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[Editor’s Note: Dr. DeHaemer is the Director of the Japanese Technology Evaluation Center/World Technology Evaluation Center at Loyola College, Baltimore, Maryland. On the faculty of the Sellinger School of Business and Management at Loyola College, he is the Chairman of the Information Systems and Decision Sciences Department. Dr. DeHaemer is a retired submarine officer and commanded USS SIMON BOLIVAR (SSBN 641).]

About the time that the states of the former Soviet Union became more open to the West, U.S. agencies, principally the National Science Foundation and Advanced Research Projects Agency, commissioned a study of undersea technologies in Europe. The World Technology Evaluation Center (WTEC) of Loyola College, which with its companion Japanese Technology Center (JTEC) has conducted more than 30 technology assessment studies, was chosen to review the state of the art in the broad field of undersea technologies in Russia, Ukraine and selected sites in Western Europe. As the Director of WTEC, I was privileged to organize and participate in the study.

This paper summarizes the findings of the panel of experts for Russia and Ukraine from a general perspective, then discusses the state of specific technologies with a sampling from a few of the institutes that were visited. I will submit a follow-up article for the SUBMARINE REVIEW, which will discuss projects that were observed in Western Europe. Information for obtaining the complete report of the WTEC panel is given at the end of this paper.

A team of 10 individuals representing academe, consulting, industry, and three federal agencies operated in four subgroups to

1This research was sponsored by the National Science Foundation (SNF) and the Advanced Research Projects Agency under NSF Cooperative Agreement ENG-9217849, awarded to the International Technology Research Institute at Loyola College in Maryland.

visit 20 sites in Russia and 5 sites in Ukraine.2 Because of the constraints of time and geography, the locations that were selected were grouped in the vicinities of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Nizhny Novgorod in Russia; and in the vicinities of Kiev and Sevastopol in Ukraine. About 40 percent of the institutes visited were conducting basic research, another 40 percent were sites of engineering development or applied research. In addition there were two academic institutions, two bases for oceanographic operations, and three newly formed trade associations that had been spun off from the basic research laboratories.

At the time of the study, either from a concern for commercial (or national) secrecy or an inability to see any advantage in spending time and resources, there appeared some reluctance to accommodate the visiting panelists. In a few cases, touches of Cold War suspicion remained, but hospitality was never lacking. On the other hand, some of the visits in Russia and Ukraine were made quite interesting because the WTEC panels’ visit coincided with the hosts’ decisions to declassify several active projects. WTEC panel members were aware of complementary work in the United States that remained classified.

In general, the quality of the sites that accommodated the WTEC panel was impressive. Panelists saw several gems of unique and impressive facilities during a large number of laboratory and industrial tours. WTEC’s subpanel was the first group from the West to visit the formerly closed city of Sevastopol and the research submersible operating base there. WTEC’s representatives were welcomed with ceremony and enthusiasm (toasts of vodka and bilge water) and made honorary hydronauts of the Bentos 300, a submersible laboratory. As another example, the Lazurit Central Design Bureau in Nizhny Novgorod displayed 19 models of submarines and submersibles that were previously.

2The following made up the WTEC panel on Research Submersibles and Undersea Technologies: Richard J. Seymour (Chair) Texas A&M University; D. Richard Blidberg, Northeastern University; Claude P. Brancart, Draper Laboratories; Larry L. Gentry, Lockheed Missiles and Space Co., Inc. Algis N. Kalvaitis, National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration; Michael J. Lee, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute; RADM John B. (Brad) Mooney, Jr. USN(Ret.); and Don Walsh, International Maritime, Inc. In addition, Nonnan Caplan, National Science Foundation, and the author u Principal Investigator for the study accompanied the panel.

unknown to WTEC’s experts.

General Observations

It was evident from the world class facilities at many sites that undersea and oceanographic science and technology had been given stature in the organization of the Soviet Union. A number of real research strengths have resulted, which are summarized in Table 1. A shortfall in computing power, isolation from Western sciences. inexperience with capitalism, and compartmentation due to new national borders give rise to some serious limitations for research infrastructure which are summarized in Table 2.

The effects of defense conversion activities were evident at most of the sites the WTEC panel visited in Russia and Ukraine. New companies or trade groups in these countries. lacking previous experience in, or close ties to. free market activities, appeared to have difficulty deciding on appropriate civil applications for their extensive defense technology. Both Russian and Ukrainian scientific institutions were attempting to convert to commercial objectives. Usually these emphasized the development or protection of marine resources, such as oil and gas in the Arctic, fishery monitoring, ocean pollution monitoring; and improvement of environmental conditions. such as removal of chemical and radioactive pollutants from the oceans.

