The “Shark” project is one of the most painful topics in the context of the Russian fleet. Despite quite ambitious plans, only a few submarines with uniquely high characteristics were built. Subsequently, the specific combination of technical and operational indicators, as well as political and economic factors led to the gradual write-off of several submarines. Let us recall how it turned out that only one of the seven submarine cruisers built in the lineup remained.
The lead ship of the new project 941 was laid at the Sevmash plant (Severodvinsk) in June 1976. Four years later, the boat with the number of the TK-208 ("Heavy Cruiser") was launched, and at the end of the 1981, she entered the fleet combat fleet. The first serial "Shark" with the designation TK-202 was laid in April 1978 of the year and was built until September 1982. It was handed over to the customer in 1983 year, as they say, under the Christmas tree. Two years after TK-202, TK-12 was laid. She was launched on December 1983, and transferred to the customer in about a year. TC-13 was built from the winter of 1982 to the spring of 1985. By the beginning of 1986, this cruiser entered service. By this time, the TK-17 boat, laid out in February 1985, was put to the test. In November, 1987 was handed over to the Navy. The last of the built ships, TK-20, was laid at the very beginning of 1987 of the year, launched 1988 in July and 1989 passed in September.
Initially, all SSBNs of the 941 project wore only tactical numbers, indicating that they belonged to the class of heavy cruisers. Later, some submarines received names. So, the head ship TK-208 after the repair at the beginning of the two thousandth became “Dmitry Donskoy”, TK-12 was called “Simbirsk”, and TK-17 - “Arkhangelsk”. Under the sponsorship agreement, the submarine TK-20 was named after the Severstal company. Other submarines remained nameless.
It should be noted that the first "losses" promising project 941 suffered even during construction. In the second half of the eighties, it was planned to lay the seventh boat of the series with the number TC-210. The Sevmash enterprise began the preparation of some structures, and soon the bookmark ceremony was to take place. However, it was canceled. Fulfilling the conditions of existing international treaties, the USSR decided to limit the number of "Sharks" to six units. The assembled elements of the TK-210 design were idle for some time without work, and they were dismantled in the 1990 year.
Construction of large and complex ships took a lot of time, and therefore the full group of six submarines was completed only by the early nineties. During this period, our country already had certain economic and political problems that could seriously hit the armed forces and the navy.
The first problem of “Shark” - as well as any other submarines or ships of independent Russia - was the lack of funding. According to some data, in the first years after the collapse of the USSR, the operation of the 941 project ship cost about 300 million rubles per year, whereas the SSBN of the 667BDRM project cost only 180 million. In addition, there were problems with the production and supply of ballistic missiles P-39 - the main armament of the boats. Finally, it did not contribute to the continuation of the service and the political course taken by the country's leadership.
Despite all the difficulties, the fleet continued to operate six strategic cruisers; from time to time combat training launches of the P-39 missiles were conducted. For example, in August 1991, the TK-17 submarine completed a salvo launch of two missiles. In October, the 1992-th ship TK-20 simultaneously launched three missiles. Later, such shooting was carried out several times, and in March 1997, the real record was set. SSBN TK-13 attacked the conventional target with a full ammunition of 20 missiles. In December, a similar salvo was performed by the boat TK-20. It is curious that both shots were performed by just one crew who served on the TK-20.
"Sharks" on the base, the nineties. Photo Militaryrussia.ru
However, the result of any training firing was a reduction in the stock of existing P-39 ICBMs, the production of which has already been discontinued. The last launches of this type of missiles took place in October and December 2003 of the year, they were executed by the ships TK-17 "Arkhangelsk" and TK-208 "Dmitry Donskoy". This stock of available rockets was exhausted, which had the most serious impact on the further fate of their carriers.
It should be noted that the lack of missiles and limited funding for the fleet began to affect the group of "Sharks" for several years before the last shooting. Already in the spring of 1995, the first production boat TK-202 was withdrawn from the fleet's combat fleet and sent to the sludge. A few months later the cruiser TK-12 was brought into reserve. Shortly after the first firing of the full ammunition, the TK-13 submarine went to the reserve. Other SSBNs still remained in the Navy and continued service, albeit with limited combat capabilities.
Further operation of the entire series of submarines project 941 in the original configuration was not possible. The stock of ballistic missiles was coming to an end, and rearmament could be prohibitively expensive and virtually impossible for objective reasons. In this regard, there were various proposals for the restructuring of missile cruisers in the equipment for other purposes. It was proposed to make tankers, transport ships, etc. from “Sharks”. However, none of these proposals came out of the discussion stage and, accordingly, was not implemented.
Meanwhile, the fate of all six submarines built remained uncertain. However, in the late nineties, it was decided to dispose of part of the submarines left without ammunition and real prospects. In 1999, the enterprise Zvezdochka (Severodvinsk) was delivered to SSBN TK-202. In the foreseeable future, the plant was supposed to begin cutting it. The irony of fate is that this time there were problems with financing. Recycling of the submarine began only in 2002 year, with direct financial support from the United States. Work continued until 2005.
The cruiser TK-12 was the next to go. In the middle of 2005, he was towed to Severodvinsk. The following year began the process of dismantling structures, which lasted until the 2007 year. Soon there was a new contract for dismantling the submarine, now it was about TK-13. A few months later, the unloading of nuclear fuel and the cutting of structures began. By the autumn 2009 of the year, only the reactor compartment unit, intended for long-term storage, remained from the submarine. As in the case of the TK-202, the following two submarines were disposed of with the financing of foreign partners.
