Saturday, September 17, 2011

New AIP modules in Russia - brief report

TsKB Rubin is testing an AIP generator for submarines, RIAN reported in Sep 13 according to Rubin's Gen Director Andrey Dyachkov. He criticized the German hydrogen elements for flammability of their storage. The currently developed Russian AIP is built on the same electro-chemical generation principle, as hydrogen elements, but uses different less flammable reagents. The chemical ingredients used in the new AIP are not disclosed however. Like foreign analogs the last Russian AIP is built in plug-in module. Dyachkov also said Rubin is working in parallel to improve the lithium-ion batteries for subs. Currently the installation of lithium-ion batteries allows to make underwater  time longer on 40%, while it's only 35-40% of the theoretically limits of this technology.

(to note:   4 years ago  on BRF discussions I have pointed out about signs of efforts for developing much more powerful lithium-ion batteries for submarines instead of less powerful lead or silver-zinc accumulators or unsafe and sub-powerful hydrogen elements.)


  1. Excellent news, will be interesting to see commercial applications for this new Fuel Cell technology.

  2. Igor, please include the details of those new batteries being developed in Russia in this page. I too have read it somewhere, maybe it was your own post.

  3. AFAIK the new fuel cell is simply a fuel cell... in practical terms a hydrogen fuel cell has a specific design that is reversible. If you have pure distilled water... ie H2O, then you can feed that into the fuel cell and apply an electric current... perhaps from a solar cell or perhaps wind power or where ever. The electric current enables the fuel cell to separate the hydrogen and oxygen in the distilled water and both these gases can be captured and stored.
    As I said the process is completely reversible and the hydrogen and oxygen can be fed into the fuel cell and electricity and a small amount of heat is generated.

    Think of it as a more efficient way to store energy.

    Using batteries alone to store electricity is inefficient because batteries are heavy and have a fairly limited amount of energy they can store.

    A fuel cell can store as much energy as you can carry of hydrogen, and hydrogen can be cooled and pressurised down into near solid form taking a minimal amount of space on board a vessel.

    Rather than using an electric current to separate the hydrogen gas it would most likely be stored at basing facilities and taken on board the sub in liquid form... the by product of using this hydrogen to generate electricity to power the sub is pure water... which, unlike the by products of most forms of electricity generation is actually a very useful thing on a sub or ship.
    The problem is that for the process to work properly for every two hydrogen atoms they need one oxygen atom, which means oxygen needs to be stored as well... and the storage of Hydrogen is a moderate fire risk, but the storage of oxygen is a serious fire risk. (Hydrogen wont burn without oxygen present... and you need a perfect mix for an explosion... Oxygen will always burn and in the presence of certain fuels will explode).

    The New Russian system is a fuel cell, so it basically does the same thing, but the chemicals it works on are not fire risks according to what they say... and I have no reason to doubt them.

    The Lithium Ion batteries are just batteries... they have just improved the design to make them 40% more efficient.

  4. A shame that no contract has been inked so far to integrate such an AIP system on export sub...
    The Kristall-27E solution is generally described as rather rustic and low-cost. I like Russian pragmatism. Nevertheless, German AIP advocates usually say that the Russian AIP, based on alkali matrix electrolyte (not PEM, contrary to the Germans and the US/Spanish), is "old" technology and that this fuel-cell in one of the less efficient systems... even if its raw power is superior (390kW for Kristall-27E vs 240kw for Siemens SiNavy BZM 120 in twin-config on Type-214 subs).

  5. Igor & GarryB,

    While reading a few Russian magazines on Aerospace & Defense I often come across the term "embedded computing". For example "embedded computing used in the SU 34" . What exactly is the use of embedded computing in platform like fighters , tanks etc.



  6. The Kristall is the old system, they have developed this new system to replace it.

    I don't know how keen they will be to export it.

    BTW if it generated more power than the German solution why should it matter how advanced it was?

    The Tiger was a very well engineered and designed vehicle but they made less than 3,000 of them, while at one stage they were making 12,000 T-34/85s per month.

    @Akhil Suri
    Embedded computing is built in computing power. For instance there will be a computer attached to the radar antenna on a jet fighter, and its role is to control the antennas emissions, and to help process the returns to create a display that actually means something to the pilots. Another embedded computer might handle the ECM suite of the aircraft so the pilot doesn't need to do everything... the computer will analyse the responses from various sensors and detection devices and make decisions about what to do... for instance a short laser pulse from a laser rangefinder should result in the ECM system determining the angle and general location the pulse came from and warning the pilot the aircraft has been ranged. A steady laser beam from a laser target marker on the other hand might immediately alert the pilot there is a direct threat to the aircraft and it might activate a DIRCM ball on the aircraft to engage the incoming laser seeking missile by looking for launch plumes using IR sensors and a laser sensor to detect and optical port in the centre of the IR plume.
    Other embedded computers would include fuel and engine management computers, navigation and bombing computers, and of course weapon management computers... some weapons need preparation before use.