There appeared to be a lack of realistic strategic planning for many of the institutions that were clearly trying to cope with diminished government support for basic research and a declining advanced development support because the military industrial complex that had been the customer was shrinking exponentially. The panel observed, for example, a surprisingly large number of agencies in Russia designing or proposing tourist submarines in competition with each other for a world market that is already close to saturation.

Thus, in the economic chaos of the new states of Russia and Ukraine, many valuable assets for the advancement of undersea technologies, both human expertise and world class research plants, are in danger of being lost.

Russia and Ukraine possess impressive, and in some cases unique, facilities for physical testing. One example is the Krylov Institute, St. Petersburg, which displayed a 2.4 meter diameter titanium sphere that was certified at Krylov to a Russian Registry test depth of 4000 m. These facilities are underutilized and offer opportunities for Western nations to have the advantage of world class laboratory testing at a very low cost.

Table 1

Research Strengths of Russia and Ukraine

  • Test Facilities
  • Oceangoing Research Vessels
  • Highly Educated Engineers and Scientists
  • Manned Research Submersibles
  • Efficient Computer Code
  • Strong Theory, Analysis, Creativity
  • Fabrication and Materials (i.e. welding and titanium)

Table 2

Research Infrastructure Limitations in Russia and Ukraine

  • Limited access to world class professional journals
  • Compartmentation of science after USSR breakup
    • Difficult communication to former colleagues
    • Difficult to move scientific equipment across borders
  • Limited access to computer hardware
  • Limited knowledge of how to do business with the West
  • Limited knowledge of technology development in the West
  • ECONOMIC PROBLEMS: low funding, lack of bard currency

Researchers in Russia and Ukraine have extremely limited computing facilities compared to Western engineers in the undersea technologies field. As a result, Russian and Ukrainian researchers have taken a strong theoretical or analytical approach to most problems, which appears to have been very valuable. It has resulted in an ability to write extremely efficient computer code to facilitate numerical analyses and signal processing on limited computer platforms-a strong skill set that exists among researchers in Russia and Ukraine.

Russian and Ukraine possess extensive fleets of seagoing research vessels capable of long voyages. These vessels possess start-of-the-art facilities for conducting oceanographic investigations. The P.O. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology (Moscow) operates six submersibles and 10 research ships. The submersibles include the MIR-1 and MIR-2 which may be the best equipped deep ocean systems that are now available. Except for a few vessels that are under contract to Western nations, the Shirsbov’s vessels are largely inactive at this time.

Russia and Ukraine have adopted a philosophy of including human presence in nearly all subsea geophysical and oceanographic investigations. They have produced an impressive variety of manned research submersibles that also are largely unused at this time. Eleven of the 25 sites that WTEC visited were involved in manned submersibles. The beginning of research on autonomous vehicles in Russia means that country has, in effect, largely skipped over the development of the conventional cable-controlled remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).

The WTEC panel principally visited government institutes. In a few cases, it was possible to visit newly formed commercial companies that were associated with the institutes through shared personnel and development facilities. It became obvious that one way to cope with shrinking budgets and frozen salaries of the researchers was the attempt to commercialize the expertise of the institute through start-up companies that were organized in new regional trade associations. One example is the International Centre of Research and Technology Development, TECHNOPOLE, that represents a cluster of start-up companies that have spun off from the Atoll Scientific Research in Dubna, Moscow. Advanced acoustic system hardware and analysis software were developed at Atoll, which are now being marketed commercially.

The breakup of the Soviet Union has had a strong impact on the technology infrastructure. Communications among various groups is unclear. Also, the method for moving from concept to final prototype was controlled very completely in the past, and the resources needed to accomplish a development effort were planned and in place. It seems that this is no longer the case and it will be a while before such an infrastructure evolves in this new environment. Table 2 suggests a list of factors that impact adversely on the scientific infrastructure.

Observations of Specific Technologies

Sensors and Insttumentation. The deep ocean submersibles MIRs, which are operated by the Shirshov Institute and were built by Rauma in Finland, have extensive sensor, instrumentation, and manipulative capability, and are considered by some scientists to be the best equipped and most capable research tools in current operation for deep sea (6,000 m) research.

Although Russia and Ukraine have developed limited remote sensing capability for ocean studies using Lidar and acoustic Doppler current profilers, these designs are not unique and are within the current international state of practice. Designs for multi-purpose airborne lasers systems to detect oil spills and ocean thermoclines were discussed in both Russia and Ukraine. The two countries are also marketing oceanographic instruments, such as conductivity, temperature, and depth meters (CTDs) and current meters. One instrument is capable of measuring CTD at speeds to 15 knots with depths to 1500 meters, enabling surveys over large areas. The ROS Company, Dubna (near Moscow), exhibited components and a display for a seabed passive sonar system-frequency from less than 1 Hz to 5 kHz, with a sensitivity of 250 microvolt/pascal. The company believed it could deliver a system for less than one-fifth the cost of a similar one produced in the West.