And yet the beginning of the two thousandth years was not for the "Sharks" exclusively grim. Some decisions made it possible to repair and upgrade one of the missile cruisers. Because of this, he was able to continue his service, and still remains in the navy. This is the lead ship of the project 941 - TK-208.
The anchor of one of the decommissioned submarines became a monument in Severodvinsk. Photo of Wikimedia Commons
Despite the known difficulties, the Russian Ministry of Defense in the nineties continued to search for ways to develop the naval component of strategic nuclear forces. It was not necessary to rely on a few P-39 missiles, and therefore it was decided to develop a new ICBM for submarines. Subsequently, this decision led to the appearance of the P-30 “Bulava” rocket. To perform some work in the interest of a promising project, an experimental vessel was required that could become a test bench.
In 1989, the Shark-type lead missile cruiser was put up for major overhaul and modernization under the 941U project. In 1991, the works were frozen indefinitely. In 1996, they were able to be restored, and now the boat had to be rebuilt according to the 941UM project. In the summer of 2002, the TK-208 was returned to the Navy for the purpose of conducting tests of a promising missile. A few months later, the ship received the name "Dmitry Donskoy".
At about the same time, there was a proposal to repair and upgrade the new boat TK-17 "Arkhangelsk" and TK-20 "Severstal", which by this time were left without ammunition and virtually no future. However, this proposal was not immediately accepted for implementation. The controversy lasted for several years, but in the middle of the two thousandth years, the TK-17 and TK-20 went from service to reserve. In the foreseeable future, the command planned to decide their fate. The possibility of upgrading or turning one of the boats into a museum was not completely ruled out, but was not confirmed either.
Over the past few years, there have been several reports of the future of two submarines in reserve. This time news did not give the slightest reason for optimism. So, officials first talked about their real plans for the 2015 year. Then it was said that two ships would have to be disposed of. In the spring of 2016, two launchers began to be dismantled from two submarines.
The latest news about the future fate of the missile cruisers and the timing of the execution of work appeared in mid-January. RIA Novosti, citing an unnamed source, wrote that in the near future, "Arkhangelsk" and "Severstal" will also be sent for recycling. The ships have already been withdrawn from service, and will be dismantled in the foreseeable future. Disposal will be carried out by the shipbuilding industry with the participation of the state corporation Rosatom. Work will begin no earlier than 2020.
Available information about the future of Dmitry Donskoy, in contrast to the news about the TK-17 and TK-20, can be a cause for optimism. Since 2016, it has been stated several times in the media that TC-208 will continue to serve after the 2020 year. At the beginning of the last decade, this boat became an experimental vessel for testing the Bulava rocket, and in the foreseeable future it may return to such work again. The Ministry of Defense is planning to create an improved version of the P-30 rocket, and an existing ship may be involved in testing experimental products of this type. Thus, in a few years, Dmitry Donskoy will receive a new opportunity to go to sea with experienced missiles on board and contribute to the strengthening of the nuclear shield.
More than 208 years have passed since TK-36 was incorporated into the USSR Navy. At the same time more than 12 years, the submarine was on the repair and modernization. However, in this case, "Dmitry Donskoy" is a kind of record among the "Sharks". He remained in the service for the longest and, probably, in the future will only improve these indicators. Plans to use this SSBN in the future test program of the upgraded Bulava suggest that it will eventually be over 40 in years or even closer to 50.
Other submarines of the 941 project will not be able to boast of such service life. Two ships were put into reserve in the mid-nineties, two more - in the middle of the two thousandths. Most of them remained in the fleet combat personnel no more than 12-15 years. The only notable exception is the boat TK-17, transferred to the fleet in 1987 year and put into reserve in the 2006. However, in this case, the submarine served much less than it could in a favorable situation.
According to the plans of the distant past, prospective strategic missile submarines of the 941 "Shark" project were to replenish and strengthen the naval component of the strategic nuclear forces, significantly increasing its impact capabilities. It must be admitted that the Soviet military shipbuilding coped with the task and provided the fleet with the required number of necessary equipment. The rocket industry enterprises, in turn, have created a solid stock of the required weapons.
TK-208 "Dmitry Donskoy" will remain in service, at least until the early twenties. Photo of the Defense Ministry
While maintaining the desired capabilities and adequate funding, strategic Sharks could make the most notable contribution to ensuring the security of the country for several decades. However, the well-known events of the late eighties and the crisis of the nineties led to different results. Our country had to abandon the construction of the seventh ship of the series, and then write off and dispose of the four already built. Two submarines remain in reserve, but their fate was determined not so long ago. Only one unique submarine in all respects continues to serve, even if in a new capacity.
It is obvious that the era of the Shark-type boats is nearing its end, and they are no longer destined to become the basis of the naval component of the nuclear shield. However, even in such a situation, the command was able to find an opportunity to keep at least one ship in service. However, this can hardly be a sufficient reason for optimism. A new decade is approaching, and after 2020, the cutting of two of the three remaining submarines will begin. In the best case, the military department and the interested public will be able to turn one of the boats into a museum, but it seems that this is not worth counting on. The era of "Sharks" ends. But, fortunately, a new one is beginning - the era of “Boreyev”.
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