The major world powers have sophisticated weaponry to protect and deter aggression towards them. One of these weapons systems is the nuclear powered attack submarine. It's literally a death-by-stealth tool. But what do you know about the modern submarine? What lies beneath its outward veneer that makes it such a powerful weapon system? The details are fascinating.
Often comparisons are made between the Russuan Akula-class and the American Virginia-class submarines. So let's look at a few aspects:
- Weaponry and armament
Both attack submarines have distinctly similar levels of armament, with both the US and Russia complying with the START II Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that capped the number of strategic missile submarines at 14. The Akula-class submarine's armament is split between four 533mm torpedo tubes, capable of carrying 28 torpedoes, and four 650mm torpedo tubes, capable of carrying 12 torpedoes. The Virginia-class submarines are also equipped with four 533mm torpedo tubes, however they are also equipped with 12 vertical launch systems capable of firing BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
- Development and unit cost
The estimated cost of an Akula-class submarine is $1.55bn compared to the original $1.8bn per unit price tag of an individual Virginia-class submarine.
- Reactor and propulsion
The Akula-class submarines are powered by one 190MW pressurized water nuclear reactor, one OK-7 steam turbine creating 43,000 hp and two OK-2 turbogenerators that produce 2,000 kW of power. Two OK-300 retractable electric propulsors for low-speed and quiet maneuvering have also been installed to increase stealthier operation of the submarine. The reactor on-board the Virginia-class submarines is designed to operate for a total of 33 years without refueling, providing a significant advantage over other submarines that are forced to refuel. Virginia-class submarines rely on pump-jet propulsors for quiet operation.
- Maximum depth, speed and endurance
Russia's Akula-class submarines trump the Virginia-class submarines on both operating depth and speed, being capable of diving deeper and travelling faster whilst submerged. Akula-class submarines have a maximum operating depth of 600 metres, whereas the listed operational depth of a Virginia-class submarine is noted as greater than 250 metres. The Virginia-class submarines have a maximum speed in excess of 25 knots, whereas Akula-class submarines are capable of top speeds between 28 and 35 knots, although this is reduced significantly to 10 knots when sailing on the water's surface. The Virginia-class submarines are, however, designed to serve for longer periods of time than the Akula-class submarines, which have a maximum endurance of 100 days. The endurance period of a Virginia-class submarine is capped only at its food supplies, allowing for longer periods at sea if required.
When you look at a surfaced submarine, none of the-above specifications jump-out-at-you. The submarine looks like a sardine can on an artificial level. So what is the point of all of this detail?
Simple. Too often we make the mistake of looking at the exterior veneer of people and things and look no further than skin exteriors. Yet below the surface of people lie multiple layers that speak to sophisticated and intricate webs that define the individuals you engage daily. This extends beyond the physiological, and yet we happily judge what we see, and on the basis of this first trigger (the visual or auditory) we make up our minds. We confidently stride out having summed-up the person and are happy to tell the world what we've learnt in ten seconds. And often "destroy" the experience for others via our judgements. And then we often wonder why others react with disdain toward us, don't trust us or are suspicious of our intentions!
My plea is that we interact with others with care and consideration, whether in the workplace, our social scene or our classrooms. For no one really knows what lurks-beneath-the-surface of people's skins...
Technical info sourced from naval-technology.com