Report and Photos by Yuri Laskin, Russia Country Manager and Correspondant
The 10th International Maritime Defense Show (IMDS) was held in St.-Petersburg from 23 to 27 June this year as scheduled. Despite COVID-19, IMDS was run in a live format but the anti-COVID measures had strongly modified its profile.
The show premises shifted this year from their traditional location (LenExpo, Vassilievsky Island, St Petersburg’s historical district) to the Expoforum (Hall G) on the city’s outskirts. This means the ships were based at the berths of the newly constructed Seaport Passenger Terminal being called the “Marine Façade”.
Previously, the ships were within walking distance from the show ground to form up a peculiar feature of IMDS. This time, the exhibition floor was taken at The Organizers managed regular shuttle buses between two locations which took around an hour one-way drive. The exhibition audience was limited to the exhibitors themselves and official delegations as the invitations and public tickets were banned. These circumstances applied an absolute business outlook to the show till its final day.
The IMDS-2021 exposition included 285 enterprises from 13 countries, to cover over 13,000 square meters indoors. The foreign states were mainly represented by media with Indian-Russian BrahMos Aerospace participatingpromenantly. More than 25 official delegations from 25 states visited the show grounds. Easily noticed international navy ships with high-ranking delegations included: the UAE, Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan, Angola .
The seaport hosted 17 ships of post-Soviet design and construction representing the Russian Navy and Border Guard Service.
- The visitors’ main interest was concentrated on…
- Conventional submarines: “Saint Petersburg” Project 677 and “Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky” Project 636
- Frigate: “Admiral Kasatonov” Project 22350
- Corvette:”Gremyashchiy” (Thundering) Project 20385
- Small Rocket Ships: “Zelenyi Dol” Project 21631 and “Odintsovo” Project 22800
- Minesweeper: “Vladimir Emelyanov” Project 12700
As usual, IMDS was oriented to its main customer – the Russian Navy. Despite the COVID limitations the “international accent” heard throughout the exposition and conference was unexpectedly strong.
Rosoboronexport CEO, Mr Alexander Mikheev, announced the state mediator’s naval part portfolio reached the sum of $ 5.5 billion. “It includes contracts for the ready-made and jointly constructed ships and submarines, various weapons supply, as well as infrastructure projects”, stated Mr Mikheev (below, left).
In particular, he added that Rosoboronexport “is considering delivery of Karakurt-E corvettes to six countries”. The Project 22800 corvette (export version – 22800E “Karakurt-E”) has been developed by the Almaz Central Design Bureau. The ship firepower is comparable to the frigate class due to high-precision weapons, self-defence, ADS and shipbuilding technologies. The corvette is armed with the Club-N missile system from the Novator Design Bureau and employs the Pantsir-ME multi-channel anti-aircraft missile and artillery system by the Shipunov KBP Design Bureau of the High-Precision Weapons (HPW) Holding.
According to Alexander Mikheev, eight foreign customers had already stressed their interest in the Rubezh-ME coastal complex. The system was presented alive at the Expoforum open grounds. Rubezh-ME coastal tactical missile system, created by enterprises of Marine Instrument Corporation in cooperation with the Tactical Missiles Corporation (KTRV), allows a single vehicle to search for and strike a target due to the integration of weapons and target designation on a single platform. It can also form up a striking group of up to eight combat vehicles. The system is claimed to be much more efficient to its predecessor Bal coastal-missile system (also a KTRV product) due to the new Kh-35UE anti-ship missile employment. Being based on a single vehicle Rubezh is claimed to be substantially cheaper than a Bal unit which is based on three vehicles.
Rosoboronexport claimed to hold over 100 meetings during the show with the nations not being specified to avoid the US CAATSA sanctions.
Main Ship Novelties
The United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) formed up the largest display at IMDS-2021 with an area of 1400 sq. meters. Visitors could familiarise themselves with more than 40 exhibits of ships, vessels and marine equipment, which were developed and manufactured by USC subsidiaries including the main national design bureaus and shipyards.
The Corporation speaker announced that USC is scheduled to handle to the Russian Navy 7 new and three upgraded ships and submarines this year. Eight more ships were claimed to be built within 2022-2027.
The Severnoye Design Bureau (SPKB) presented a new version of the medium landing ship (SDK) Project 21810. The ship is intended for transporting and landing troops and military equipment on an unequipped coast, as well as for logistic support of operations in the coastal zone and on the islands.
According to SPKB CEO (right) Andrey Dyachkov: “…an updated, improved version of a medium landing ship, which undoubtedly may interest many potential customers, whose naval forces operate in waters abounding with small islands, atolls, where it is necessary to deliver goods to unequipped coast.”
The project could be also implemented for various humanitarian missions due to its own crane equipment to operate with standard sea containers to be placed both in the hold and on the upper deck. The hold is equipped with a mechanized container movement system for loading and unloading operations.
