Site: Bureau of Oceanological Engineering
(Experimental Design)
Russian Academy of Sciences
1, Letnaya St.
Moscow 109387

Date Visited: May 20, 1993

Report Author: D. Walsh



C. Brancart
B. Mooney
D. Walsh


Victor P. Brovko - Director, Science and Technology, designer of manned submersibles; he was formerly with the Manned Submersibles Laboratory of the P.P. Shirshov Institute)
Eugene E. Pavljutchenko - Project Chief Designer
Dr. Alexander M. Podrazhansky - Scientific Ocean Drilling Program, Russian Ministry of Geology (former Senior Research Fellow with the Manned Submersibles Laboratory of the P.P. Shirshov Institute and pilot of the Mir submersibles; now liaison with the Design Bureau)
Alexander A. Paramonov - Director (he did not attend the site visit, but the WTEC team obtained his card)


The WTEC team spent about three hours at the Experimental Design Bureau. Most of the visit took place in Mr. Victor Brovko's office, where the team was briefed on the various programs. Dr. Walsh was asked to meet separately with Mr. Brovko, Mr. Eugene Pavljutchenko, and Dr. Alexandr Podrazhansky to discuss tourist submarine designs developed by the bureau and its associated private company, Rift Company Ltd. Some team members were shown some of the bureau's hardware.

The Experimental Design Bureau of Oceanological Engineering was established in 1970 as part of the P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology. The Design Bureau remained a part of the institute until about two years ago. Now it is an independent organization under the Russian Academy of Sciences. However, its two major customers are still the Shirshov Institute and the Ministry of Geology. The bureau is free to sell its devices to any buyers, domestic or foreign.

The bureau's primary function is to design, build, and test sensors, samplers, and instrumentation used for oceanographic research. The bureau's scientists and engineers also design and build manned submersibles. These include Osmotr, which was completed in 1985, and the Rift class, two of which are under construction. The bureau's recent interest in tourist submarines for the commercial market comes from its experience with oceanographic manned submersibles.


Oceanographic Instrumentation

In the bureau, there are two major subgroups in the area of oceanographic instrumentation: hydrophysics and hydroacoustics. The bureau's scientists and technologists make a full range of devices for ocean studies, as well as various components such as radio beacons, acoustic releases, physical samplers, and strobe beacons.

They have also been working with the development and construction of both long and ultrashort baseline navigation/positioning systems. This work has included design of the required transponders. Operations with these systems have been conducted in the ocean and in Lake Baikal, where acoustic conditions are very difficult.

Another developmental area is underwater communications between submersibles and surface vessels.

Manned Submersibles

Manned submersibles have been a mission of the bureau since it was first founded. Argus (1975), a 600 m depth vehicle, has made over 1,000 dives, and Osmotr (1986), a 300 m vehicle (200 m for diver lockout operations), has made only 20 test dives and "dozens of dives to 50 m" for testing its diver lockout system. It had been offered to Cuba for treasure hunting work, but this project was not realized. Osmotr, currently located in the Ukraine, has no programs planned and is presently for sale. Both submersibles were designed and constructed under the direction of the bureau. Also, both have been operated by the Shirshov Institute.

Presently there are two 4,000 m diving depth manned submersibles under construction at the bureau. These are the Rift class submersibles, which are of all titanium construction. They are presently 80 to 85 percent complete, but require an additional $2 million for completion. Mr. Brovko said that the director of Shirshov wants the submersibles completed and in testing by 1994. The initial dive tests will be conducted at their field laboratory at Ghelendzhik on the Black Sea.

Rift's spherical pressure hull is made up of six major titanium segments that were forged, cut, and welded. There are an additional four inserts for the hatch, viewing ports, and twenty-three hull penetrators.

Mr. Brovko repeated the offer made by the director of Shirshov that a foreign investor who would put in the $2 million required to complete construction would be given one of the two submersibles.

Tourist Submarines

The Experimental Design Bureau of Oceanological Engineering and Rift Co., Ltd. have developed two designs for tourist submarines, the Angara TS-6/600 and the TS-20/100. The former is a $400,000, 6-passenger submersible that can dive to 600 m. The latter is an $850,000, 20-passenger submarine that can dive to 100 m. Both submarines are also proposed for underwater oceanographic research platforms.

Rift Company Ltd. intends to classify these submersibles with one of the western classification societies, such as the American Bureau of Shipping or Lloyds Register, both of which have offices in St. Petersburg.

The hull design has been completed for Angara and the components have been ordered, although construction has not begun. At the present time, Rift Ltd. does not have any orders for either submersible. However, there may be a market for the "resort-sized" (six to twenty passengers) tourist submarine. No company in the West has started making these yet; this is a new market opportunity with no competition yet present.


As was the case with virtually all of the institutes and bureaus visited during the WTEC field trip, most of the Design Bureau's work was severely constrained by lack of funding and customers from those Russian/Former Soviet Union agencies that once supported them. Two years ago, the bureau had 400 employees; today it has 150. A major preoccupation of the Design Bureau's management is finding western customers for its products. In addition, there is an active program to find a western sponsor/investor to put up the $2 million needed to complete the two Rift submersibles.

These marketing efforts are very difficult to pursue since the present state of the Russian economy makes it difficult to secure travel funds to go to the West for this purpose. It was for this reason that Dr. Walsh was asked to make a quick review of their tourist submarine design and marketing strategies and tactics. He has known Mr. Brovko and Dr. Podrazhansky for over ten years, and they have had prior communications about tourist submarines. There is no question that the Bureau/Rift Ltd. combination can do this work. Furthermore, the estimated prices for each of these submarines is well below the estimated cost of an equivalent submersible in the West.


Rift Tourist Submersible 20/100.


Rift Tourist Submersible 6/600. Brochure.

Published: June 1994; WTEC Hyper-Librarian