Severodvinsk shipyards in Arkhangelsk County now see a good financial year, thanks to an unexpectedly generous 1999 federal budget announcement and a plan to take them into the new millennium.
David Pashaev, manager of Sevmash shipyard, said the new budget plan is far better than last year’s. It specifies the scope of necessary work to perform on nearly every nuclear- powered submarine under construction in Severodvinsk. Good news, considering work nearly came to a halt last year.
The shipyards at Severodvinsk, Zvezdochka and Sevmash exist to build, repair and, more recently, dismantle nuclear submarines. The yards are heavily dependent on state funding and have suffered an economic squeeze ever since the dissolution of Soviet power. In 1998 the crisis reached its peak: new submarines under construction received nearly no funding while the decommissioning of older nuclear subs was not budgeted for.
More building and decommissioning
The new budget identifies key contracts like the completion and delivery of the Akula-class boat, Gepard; first laid down in 1991 and originally scheduled to enter service in 1996. Other projects include essential repairs for nuclear submarines and the nuclear cruiser Admiral Nakhimov, expected in Sevmash shortly.
Norhtern Fleet sources suggest the budget might cover work on two new submarines under construction: a Borey-class, fourth-generation strategic submarine and another of the modern Severodvinsk class attack submarine.
Construction of another Borey-class boat, the Uriy Dolgoruky, began in Severodvinsk on October 25, 1996. When funding zeroed out in 1997, Uriy Dogoruky’s commissioning was delayed a year to 2002 or 2003. Finally, reports during last year’s economic drought pessimistically pegged the sub’s completion date at sometime around 2010.
The Severodvinsk class of submarine was first laid down in December, 1993: not one has been completed.
Surprise welfare, political support
To say Severodvinsk was surprised to receive state funding this time around would be understating the shipyard’s limited expectations of state financiers: its yards endured the economic deprivations of 1998 by burying any hope of federal money.
But Moscow’s sudden interest in the Centre for Russian Nuclear Shipbuilding, as it’s called, seems partly explained by events in Kosovo. Defence Ministry officials voiced their concern over the future of Russia’s nuclear forces in light of NATO’s new strategic outlook and Balkan showdown.
Government financiers seem to have answered their grievances.
In a meeting of his Security Council today Russian President Boris Yeltsin declared his support for enhancing the country’s nuclear forces and vocalised his government’s determination to consolidate Russia’s strategic role in the world.
"For half a century, the nuclear forces have been one of the decisive factors in the stability of the world as a whole. This is why keeping the combat readiness of our nuclear potential at a high level is among the top priorities among Russia’s state interests," Itar-Tass reported Yeltsin as saying.
Yeltsin said the Security Council meeting would consider "the state of and prospects for the development of Russia’s nuclear weapons sector." Throughout his address he made references to maintaining the safety of Russia’s nuclear arsenal, adding that the consequences of a nuclear mishap "may turn out to be fatal to both Russia and the entire world."