The ship can also transport wheeled and tracked vehicles (up to 16 units). In addition, two 17-metre transport and landing boats can be used to deliver cargo and crew to the unequipped coast. In total, the ship is designed to carry up to 400 tonnes of various cargo with landing capacity of 170 personnel.
The developer has strengthened the artillery armament of the project including AU-220M “Baykal” 57-mm automatic gun mount, as well as two 30-mm single-barreled combat modules. The platform in the aft is capable for receiving a medium helicopter (weighing up to 12 tonnes) or a helicopter-type UAV. It also homes a hangar with a slip for two Project 02800 assault boats, which can be launched and returned during the ship’s motion.
Another USC subsidiary, Severnaya Werf (Northern Shipyard) presented models of the “Tiger” multi-purpose corvette of Project 20382 and the “Mercury” multi-purpose frigate of Project 22356.
Previously mentioned “Admiral Kasatonov” frigate and “Gremyashchiy” corvette were both built at this Shipyard. It is interesting to note that the frigate became the first one in its family to be equipped with domestically made main propulsion system to substitute the one from Zorya Mashproekt of the Ukraine. The “Gremyashchiy” corvette of Project 20385 is distinguished from its predecessors by enhanced strike capabilities due to Kalibr missiles, as well as an upgraded air defense system installation. The project was developed by the Almaz Central Marine Design Bureau as a further development of Project 20380.
During the exhibition, the Severnaya Werf and the United Engine Corporation (UEC) signed a contract for the supply of four diesel-gas turbine units for “Admiral Yumashev” and “Admiral Spiridonov” frigates of Project 22350. The volume of orders reached 12 units with a deadline deliveries until 2025. In total six frigates will be equipped with M55P units: “Admiral Golovko“, “Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Isakov”, “Admiral Amelko“, “Admiral Chichagov“, “Admiral Yumashev” and “Admiral Spiridonov“. The UEC enginges were created to replace the power plants, which were supplied by a Ukrainian manufacturer until 2014.
Experts note that the Russian units are manufactured at the level of foreign analogues and surpasses Ukrainian counterparts in terms of efficiency and service life. Experts believe that due to the launch of the M55P serial production, Russia has become capable to fully implement the program for the far sea zone frigates construction.
The leading Russian submarine designer — Rubin Central Design Bureau of Marine Technology — marked the USC exposition with a number of dual-purpose products as a result diversification program to meet an increasing demand for unmanned underwater equipment.
In addition to the models of submarines of Projects 677, 636, Amur 1650 and Amur 950, a whole range of UAVs was presented, including Amulet, Amulet-2, Juno, Vityaz and Talisman. Rubin expects the small and relatively cheap Amulet and Talisman devices will be on request as scientific underwater equipment. In March 2021, these devices were successfully used during the UMKA-21 Integrated Arctic Expedition of the Navy and Russian Geographical Society. The UAVs provided unique data for exploration of shelf oil and gas fields in the freezing seas. Today, Rubin is developing a whole complex of unmanned vehicles for under-ice seismic exploration, and the Bureau considers this area to be very promising.
St Petersburg-based “Malakhit” Maritime Bureau of Mechanical Engineering (SPMBM “Malakhit”) presented a model and information on the “Serval” small coastal action submarine of Project P-750B. The sub was designed for export promotion. An air-independent power plant (“AIP”, or “VNEU” in Russian) based on a gas turbine generator was presented as the project main advantage. The Russian Navy is quite skeptical on the need of the AIP due to increasing construction and operational costs, so the submarines with air-independent powerplant are intended for export like the “Amur-1650” and “Amur-950” of Rubin. One of the last projects most probably will take part in the long-awaited tender for the new generation submarine of the Indian Navy.
“Serval” is intended for striking enemy coastal stationary targets; destruction of single surface ships and submarines; hidden transportation, disembarkation and return of reconnaissance and sabotage groups as well as protection and defense of coastal and sea borders. The submarine has an airlock for swimmers to exit, as well as a midget submarine of the Triton family. According to the designer the “Serval” displacement is about 1450 cubic metres witha length of 65.5metres, to accommodate a crew of 18-20 personnel and up to 16 commanders.
The Ak Bars Corporation is an independent player in the Russian naval and maritime industry. Being based in the Republic of Tatarstan, 800 km to the east from Moscow, on the banks of the Volga river, the Ak Bars Group have many years of experience in the construction of ships, vessels and boats of various types and purposes. Their facilities allow the surface ships construction of up to 340 metres in length, up to 54 metres in width and a total displacement of up to 300,000 tonnes. This ensures the simultaneous construction of 10 units of ships and vessels per year on the slipway. The design possibilities are no less significant and allow the creation of various projects – from a boat to an aircraft carrier, with a good export potential. This year, the exposition presented the main projects of surface combat ships, including the “Gepard-3.9” frigate, the patrol ship of the Project 22160, the small missile ship of the Project 22800E, the ships of the Project 21635 “SARSAR“, the special-purpose boat of the Project 21980E.
