Mutual trust project
The May visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to China was remembered primarily by signing the largest contract for the supply of natural gas. In addition, more 40 agreements have been concluded in the aircraft and automotive industry, in other areas, including even developer. As far as can be judged, they did not include contracts for the delivery to the PRC of 24 Su-35C fighters and C-400 anti-aircraft missile systems, but it is likely that these deals will be documented in the near future. However, attention is drawn to the absence of significant projects in the field of shipbuilding.
It is known that in the past, China was one of the largest importers of Russian naval weapons purchased in 1990, 2000-12 years of diesel-electric submarines 877EKM / 636 / 636M projects, four destroyers project 956E / 956EM, shipboard helicopters Ka- 28 and Ka-31, anti-ship missiles 3М80 and 3М54Э, shipboard anti-aircraft missile systems С-300ФМ and Shtil-1, other weapons and military equipment.
It is no secret that as the construction of most of the ships and submarines was independently mastered, the official Beijing largely reduced purchases of naval platforms from Russia. At present, deliveries of individual Russian systems and components for Chinese projects under construction are likely to be coming. The wave of the “renaissance” of bilateral military-technical cooperation (MTC), which began in 2010 – 2011, practically did not affect exports in the interests of the Navy of the People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA). The exception is, perhaps, negotiations on the supply and construction in China of a total of four diesel-electric submarines of the 677 project (Amur-1650). This contrasts sharply with the situation in the field of aircraft manufacturing and aircraft engine building.
The question of expanding possible areas of cooperation in the field of naval technology is highly relevant. It seems that one of them could be cooperation in the disposal of six Chinese nuclear submarines of the first generation of 092 Xia (submarines with ballistic missiles SSBN, one hull) and Han 091 (multi-purpose submarines, five units).
Appeal to Moscow should be quite logical and natural. Today, Russia has the most extensive experience in the world in the disposal of decommissioned nuclear submarines, including emergency ones. As of the beginning of the 2014, the 201 was dismantled from the NNX of the decommissioned NPS. In the coming years, the remaining boats, even taking into account the expected write-off of new hulls, will be finally disposed of. The peculiarity of our approach is that since 193, Rosatom has been identified as a state customer - coordinator of works on the decommissioning of nuclear submarines, surface ships with a nuclear power plant (NPI) and vessels of atomic technology services, environmental rehabilitation of nuclear radioactive waste. But the work itself was carried out at the ship repair enterprises of the Ministry of Defense and the United Shipbuilding Corporation (from 1998 year). Thus, in the issue of disposal there was a certain subordination of the enterprises of the ship-repair industry.
In 2005, the then head of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency, Alexander Rumyantsev, proposed the USA, France and Great Britain to dismantle their nuclear submarines at Russian shipyards. At the same time, a scheme was proposed, according to which, at first, spent nuclear fuel (SNF) from submarines was unloaded in the countries-operators, and in Russia, work was carried out directly on the shells. That is, the possibility of towing SNF boats on board to Russia was not excluded. The initiative was left unanswered by potential customers, and the market itself was limited at best by the European countries 15 – 20 submarines. The probability of scrapping American ships in Russia looked frankly fantastic, since the United States at that time had a streamlined scrapping mechanism. Nevertheless, Rumyantsev’s statement showed that Rosatom is looking for new markets and areas of cooperation for itself.
Obviously in stories Far East shipbuilders will act with China as a potential counterparty from the Russian side. They have significant experience in the dismantling of nuclear submarines, and the most promising is JSC Far East Plant Zvezda (DVZ Zvezda). It is the largest ship repair enterprise in the region, where at least 31 submarines of 627, 659, 667А, 667АТ, 667Б, 667БДР, 671, 671РТМ and 675 projects were utilized. All necessary infrastructure has been created here, there are specialists, as well as considerable experience in international cooperation, since the work here was carried out with funds from Russia, the USA, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.
Star has also gained its own experience of working with China in non-nuclear submarines. In 1997, a PLA delegation visited the plant, during the visit an agreement of intent was signed to repair diesel-electric submarines (diesel-electric submarines) of the 877EKM project, previously purchased from Russia. In 1999, an interdepartmental commission composed of representatives of Rosvooruzhenie GC, the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, and the Ministry of Defense conducted an assessment of Zvezda’s production capabilities, Dalzavod OJSC and Amur Shipbuilding Plant OJSC for the Chinese order, which resulted in transferred to the DVZ. The general contract for the repair of diesel-electric submarines was signed by Rosvooruzhenie GC no later than April 1999 of the year and it contained a condition to carry out work only at enterprises of the Far East.
In June, the government of the Russian Federation appointed 2000 the ZVDZD ZVEZ the contract performer. In March, 2001, a contract was concluded for the pre-repair survey of the Chinese diesel-electric submarines. In addition, according to the Far Eastern press, at the beginning of the 2000, the Russian government signed an agreement under which the company received an order to repair two Chinese diesel-electric submarines.
