Nuclear ships

Nuclear ships

40 years ago, on December 27, 1977, the first domestic surface warship with a nuclear power plant (NPI), the 1144 Orlan heavy nuclear missile cruiser, was launched at the Baltic plant in Leningrad. In operation, he entered exactly three years and three days.

The concept of "nuclear fleet" in the mass is usually associated with submarines. This is understandable - after all, the marine nuclear power industry is most widely used on submarines. But the creators of surface combat ships did not ignore her. The maritime arms race between the USA and the USSR led, albeit with a large time gap, to the emergence of large surface combat ships with nuclear power units in the fleets of the superpowers.

Titans and Titanics of the atomic fleet

The first in the history was the American Long Beach missile cruiser with two C2W nuclear reactors, which provided this hulk with a mechanical power of 80 thousand horsepower. He entered service in 1961, and almost simultaneously, the US Navy was replenished with the world's first nuclear aircraft carrier, the Enterprise. With a displacement of about 90 thousand tons, it had eight A2W reactors with a total turbine capacity of 280 thousand horsepower.

Titans and Titanics of the atomic fleet

The following year, the Pentagon received another nuclear-powered icebreaker.The Bainbridge missile frigate had a displacement of almost half the size of Long Beach, but still it was a large combat unit equipped with two D2G reactors with a turbo gear power of 60,000 horses. So the command of the US Navy has formed the first fully atomic carrier-based strike connection in the "Enterprise" with an escort of a cruiser and frigate.

In the future, the United States built another ten heavy nuclear aircraft carriers of the Nimitz type, the last of which, George Bush, was accepted into the fleet in 2008 (the Battle of the Aircraft Carriers). At these ships, with the "enterprise" power of the mechanisms, the number of reactors due to the higher thermal power was reduced to two - A4W type. And the old Enterprise has demonstrated an amazing (in comparison, alas, with the large Russian warships) longevity. He was officially excluded from the fleet only in 2017.

The program for the construction of the US aircraft carrier fleet continues. This year, the Navy received the aircraft carrier Gerald Ford. Next in turn are three more such giants, one of which, John F. Kennedy, is already under construction.

In 1967–1980, the United States acquired seven nuclear frigates of the type “Trakstan”, “California” and “Virginia”, continuing the Bainbridge pedigree. Subsequently, they were reclassified into missile cruisers, equaling the rank of "Long Beach". Thus, the entire United States had nine nuclear-powered cruisers armed in different configurations with anti-aircraft guns (TALOS, Terrier, Tartar, Standard), anti-submarine (ASROC) and attack (Garpun, Tomahawk) missiles Some of their missiles, including some missiles, had nuclear equipment.

However, the duration of their service was not so long as that of nuclear aircraft carriers, for the protection of which these cruisers, in fact, were built. All of them were withdrawn from service in the Navy in the mid-90s. In principle, for ships of the ocean escort group of such size and displacement (most of the order of 10 thousand tons) NPIs gave only one advantage - no need for frequent refueling. But as for the speed, due to the large specific gravity of such installations (largely due to the presence of biological protection), it was even lower than that of ships of the same class with gas turbine power engineering.And now the Americans accompany their aircraft carriers with gas turbine cruisers and destroyers, including squadron tanker tankers in such formations.

However, in relation to heavy operational-strategic (let me allow myself, given the diverse range of combat tasks they solve, such a definition), taking into account their enormous size, the Americans do not see an alternative to nuclear power plants. Here, the cost / efficiency parameter acts unambiguously in favor of aircraft carriers, proving from the point of view of the US naval thought the validity of the thesis that an atom in the surface fleet is beneficial for giant ships, and not for average ones. And in the foreseeable future, the Nimitz and Ford aircraft carriers will remain the basis of the US Navy’s airborne combat power, a tool for the rapid projection of force into any region of the globe that is within range of deck aircraft.

As is known, in 2001, the French also built their nuclear aircraft carrier with a displacement of 40 thousand tons with a tail, called "Charles de Gaulle", but it is far from American monsters. The British did not dare to use the nuclear power plant on their newest Queen Elizabeth (“Who is against the“ queen ”) due to budget constraints.

Save our carcasses

In the United States, construction of nuclear-powered surface ships proceeded with might and main, and the Soviet Union had already given its answer to this, transferring to the civilian fleet in December 1959 the linear icebreaker "Lenin" ("Polar Explorer Dream"). The publicity during its construction was unprecedented for our country - after launching to look at the nuclear-powered icebreaker, Leningrad schoolchildren were taken to the Admiralty Plant. No wonder - after all, it became the same recognizable domestic shipbuilding brand in the world as the cruiser Aurora. Actually, “Lenin” was chronologically the first in the history of technology of a surface vessel with nuclear power plants. But peaceful. With one, however, non-advertised "but" - in case of war, the possibility of arming the "Lenin" by mobilization option was envisaged, in particular the 45-mm quadruple anti-aircraft automatic anti-aircraft installations SM-20.

Then there was a series of six more advanced atomic-type icebreakers of the Arktika type built at the Baltic Plant (Project 1052, the main one was commissioned in 1975). NATO intelligence intercepted these icebreakers during sea trials, as they say, fully armed. For example, the icebreaker "Russia" was walking, bristling with universal artillery (76 mm AU AK-176) and anti-aircraft guns (30 mm AK-630).After the tests, the means of defense, of course, were removed, but there is no doubt that the domestic atomic icebreaking fleet (the development of which continues) is ready to raise the naval flag, supported by the relevant arguments, if necessary.

