The Bulava may fly … but when?
This summer, tests of the Bulava sea-based ICBMs will continue, although on December 9 last year the next launch of this missile ended with the expected unsatisfactory result. And then I was surprised by the disinterested, sluggish reaction of the experts, who had previously excitedly discussed the problems associated with the Bulava. It seems that most specialists (as well as non-specialists) are completely disillusioned with this project. Only a few of them believe in a successful outcome, repeating the axiom learned by heart over the years that “there is no alternative to the Bulava”, that they “think, believe, hope” and are even convinced that the Bulava will definitely fly”.
The question arises: what are the grounds for such a firm faith and similar hopes? Is there an expert opinion, carried out by the leading specialized institutes and design organizations of the country, on the correctness of the accepted theoretical, schematic and design and technological solutions, on the sufficiency of the conducted ground experimental development, ensuring - subject to production and technological discipline - the normal functioning of all systems and rocket assemblies in flight? As far as we know, there is still no such conclusion, despite the attempt by the governing structures to organize its preparation after the next unsuccessful test of the Bulava. It is much easier to launch information in the media that the design of the missile is perfection itself, and the factories that supply substandard components for this ICBM are to blame for emergency launches, so you just need to tighten control over the quality of products. In other words, as soon as defective parts and assemblies cease to come from factories, the Bulava flies in, but for now it is necessary to continue to make another serial batch of flightless missiles and lay another submarine under them on the slipway.
The problems associated with the Bulava, in their worst case scenario, could have disastrous consequences for the country's strategic nuclear forces and ultimately put Russia's security at stake. Let us try to explain why, with a high degree of probability, we assume that the Bulava missile system will not be put into service in the coming years.
EXCURSION TO THE RECENTLY PAST
But first, a little history. In our country, as a result of long-term successful work, a school of naval rocketry has emerged, according to the laws and methodological guidelines of which practically all domestic sea-based strategic missile systems have been designed. Such outstanding designers and scientists as V. P. Makeev, N. A. Semikhatov, S. N. Kovalev, A. M. Isaev, V. P. Arefiev, L. N. Lavrov, took part in its formation and development. EI Zababakhin, Ya. F. Khetagurov, VD Protasov, VN Soloviev, and many others.
By this school, the process of developing sea-based strategic missile systems was determined primarily on the basis of an understanding of the following indisputable fact: the missile complex (RK) is a most complex, high-tech, high-cost technical system of paramount state importance and requiring participation in its creation by almost all industries of the country.
Based on this understanding, a strategy for the design and manufacture of the complex was developed, which primarily involved monitoring the industries and enterprises of the industry for the possibility of solving the problem. The monitoring was carried out by the forces of industry institutes and enterprises - developers of the systems of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Based on its results, bottlenecks were identified, measures were planned to eliminate them, after which a schedule of the Military-Industrial Commission under the Council of Ministers of the USSR was formed, in which tasks were given to all industries to ensure the creation of a missile complex, as well as the necessary capital construction and supply mass-produced machines and mechanisms that ensure the solution of the intended task.
To coordinate the work and control their progress, the method of network planning was chosen with a periodic calculation on a computer of the entire base of network diagrams for the developed systems of the complex in order to detect critical paths in the creation of a particular system.
One of the main organizational documents was the network General Schedule for the creation of the complex, which includes all stages and key events for the development and development of the complex:
- preparation of design and construction documentation, production of materiel to ensure ground experimental development;
- issuance of conclusions on the sufficiency of ground experimental development for reaching the next stage of testing;
- production of rockets for full-scale tests, their delivery to the range and flight tests;
- preparation of design documentation for serial production of RK;
- the term for the adoption of the complex for service.
The master schedule was drawn up in a realistic timeline and used to review progress at all levels. The document was signed by all general designers - developers of basic systems, heads of head plants and approved by the ministers of defense industries involved in the creation of the complex, or their first deputies. In addition, at the end of each stage of the complex creation, the estimated amount of financial costs for its implementation was indicated, which made it possible to constantly monitor the spending of the allocated funds.
Control over the progress of work at the level of the head ministry was carried out by its collegium (once a quarter) and the interdepartmental coordination council (ICC) formed by the decision of the military-industrial complex, which included deputy ministers (chiefs of central administrations) of ministries and departments. The ISS was assembled as needed, but at least twice a quarter.
The main coordinating and controlling body in the creation of the complex was the Council of Chief Designers, at which the most complex technical issues were resolved. Any chief (general) designer could offer the SGK to meet for a meeting, if he considered it necessary. Academician N. A. Semikhatov noted: "Thanks to V. P. Makeev, Councils of Chief Designers have become the most creative, most effective and, I would even say, the favorite form of solving the most complex technical and organizational problems." And here is how one of its members described the work of the SGC, headed by Yu. Solomonov: “We are simply offered to sign a draft of the council's decision prepared in advance. In this case, objections or disagreements, as a rule, are not accepted."
EXAMPLE, BUT ONLY FOR FRENCH
Here it is pertinent to ask one more question: why did V. P. Makeev and his associates have so many problems when creating the next missile system, requiring decisions to be made throughout its development and testing? Yes, because Viktor Petrovich set his cooperation the main task - to provide the Navy with a missile that is significantly superior in technical level to the previous one. And this, as a rule, brought with it new problems in design and technological solutions.
