Russian scientists are developing an advanced automated submarine that will be powered by an external combustion engine, Igor Denisov, deputy director of the Foundation for Advanced Studies (FPI), revealed in an interview with Interfax, a Russian news agency.
“We are planning to create an apparatus that will pass through the Northern Sea Route without floating up and without the use of nuclear power, including under the ice,” Denisov said. “In order for this device to accomplish such a ‘feat,’ its autonomy should be at least 90 days, which is already commensurate with the autonomy of modern submarines.”
The decision to forego the nuclear option to power the underwater vehicle was a conscious one, Denisov said, in order to make it increasingly safe. While a nuclear installation helps power submarines for uninterrupted movement throughout the world’s oceans, it also puts its operational capabilities at risk.
Despite the known hazards of using nuclear power to energize submarines, most militaries have fallen back to it to power up their propulsion systems of underwater vehicles, instead of non-nuclear batteries, which were used in the initial days. As it turned out, the fairly low capacity of the batteries severely limited the operation capabilities of submarines, making it almost impossible to record underwater routes.
“At the moment, the technologies for manufacturing external combustion engines, the so-called Stirling engines, are being developed and are being implemented, including the receipt of the necessary energy components from solid or liquefied energy carriers,” Denisov said.
Russian scientists are developing an advanced automated submarine that will be powered by an external combustion engine. In this photo, the Russian submarine Dmitry Donskoy (NATO-Typhoon class), the world’s largest in active service, arrives at Kronstadt Navy base, outside Saint Petersburg, to take part in the Naval military parade, July 26, 2017. Photo: Getty Images/ OLGA MALTSEVA
The aim behind developing the alternative source of power by the scientists is to step toward a non-nuclear future where the batteries will be able to provide power comparable to the kind that is obtained from a nuclear plant at present. This would ensure the smooth movement and operation of the underwater robotic apparatus.
However, the project is far from being completed as it is only in its first stage at the moment.
“The project has begun, the first stage — the creation of the device itself in late 2019. That is, at the end of next year the device descends to the water,” Denisov said. “Then a hybrid will be made, and the third stage will be using the results of ongoing search projects to create efficient systems using, possibly, hydrogen, as well.”
After the first prototype is developed, the scientists will move on to test it to see whether it overcome the established distance in the Black Sea, before moving onto the second stage which would include tasking the robotic submarine to overcome about 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles).
“Then a hybrid will be made, and the third stage will be using the results of ongoing search projects to create efficient systems using, possibly, hydrogen, as well,” he said.
The report of a super-autonomous submarine robot being developed by Russia comes days after an interview with Stars and Stripes, in which Admiral James Foggo, the commander of the U.S. Navy in Europe and Africa, said the United States must expand its submarine fleet in response to the Kremlin beefing up its own naval force around Europe more aggressively than at any time since the Cold War.
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