Contact Us   |    Join   |    Donate



by Lev U. Khudiakov
SPMBM Malachite
St. Petersburg, Russia 1994
61 pages (in Russian) with appendices;
not including photographs


by Stan Zimmerman
Pasha Publications, Arlington, VA 1993
182 pages

These two similar books with similar titles provide an interesting set of contrasts and similarities. The differences, in part, reflect the differences in the backgrounds of the authors. Professor Khudiakov is a recently retired Russian Naval Officer who directed much of the Soviet naval research and development efforts in his position at the First Central Research Institute. He is now the Chief Scientist (Navy) at the same institute. As demonstrated in the book, Khudiakov is an expert in naval technology as well as in naval doctrine and tactics. Mr. Zimmerman is an award-winning journalist who spent many years on the international submarine beat.

Professor Khudiakov has presented an overview of his proposals for submarine development in the first 15 to 20 years of the 21st century. The text is relatively short, but each paragraph requires careful reading to ensure that the full implication of the insightful but terse statements are recognized. The text is supported by five appendices, four of which present analytical models upon which some of the propositions for tactics, technology focus, and force levels are based. Perspectives that range from the success of acoustic silencing and the current need to suppress turbulence-related signatures to the arguments of the relative value of double hull submarine architectures are presented in a declarative format. Several key perceptions, such as force level requirements for ballistic missile submarines and the need for submarines operating in the littoral to control magnetic signatures, are supported by analytical arguments.

Mr. Zimmerman has maintained the style of a journalist. He states at the outset that the focus of the book is on “the grand design, which begins not at the drawing table, but in the drawing room, in the minds of the policy makers-who decide how to conduct their nation’s defense, and what role the submarine may play”. Except for his obvious support for submarines and his repeated argument that silence by submarine proponents is not in the best interest of the nation, since discussion is necessary to build political and public support, the text is documentary in nature. After a short summary of the current status and significance of submarines, he provides a primer on submarine propulsion, weapons, and sensors, followed by a discussion of submarine roles and design considerations. To the well-informed, these first four chapters are a bit basic, and not always accurate in terminology or values. This appears to be the result of using such a diverse set of sources, including most European and some Asian submarine designers and builders. While the U.S. expert will be distracted by the inconsistencies in international terminology and values, the journalistic style and generous use of side articles throughout the text make this both an interesting read as well as a useful compendium of contemporary submarine references.

The next two chapters relate to some of the factors that have stimulated development of the international submarine market and the competition between the former Soviet Union and the United States. Each is followed by a case study, first of the SSN 21 SEA WOLF and second, the Centurion. With the ongoing discussion and pending Congressional action on both the SSN 23 and the new attack submarine (NAS), the historical review of these two topics is interesting in terms of the accuracy of the prognoses offered two or more years ago.

The parallelisms between Zimmerman’s chapter on the impact of new technology and much of Khudiakov’s book are notable. They both believe that electric drive is a high priority and the direction of the future for reasons of stealth and displacement. Both believe there is little future for the diesel electric submarine. Both believe that the successes of acoustic quieting will drive toward the development of non-acoustic sensors for both airborne and in-situ ASW platforms. Khudiakov describes this as the exploitation of footprint wake fields. Both describe the developments in cybernetics that support rapid information processing, artificial intelligence, and automation as key to improving performance while reducing submarine displacement (size) and cost. While Khudiakov is more explicit with regard to the operational requirement, both predict the development of active torpedo countermeasures, specifically, self defense methods to intercept incoming weapons. Khudiakov quantitatively defines the value of releasing the first volley, but continues that it should be secret; otherwise, at the expected short detection ranges, rapid counterfire could result in mutual destruction. Khudiakov extends the rationale to exclude the use of active sonar by the attackers, but allows its use for an immediate counterattack. He further intimates that the development of covert active sonar ranging is continuing. Both predict the use of non-metallic hull materials for weight and signature reduction, and Khudiakov asserts that at least several submarines built in the next century will have titanium hulls. In reference to the apparent Russian debate between single and double hull architecture, he suggests that the ability to install active visco-elastic coatings that simultaneously decrease radiated noise, lower resistance, and act, in part, as an acoustic antenna could change opinions on the value of a light hull.

Khudiakov concludes that the further development of Russian technical achievements will be introduced into submarines built in the 21st century. These include: titanium hull construction, which has led to the practical realization of 1000 meter diving depths on KOMSOMOLETS (MIKE); complex automation, which allowed the reduction of the crew to several dozen on ALF A; and control of the boundary layer in the interests of reducing power requirements and the intensity of the turbulent wake (“and accordingly, the possibility of detection through non-acoustic methods”) on the experimental submarine BELUGA.

Both books are valuable additions to one’s submarine library: Zimmerman’s because of the unique range and breadth of contemporary submarine issues gathered from all over the globe; and Khudiakov’s because of the opportunity to share the insights of one of the world’s greatest contemporary experts on submarine warfare.

Naval Submarine League

© 2022 Naval Submarine League