Why are we talking about this? Because there is nothing of the kind during the creation of the Bulava, just as there are no many organizational and technical documents and measures provided for by the sectoral Regulations of the RK-98. This document accumulated all the accumulated experience in determining the stages of work, their main content at each of the stages, contained a list of issued documents and basic requirements that ensure the coordinated activities of the enterprise - developer, ordering the departments of the Ministry of Defense, customer offices, manufacturing plants and leading industry institutes.
How could it happen that the Navy issued a tactical and technical assignment (TTZ) for a missile with tactical and technical characteristics worse (lower) than those set and implemented 40 years ago? Of course, the operation of a solid-propellant rocket is simpler and safer than a liquid-propellant one. And its placement on a nuclear submarine increases some of the operational characteristics of the submarine and makes it possible to exclude some of the ship systems necessary to ensure the operation of a liquid-propellant ICBM. All this has long been known to everyone. However, sacrificing the technical level of missile weapons, their effectiveness for the sake of the named goals, to put it mildly, is irresponsible.
For what reasons was the full-scale development of a new sea-based missile reduced (in terms of the approach and scope of experimental ground testing) to essentially the modernization of the land-based Topol? It is known what state the Russian industry was in at the time of the decision to create the Bulava, so why was this decision taken without preliminary monitoring of the possibilities to cope with such a complex technical task? The scale of the collapse of the defense industry, and in some cases the complete loss of production of the necessary components for the creation of the "Bulava" - all this was known even during the development of the schedule of the Military-Industrial Commission. Even then it became clear that the cost and terms of the Bulava creation declared by Yu. Solomonov were practically unattainable. Perhaps, then the idea arose of reducing the cost and terms by minimizing the volume of ground experimental development and combining the flight test stages.
Why, seeing that the development of the Bulava missile system is being carried out with complete disregard of the experience accumulated by the rocket and space industry, methods and rules developed by decades of successful work on the creation of sea-based strategic complexes, why do state structures claim that everything is going well? It's time to understand that rockets that have not been worked out on the "ground" do not fly far, and the cost of working them out in the "summer" increases immeasurably.
It could be assumed that the general designer of the Moscow Institute of Thermal Engineering (MIT), using the Bulava as an example, decided to say a new word in the creation of sea-based strategic missiles, excluding full-scale ground-based experimental development. But then it is not clear why the French, while creating at the same time their solid-propellant ballistic missile for nuclear submarines (SLBM) M-51, carried out its testing in full accordance with the RK-98 and the recommendations of the Makeevka school of naval rocketry. And the result is obvious - all launches from the ground stand and the submarine were successful.
THE UNCONVENTIONAL WAY
Now for some arithmetic. Statistics show that during flight tests of SLBMs developed by the Design Bureau of V. P. Makeev, an average of 18 missiles from a ground stand and 12 missiles from submarines that had previously undergone full-scale experimental ground testing (a total of 30 missiles) were consumed. Taking into account the possibility of carrying out the maximum volume of telemetry of parameters and processes during ground testing of units, systems and the rocket as a whole, it can be assumed that ground testing accounts for 80% of the total volume of rocket testing. Flight tests account for 20%. It is easy to calculate that to compensate for the lost telemetry capabilities during ground testing, more than 100 missiles will need to be fired. With regard to the "Bulava", which has passed firing bench tests of engines and a certain amount of ground testing, to complete the tests will require up to 60 full-scale launches. The creation of a rocket at such a price, which is outdated in terms of technical characteristics even at the stage of issuing a technical assignment, is complete absurdity.
But it seems that all of the above does not really bother the governing bodies, since they are determined to carry out the next launches from the head SSBN of Project 955 and after the first successful test to take the Bulava into service, especially since the press recently announced the publication of the book Yuri Solomonov, in which he said that the conducted "launches confirmed the main design solutions." However, the rocket does not fly or, as the book says, "it was not possible to achieve stability in obtaining positive results."
And the assertion of Yu. Solomonov that one of the important reasons why the Bulava does not fly is “the absence in the country of the necessary bench base for full-scale experimental testing, which forced us to follow an unconventional way” sounds quite strange.
But what about the unique bench base of the State Missile Center in Miass, where all the missiles developed at the Design Bureau of V. P. Makeev were tested and put into service. all this is unnecessary."
The test base of the State Missile Center has not gone anywhere, it is ready for work at any time and is waiting for its designer.
As for the unconventional path, Yuri Solomonov, as the general designer of the missile complex, really chose an unconventional path for domestic developers of rocket technology - the path of making not fully thought out decisions, as a result of which huge budget funds were wasted, and the naval component of Russia's strategic nuclear forces is threatened with extinction. …
The complete superiority of the United States over Russia in equipping its armed forces with modern high-precision non-nuclear weapons, the operation of which requires relatively lower costs and which meets modern challenges, suggests that the Americans will be able to come up with new initiatives to completely ban nuclear weapons in 2012. This will be another major problem for our country. After all, the refusal of this proposal will be negatively perceived by the world community, and there will be nothing to compensate for the loss of Russia's nuclear potential, for objective reasons. In the foreseeable future, we cannot be left without nuclear weapons, so the slogan "Either Bulava or nothing" (and this is how we must understand the persistence with which the launching of a flightless rocket continues) must be resolutely rejected.