According to Russian officials, the country is looking to composite materials to help reduce noise and visibility from its fifth generation submarines. The Russians hope to use composite materials for everything from the submarine’s hull coating to the dive planes, rudders, stabilizers, propellers, drive shafts and possibly even the hulls themselves.
There are currently two submarines projects being developed by the Malakhit Design Bureau that will be based on a common hull design. If the technology works, composite materials would greatly reduce the weight of various structures, increase the boat’s reliability and reduce operating costs. That’s because composites don’t corrode and wouldn’t need to be painted. Composites can also be manufactured in one process, which officials say reduces the complexity of manufacturing the housing parts by 30-40 percent.
According to Valeriy Polovinkin, an adviser to the general director of the Krylov State Research Center, the capabilities of traditional monometallic materials “have been exhausted.” He says that without composites, increasing combat performance is impossible.
“These are new multi-layer composite materials. Their structure and composition reduce the sonar signals that are reflected from a submarine, isolate working mechanisms from vibrations, and so on,” said Polovinkin. “The opponent just will not get the required level of signal reflected from the submarine as the composite material has a high internal loss factor, or sound absorption properties can change when vibration occurs, completely preventing the spread of vibrational energy.”
The new composite materials are still in testing, but Russia will test its first composite propeller design in 2018.
“This is one of our institute’s most promising projects,” Polovinkin said. “This trend reduces vibration in the blades and increases the efficiency of the screw. These various effects will help improve the ship’s acoustic signature.”