Titans and Titanics of the atomic fleet

It is curious that at the turn of the 1950s and 1960s, the USSR considered the issue of equipping whaling bases with nuclear power plants, which would provide them with unprecedented autonomy. But then Soviet scientists, despite the interest of the sailors, were perplexed by the fact that radioactive isotopes trapped in the atmosphere due to tests of nuclear weapons could get into the whales' carcasses, butted on the whale decks. The detractors of the Soviet Union, including whaling competitors, would not fail to blame the nuclear power industry for such a vessel. This was fraught with serious political and economic costs. From the idea of ​​atomic whalers abandoned.

"Land mine" in Mordasov

In the Soviet shipbuilding KB worked on projects not only civil nuclear ships. Proposals for the construction of aircraft carriers did not find understanding with Khrushchev, and over nuclear-powered cruisers and missile-carriers they were already working seriously.

In 1956, the Soviet leadership adopted a new naval shipbuilding program, which included, among other things, the creation of the KRL-R nuclear missile cruiser on project 63. The ship, superior to the American Long Beach in terms of displacement and combat power, was to be launched simultaneously - in 1961 It was planned to build seven such cruisers by the mid-60s. But at the project approval stage, doubts arose regarding the sustainability of the KRL-R against massive strikes by enemy aircraft in remote areas of the ocean, with the result that in 1959 the project was closed. Indeed, if the American Long Beach, guarding an aircraft carrier, was itself covered by its fighters from the strikes of Soviet long-range coastal-launched missile-carrier bombers Tu-16K and Tu-95K, then KRL-R had no such protection (which, however, did not prevent to build four steam turbine missile cruisers of the project of the Grozny type 58).

However, the idea did not die, and after the removal of Khrushchev from the political scene, who had a negative attitude towards large surface ships, in the USSR they again began to work out projects based on nuclear power plants. Began, however, with the patrol ship, then transformed into a large anti-submarine.Gradually, building up the “project muscles”, it was reclassified into a heavy nuclear missile cruiser. The project was called "land mines". Later, he was named Orlan and number 1144. According to him, five ships were laid at the Baltic Shipyard in Leningrad: Kirov, Frunze, Kalinin, Yuri Andropov and Dzerzhinsky. The Fifth Corps, however, decided not to finish building and dismantled, and "Yuri Andropov" entered service after the collapse of the USSR, in 1996, under the now well-known name "Peter the Great". On each such cruiser, two 300-megawatt KN-3 reactors are installed.

The first three cruisers, which entered service in 1980–1988, were later renamed Admiral Ushakov, Admiral Lazarev and Admiral Nakhimov in the process of the Soviet Union’s parallelization with the decline of the navy of the former USSR. Nowadays only Peter the Great is really in the battle formation.

Titans and Titanics of the atomic fleet

The appearance in the Navy of the USSR of heavy nuclear-powered rocket cruisers of the Orlan type has caused understandable concern in the West. Two dozen long-range KR “Granit”, including those with nuclear warheads, the most powerful anti-aircraft missile and anti-submarine weapons (also in nuclear equipment),the three helicopters on board and the high survivability of these floating fortresses have made an indelible impression on the naval headquarters of NATO. Given the high impact and defensive potential of the new Russian ships, their size (length - a quarter kilometer) and displacement (28 thousand tons), the enemy classified them as battle cruisers, considering the Orlan project to be a qualitatively new reincarnation of World War II battleships. “Long Beach” and its “classmates” looked pale in comparison with “Orlans”.

However, the largest nuclear-powered warships in the Russian fleet were our short-term cruisers. At the end of 1988, the large atomic reconnaissance ship SSV-33 “Ural” of the project 1941 “Titan”, unprecedented in any of the other fleets of the world, was completed. The displacement of the “Ural”, intended for multifunctional reconnaissance and tracking of space objects autonomously for almost a year, reached 35 thousand tons. Actually, the ship was ordered not by the fleet, which was pretty cool to titanium, but by the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the USSR Armed Forces. Naval command, according to some historians, has just achieved,so that the second such ship (as allegedly insisted by the GRU) was not mortgaged, since it would prevent the completion of the series of heavy nuclear-powered missile cruisers of the Project 1144 and nuclear-powered icebreakers.

Titans and Titanics of the atomic fleet

The fate of the “Ural” itself in connection with the collapse of the USSR was unenviable - it did not really serve the Fatherland, he was soon immobilized upon arriving in the Pacific Fleet and died quietly, being written off in 2002

Titans and Titanics of the atomic fleet

The hull of another Soviet nuclear-powered battleboat - a heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser Ulyanovsk of project 11437, built in Nikolaev, in 1992 was cut into scrap metal by the decision of the Government Square. Had it been built, the Soviet Union (if it had not been destroyed by the efforts of the highest party nomenklatura) would have become the owner of a heavy nuclear aircraft carrier (and a second such ship was planned), which is very close in its tactical and technical elements to US aircraft carrier aircraft. It even provided for analogs of the American aircrafts DRLO E-2 “Hokai” - the Yak-44. But not destiny.

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  • Nuclear ships

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