Submarines: Russians Sing the Shipyard Blues


December 23, 2005: Although Russia is spending more money on defense, it does not think it is always getting what it pays for. Case in point is the current dispute between the navy and the Zvezdochka ship yard. The navy sent one of its Delta IV class subs (the Tula, or K114) to the yard four years ago for a refit. The work was finished this past Spring, but the sub has not yet returned to service. A contract dispute has kept the sub tied up in the Zvezdochka yard. The government can't just order the yard to release the sub, because defense industries in Russia now have to be run like businesses. Hundreds that would not, or could not, have gone out of business since 1991 (when the Soviet Union fell apart.) One reason the Soviet Union, in effect, went bankrupt and disintegrated, was because it didn't pay close enough attention to these financial and contractual details.

The current dispute is over the quality, and extent, of the work. Similar disputes occur in the U.S., but rarely does a ship get stuck in the yard for so long. The Russian navy has two other Delta IV class SSBN (nuclear powered ballistic missile subs) in for work at the Zvezdochka yards. The six Delta IV boats are the only SSBNs Russia has in service, although a new class of boats is under construction. The Delta IVs first entered service twenty years ago. There were supposed to be eight of them, but the last one was canceled before completion because of a lack of money, and another was scrapped in 2001 for the same reason.


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