Today it is not clear to the end in what form the repair was made - completely on the DVZ or on the Chinese shipyard with the involvement of Russian specialists, since in the first half of 2001, the parties did not reach a compromise. According to the enterprise itself, in 2000 – 2001, the plant’s specialists conducted a survey of the diesel-electric submarines of the 877EKM project of the Chinese Navy with a view to organizing repairs on the Zvezda. And in June 2000, the then plant manager Valery Maslakov announced to local media that the Chinese boat would come in for repairs in November of the same year.
In any case, it is obvious that the cooperation was conducted. Its scale was small compared to the delivery of ready-made platforms and weapon systems, but for the Far Eastern industry the beginnings of the 2000's became very significant. Something similar may happen in the case of dismantling Chinese nuclear submarines.
The likely mechanism of interaction may be as follows. Experts "Stars" are examining the ships of the PRC. Chinese colleagues are doing internships in Russia to learn about local experiences and opportunities. Taking into account the fact that the enterprise has a great experience of cooperation with foreign countries, the issues of the regime and the admission of foreigners to the territory look quite solved.
Then, Russian enterprises and organizations can assist in the development of all documentation both for the dismantlement of the submarine proper and for the creation of the necessary ground infrastructure. Surely you will need advice from our specialists in the places where the relevant work will be done. It is obvious that the order is unlikely to be large - a maximum of several tens of millions of dollars. But given the fact that we have practically no need for such work in the Far East, cooperation with China will be a way to preserve the necessary competencies that will again be needed in 2020-s when the time comes for the mass write-off of third-generation Russian submarines.
The project of joint utilization of nuclear submarines should have a high political significance in the eyes of the Chinese and is likely to receive active support from the local industry. The People's Republic of China ranks first in the world in terms of shipboard utilization. In 2013, the country wrote off their 2,5 million tons (total weight), that is, 4,6 percent more than in 2012 year. National companies of a similar profile are united in the powerful industry association of the China National Shiprecycling Association (CNSA). It consists of 120 enterprises, which in total provide 110 economies with thousands of jobs.
Chinese industry has experience in scrapping large warships, including aircraft carriers, and in some cases working with foreign ships was considered as a source of technology. The Australian aircraft carrier Melbourne, with a full displacement of about 20 thousand tons, was sold to the Chinese China United Shipbuilding Company for scraping in the 1985, and in the same year was delivered to China and subjected to a thorough study. The final cutting into metal was made only in 2002. The Chinese industry has experience in working with various types of non-nuclear warships, including several dozen diesel-electric submarines of the 033 type (a clone of the Soviet 633 project), as well as boats of the 613 project of Soviet construction.
In the future, the industry will face much more complex challenges. Discontinued fleet and the nuclear submarines of the first generation of projects 091 and 092 already approaching the end of their service life are replaced by the Chinese by no means in a one-to-one ratio. The country is in the process of building a full-fledged naval component of strategic nuclear forces. At the first stage, they will consist of five SSBs of type 094 "Jin", which will replace the only and essentially experimental SSBN of project 092 "Xia" built in the 80s.
In all likelihood, in the future, the naval forces will be expanded due to approximately the same number of SSBNs of the 096 project with an increased number of missiles. The number of atomic multi-purpose submarines is growing at a somewhat slower pace. The five Han 091 submarines (at least two of them have already been withdrawn from the fleet) are expected to be replaced by six to eight boats of the Xan 093 project, followed by the boats of the advanced 095 project. The catching-up model of the development of the Chinese fleet and the relatively rapid development of new technologies suggest that the renewal of the growing nuclear submarine fleet will be carried out with high regularity. Consequently, the importance of owning appropriate recycling technologies for the Chinese will only grow.
In 2012, the Chinese fleet placed an order for the development of a prototype nuclear power plant for a surface ship. The presence of this and other projects, in particular the work on energy-intensive electromagnetic catapults, suggests that the Celestial Empire is preparing for the construction of nuclear aircraft carriers. But a surface ship with a nuclear power plant may appear much earlier. During Vladimir Putin's visit to China in May 2014, a memorandum of understanding was signed on cooperation in the construction of floating nuclear power plants. So in the future, Beijing may also be interested in obtaining Russian technologies for decommissioning and disposing of surface ships with nuclear power plants. Due to the long-term operation of the fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers and heavy nuclear-powered missile cruisers of the 1144 project, Russia has a unique expertise base in this area. Thus, cooperation can be beneficial to both countries, and joint work in the field of disposing of surface ships and submarines with nuclear power plants can be a clear indication of the deepening of bilateral contacts and the growth of mutual trust.
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