In addition, Ak Bars also presented several civil projects, in particular, the innovative Chaika-LNG vessel – the first in the river passenger fleet of Russia, fully designed and built in 2020, as well as the newest cruise double-deck cabin ship of Project 17400.
Weaponry and Equipment
The show was a debut for the recently formed “Marine Instrument Corporation” (KMP), which brought together the leading domestic developers and manufacturers of automated control systems, navigation and hydroacoustic equipment. The KMP exposition was deployed on the subsidiaries’ premises. Among them, the stand of the NPO Aurora Concern stood out, on which the bridge control system and the Rif (Reef) autonomous unmanned underwater vehicle being included in the Universal Modular Marine Robotic Complex (MRTK) was easily noticeable. MRTK is capable of effectively solving a wide range of tasks in areas with depths of up to 1000 metres. The complex has passed all types of tests and is ready for serial production.
As expected, the centre of attraction for the HPW exposition was the Pantsir-M anti-aircraft missile and artillery complex (ZRAK) of the Shipunov KBP. “At present, the Pantsir-M complex is able to effectively deal with the newest means of attack. Pantsir-M fully ensures the solution of the ship’s air defense missions,” the HPW speaker claimed. The complex could be installed on a variety of vessels. “During the development of the Pantsir-M complex, great attention was paid to “flexibility” in the issue of integration with general ship systems. This allows installation on both newly built ships and re-equip previously built one,” the speaker added.
KBP and HPW announced a serial productions of the ADS amphibious assault rifle. The ADS characteristics on the surface are comparable to the AK-74M submachine gun while diving it is not inferior to the APS underwater assault rifle. The assault rifle employs “conventional” and underwater ammunition of the same calibre to use AK standard magazines.
For the first time, the Almaz-Antey VKO Concern presented an export version of the Resurs (Resource) air defense missile system being developed for the Russian Navy. The complex is designed to protect surface ships from manned and unmanned air attack weapons at the near and on the immediate lines using 9M96E and 9M100E missiles respectively. The system is claimed to be efficient against the targets flying at extremely low altitudes. According to the company representative, the Resurs air defense system is unique for its compact modular composition and high efficiency, capable of hitting any target attacking ship with one missile. SAM systems independently generate a missile mission based on target data being received from the majority of existing shipborne detection radars.
KTRV had one of the largest expositions at the Salon. The company demonstrated its latest products including an export version of the “Packet” small-sized anti-submarine complex, MDM-2 sea shelf mine with a depth of 60 to 600 m and MDM-3 bottom mine. The attention of representatives of foreign delegations was attracted by the products of the St Petersburg Scientific Research Institute of Marine Engineering, KTRV subsidiary. The company presented a universal deep-sea homing torpedo (UGST), which surpasses foreign counterparts in terms of “cost-efficiency”. UGST enjoys telecontrol capability, employs optimal search and targeting algorithms, a powerful warhead, as well as enhanced protection against hydroacoustic countermeasures.
KTRV General Director Boris Obnosov announced the start of serial production of APR-3ME aviation anti-submarine missiles and the delivery of the first batch of missiles to the customer. The advantage of the missile is the ability to defeat underwater targets at a depth of 800 metres with sea waves up to 6 points and a target speed of 40 knots. At the same time, the Corporation is working on a “smart mining” system that will allow ammunition to independently select targets based on a number of parameters.
Unmanned systems were presented by a self-propelled underwater vehicle, which is part of the Alexandrite-ISPUM integrated mine search and destruction system, a small-sized reconnaissance submarine robot MPA and the CyberBoat-330 surface unmanned platform being developed by the “Granit-Electron” Concern, the Islamic Republic of Iran and St.-Petersburg Polytechnic University.
Mainly, the drone is intended for monitoring the coastal space and river water area. However, Iran is known for using small surface and air craft – especially unmanned platforms – to swarm and attack, or at least arrest, naval assets of other nations. This collaboration speaks volumes about Russia’s chess game in the Persian Gulf Region and the eastern Mediterranean Sea. CyberBoat-330 is capable of continuing to operate in winds up to eight points and waves up to four points. Thanks to the hybrid propulsion system, the platform’s power reserve reaches 140 hours, and the cruising range can exceed 500 nautical miles (926 km). According to the specialists of the developer company, CyberBoat-330 turned out to be “practically unsinkable machine”. The feature is reached by high-molecular-weight polyethylene foam inside the UAV body. The material keeps the platform afloat when the armored bottom is penetrated and the outer structure is strongly deformed, which, depending on the customer’s wishes, is made of aluminum or carbon.
Into the Future – 2023
The Organisers believe the IMDS-2021 was a success despite the COVID-19 restrictions. The new dates in 2023 are not specified yet. Perhaps, the Salon will be shifted one more time to the town of Kronshtadt which is part of St Petersburg. The former island of Kotlin has been connected to the Northern capital with a highway while the existing Baltic Fleet facilities and berths can be employed for the ships and submarines demonstration. It is not clear if any exhibition complex could be ready within two year time. If not, the IMDS-2023 will be located at its present position.