Instrumentation (TV cameras, soil and sediment samplers) to inspect the sunken Soviet Submarine KOSOMOLETS was developed by Russia’s Central Design Bureau (RUBIN in Moscow) for use by Intershelf on ROVs from the two MIRs. The Kurchatov Institute (Moscow) developed gamma ray spectrometers to identify Cs-137 for the same expeditions.

Energy, Hydrodynamics, and Propulsion

Energy. The spectrum of energy systems ranged from small simplified nuclear reactors to conventional lead-acid batteries that were designed for use in the numerous manned submersibles. In Russia, the most impressive directions were nuclear power systems (first developed for military submarines) and fuel cells (first developed for the space program). The Lazurit Design Bureau (Nizhny Novgorod) discussed a proposed 6,000 kilowatt unattended nuclear reactor to be placed on the Arctic seafloor to support a submerged oil and gas complex. Other advanced nuclear power designs would be used in submerged service vessels and a submarine OCEAN SHUTILE. While the fuel cells were of conventional design, several had been built and many hours had been logged in spaceflight conditions.

Hydrodynamics. As might be expected, Russia and Ukraine have an extensive family of organizations and institutions concerned with hydrodynamics. The Hydromechnics Institute of Kiev. Ukraine is an example of a well equipped basic research lab in this domain. Multiple tow tanks supported research of oscillating wing propulsion systems, including clusters of the wings for submerged vehicle towing, A most unique and exciting project was an enclosed pressurized tank to support the study of under-water ballistic projectiles. Steel projectiles of about 1.4 em in diameter by 10 em in length are explosively launched to speeds approaching or exceeding Mach 1 in water. As a vapor cavity forms around the projectile, resistance/drag drops to a very low value. Sufficient velocity remains after transiting about 50 meters in the tank for the projectiles to penetrate about . 15 em of steel into the stop plate at the end of the tank.

Propulsion. At Bauman Institute (Moscow) and Krylov Institute (St. Petersburg), there was some mention made of work they were doing in propulsion for high speed submarines, but no documentation was provided. The Kurchatov Research Center (Moscow), teaming with other research labs, is doing work in magneto-hydrodynamic propulsion (MHO). A prototype in a laboratory using cryogenically cooled superconducting magnets moves water through a tube, resulting in a propulsive force with no moving parts.

Manned Submersibles. There is great interest among ocean engineers and ocean researchers in Russia and Ukraine in developing manned submersibles and tourist submarines. Several visited activities, mostly those that have been either involved in manned submersibles or military submarines in the past, now have tourist submarine plans on their drawing boards. The WTEC group was surprised by the variety and number of manned submersibles that were in operation now and that were planned for the future. The existing manned submersibles are fundamental, low cost, uncomplicated, reliable, tested and available. Ocean researchers are enthusiastic users who are quite satisfied with the capabilities of these tools.

The ability to use and fabricate titanium in undersea vehicles in Russia and Ukraine is advanced.

The acceptability of Russian Registry Certification by Western insurance companies needs to be examined carefully before contracting for use of manned submersibles built in the former Soviet Union.

Academically, industrially and operationally, the existing manned submersible base in Russia and Ukraine is truly impressive and has great potential.

Unmanned Submersibles. Russia’s present position relative to the Western world is difficult to establish. The country’s low cost ROVs are dated technology. However, the operating techniques of Russia’s 6,000 m ROV systems have much to offer. There is nothing technically exciting about their unmanned systems, primarily because the nation’s efforts have been concentrated on manned systems.

Acoustic Applications
Understanding of Basic Theory. The researchers participating in the discussions were very clearly aware of the basic principles of the technology with which they were involved. Possibly the limitation of computer capability and the need for efficient problem solving has forced this need for in-depth basic understanding. This is clearly different in the United States, where computer capability and the cost of people can force development to proceed along lines where an engineering solution is more important than reaching a total understanding of all aspects of a problem.

Application Ideas. Acoustic applications were discussed at 17 different organizations. There was R&D on acoustic arrays, transponders, transducers, sonar imaging systems, communications, position navigation, parametric sonar, acoustic releases, acoustic current meters, and acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs). There were several interesting discussions about new applications under consideration, such as sonar emission tomography to detect fish shoals or pollutants, special design acoustic emitters for seismic operations, low frequency active arrays for detection of oil and gas or for accurately locating the position of a well drilling head. some of these ideas appeared to be novel, and had not been considered in the United States, at least in circles represented by members of the WTEC team. It may well be that the new freedom to determine research directions has allowed researchers to consider novel applications of technology. It may also be that having to compete in a world marketplace demands new and novel products and ideas.

