousands of masters. It's their dear child, whom they didn't abandon in the toughest times when salaries were not paid at Sevmash fpr months. So if the "Belgorod" wasn't betrayed then, in early 90s, and it wasn't cut to garden benches, then how is it possible to do that today? When the country remembered again its submarine fleet. To build is not the same with destroying. It's much more difficult. Especially when the speech is about construction of a nuclear submarine.

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