  7. Embedded computing is a general term, not exclusive to Russia or Russian defense industry, i.e. it may be used for the computers ´running´ your automobile. It generally implies a specific-function computer, as opposed to a ´general purpose´ computer where the ´user´ runs and manages programs as they wish. Previously, the functions of embedded computers would have been ´hard wired´, but with the state of computers, ACTUALLY hard-wiring a function is irrelevant... But even though all functions are managed thru software at some level, ´embedded computing´ will usually not expose all functions of that software to the ´user´, or only in very specific ways (e.g. the notifications and counter-measures stemming from the MAWS triggering).

  8. GarryB and Anon many thanks.


  9. To GarryB

    Hi! I think that the Russians are in so much keen on exporting the Kritall AIP as it is (generally described as) an export product! Their main effort regarding subs programs are focussed on SSNs and SSGNs. They don't really need AIP for themselves.

    I'm not a specialist, but raw power doesn't mean endurance. Kristall output power (on paper) is higher than the German AIP fitted into the Type 214, but its liquid fuel cell tech is less efficient than the PEM fuel cell of Siemens. So fuel (H+) consumption is higher (less optimized) on Kristall-27E.
    But it is a choice. The "liquid" technology of the Russian AIP is probably cheaper than the German one, which could make it more interesting for countries willing to upgrade their Kilos. Besides, it is also probably more robust, cheaper to operate and coupled with an hydrogen feeding system clearly less expensive...

  10. Gone are the days of no domestic orders where the survival of the company depended on selling anything and everything.

    Once production grows and as money is spent, the Russian military will start getting the best the Russian companies can make and most Russian customers will have to accept what they are offered or pay for the improvements themselves.

    The UAE wasn't happy with the performance of the Pantsir as it was offered with upgraded systems, but they were prepared to pay for all new radars instead of upgraded old sets, and for new electronics and the result was the Pantsir-S1 which is a significantly better system than the Russian military had accepted for service. The result was that UAE paid to make a Russian system much better than the Russian military was prepared to pay for.

    If a customer wants to pay for the research to create a brand new and much more efficient AIP for subs the opportunity is there and the Russian military will benefit, but unless they are prepared to put up the funds they will get the standard export model and the new stuff... paid for through perhaps exports and domestic program funding will likely not be shared.

    I do think AIPs will enter Russian service simply to reduce the pressure on nuke boat production as a conventional sub with a decent AIP has much more capability, though still not a nuke... the nuke power plant is the ultimate AIP afterall.

  11. You'll may be right. However, we saw that development of SSN/SSGN in Russia in the 1960s drastically cut budgets allocated to R&D in the field of AIP tech. And now, the government has just announced its intention to build 20 Borei-class subs in the near-future. So I don't know how much money will be left to develop an AIP technology which, apparently, is not crucial at all for the Russian Navy for now.
    Besides, in order to be a real alternative to the nuclear propulsion, an AIP must at least be equipped with a hydrogen reformer... The Kistall-27E do not have such a system. I hope the next-gen Kistall will have one. Wait & see.

  12. Talk of building 20 Boreis is just talk.
    Currently there is a small treaty called START that limits both sides to 1,500 strategic warheads... that means 500 on ICBMs, 500 on strategic bombers, and 500 at sea.
    A simple calculation based on 16 missiles per sub and 20 subs means that a fleet of 20 subs would have 320 missiles. It is not rocket science to suggest that even just 2 warheads per missile will mean there are too many SLBM warheads...

    In reality they will likely build 8 Borei Class subs with 16 missiles each and about 4 warheads per missile for about 512 warheads.

    If you read the article above they use different chemicals so they don't have to store hydrogen or oxygen on the vessel which they preferred on safety grounds.

    Personally I think a small reactor like those used for satellites and space craft makes much more sense for these sorts of vessels as an AIP.

  13. About Boreis: rational argumentation. I must bow.

    About AIP: I've just read an interview of Rubin design bureau general director Andrei Dyachkov, published on May 17 in Defence Review Asia (see on You are right, new version of the Kristall system does not use on-board pure hydrogen, but extracts H+ from fuel (like ethanol or methanol) thanks to a reformer. It is almost the same tech (in principle) than the one developped by the US-based UTC for new Spanish subs. A few other countries are currently taking this path, also.

    About space tech: You're right, Rubin and SKBK had already benefited in the past from space technologies to reduce the size of fuel storage in their first AIP systems in the end of the 1980s, just before the first Kristall (in the frame of the Quebec program, if my memory is good). New synergies should be made... or have already been made.

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