System Engineering. Labor and materials are still cheap in Russia and Ukraine, and the availability of micro-electronics is limited. This has led in the past to an emphasis on manned underwater vehicles (UVs) rather than unmanned units. Manned UVs are easier to integrate and maintain, and use low-cost labor to good effect. This trend will probably continue into the near future, until the industrial sector begins to mature and costs drive it toward unmanned systems. In the West, the high cost of labor and the risk of litigation and insurance penalties have driven scientists toward unmanned solutions. However, the same cost of labor has made sophistication and high technology expensive. The United States has improved performance and minimized man-dependency, but in some cases has violated the basic rules: keep it simple and sufficient is good enough.

Engineering in Russia and Ukraine may be behind that of the West in sophistication in some cases, but not necessarily in results. Some engineering and integration achievements there include the following:

  • Numerous and very good research test facilities.
  • Short development spans based on a theory of build it, field it, and then improve it.
  • Avoidance of the analysis paralysis that slows progress in the West.
  • Lack of preoccupation with aesthetics; systems are built stout to last, and simple for easy maintenance.


There is, in both Russia and Ukraine, a genuine desire for cooperation and collaboration. Motivation for this is obvious since funding and equipment are lacking. More importantly, however
is the perception that technologists in Russia and Ukraine truly believe that cooperation and collaboration will bring new insights and further advance their technological interests. The individuals involved in the visits were very talented technical people. Much would be gained by the synergism resulting from true cooperation. Cooperative ventures are sought at all levels from joint research to joint business ventures. Table 3 summarizes the types of joint venture possibilities that exist.

Members of the WTEC team recognized that solutions to technological problems had been implemented on computer hardware of limited capability. Emphasis was placed on efficient algorithms and clearly understanding the principles of the problem. Many can remember how their first efforts at applying microcomputers to instrumentation forced the use of machine languages and complex interface programming. This is not unlike what seems to be the norm in Russia and Ukraine today. The benefit of this has been to develop unique solutions to complex programming problems. In this respect there may be much of value to learn from the countries of the former Soviet Union.

The current environment in the former Soviet Union is allowing technologists the freedom to choose their own research directions. In addition, many technologists are starting small businesses to privatize their talents and products. This has not been possible in the past since funding and resources were directed at specific projects planned outside of the various institutions. It is clear that this new freedom will allow researchers to consider directions that were not available in the past.

Many applications of technology that were reported were both interesting and novel. It must be understood, however, that the actual maturity of those applications is not clear. Many of the technological concepts discussed were in their conceptual stages only. With limited financial resources, it is unclear just how many of those applications will come to fruition. It was not clear at times whether a concept being discussed had yet moved to hardware or prototype development stages, whether it had been evaluated in a real world setting, or whether it had already become available as a product. However, many of the applications discussed could well be moved into viable products readily sought after in the world marketplace.

Table 3

Opportunities for Research Cooperation and Business Ventures

Joint Business Ventures

  • Submersibles for science
  • Systems and submersibles for commercial service and exploration
  • Deep submersibles (6,000 meters+)
  • Monitoring and remediation of hazardous materials

Joint Research Ventures

  • Acoustics and optics
  • Physical oceanography
  • Vehicle hydrodynamics
  • Advanced materials for subsea applications
  • Low cost, high quality research labor
  • Low cost research facilities

Resale of Russian and Ukrainian Products

  • Oceanographic sensors
  • Manipulators
  • Salvage equipment
  • Low cost alternate to various equipment in the West

The observed trend is for members of universities and governmental agencies to form private ventures in an effort to generate needed funds. There are many ventures formed to develop tourist submarines. This is disappointing because the world market for tourist submarines is already nearly saturated. Another trend is for foreign firms to form teaming agreements with individuals and facilities to conduct business on a worldwide basis. The Intershelf Company of Russia demonstrates this trend. Russia must over-come the credibility and logistic support gap before it can compete in the world markets for underwater unmanned systems. Although prices are currently quite low, this may be a short term situation that will eventually change to correlate more closely to Western prices.

Many of the panel’s observations can be assumed to represent only the general state of the art in the research and development laboratories in Russia and Ukraine. There are almost certainly more advanced facilities that the panel was not able to visit. Future visits by anyone interested in this field should allow adequate and deliberate time for technical discussions with the actual professionals involved in moving applications from concept to reality.


WTEC Panel Report on Research Submersibles and Undersea Technologies, R.J. Seymour (Ed.), Loyola College in Maryland, Baltimore, 1994, 315 pages.3

3ISBN number of the report is 1-883712-33-5. The report may be read electronically on the World Wide Web at http://itri.loyola.cdu. Hard copies may be obtained through the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) of the U.S. Department of Commerce NTIS Report#PB94-184843. Call (703) 487-4850 for Information.

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