Site:Lazurit Central Design Bureau
57, Svobody St.
Nizhny Novgorod 603040
Telephone: 831/2-25-84-00
Telex: 151118 MORE SU
Fax: 831/2-25-13-29

Date Visited: May 18, 1993

Report Author: D. Walsh



B. Mooney
D. Walsh


Nikolai I. Kvasha; Designer General; Dir., Central Design Bur.
Stanislav A. Lavkovsky; Deputy Director and Designer General for Offshore Technologies


The WTEC team for this visit was accompanied by Oleg V. Lozinsky, the Executive Secretary of the International Integration Association (IIA), who acted as facilitator and translator. The team began by meeting with the top technical and management staff of Lazurit; there were nine professionals and a translator, as well as a person from the bureau's business office present.

The conference room had been set up with displays of Lazurit's capabilities and interests in commercial submarines and deep submersible vehicles. There were eleven models of different submersibles on the table, and diagrams and drawings for another six to eight arrayed along the walls.

The Lazurit Central Design Bureau (CDB) is one of three design bureaus in the former Soviet Union that designed military submarines. The other two are Malachite and Rubin, both in St. Petersburg. Lazurit's work had begun in the 1950s with modern postwar diesel-electric submarines. The bureau's most recent work has been the titanium hull Sierra class nuclear attack submarine. While walking from the parking lot to the headquarters building, Mr. Lavkovsky pointed out the incomplete pressure hulls of two Sierra class submarines that were outside the building hall at an adjacent shipyard. He said that they would not be completed and that the hulls would be dismantled.

The briefing began with remarks by the CDB Director, Mr. Nikolai Kvasha. First, he made it very clear that a four-hour visit to Lazurit was simply not enough time to cover all of the topics listed in the WTEC list of questions. Such an inquiry would require at least a week. Since he felt that the team would receive only a very superficial briefing in the time available, the WTEC questions were not addressed directly during this meeting.

Because government (i.e., Navy) funding has been cut significantly, Lazurit is now busy trying to commercialize its capabilities. But the process is slow and some reductions of personnel have taken place; additional reductions are anticipated. Director Kvasha also said that the bureau has been receiving a lot of foreign visitors, but almost none of these visits have resulted in new business for Lazurit.

Next Director Kvasha reviewed current activities at the bureau. Some of the new directions are:

Director Kvasha said there were 30 manned submersibles operating in Russian waters and that Lazurit had designed 24 of them. Of the approximately 20 submarines/submersibles shown in the conference room, only one seemed familiar. This was the submarine rescue vehicle, which is similar to the U.S. Navy's DSRVs.

After a four-hour briefing in the conference room, the team had dinner at Lazurit with the director and several members of his staff. The team did not visit any other facilities at this site.



The Russian Shelf-Developing Company proposes to build a complete oil and gas production complex on the seafloor beneath an ice covered ocean in the Arctic. The organization was incorporated as a joint stock company in May 1992. Nineteen different Russian institutes and agencies are partners in the venture. They include the following:

The government has given the rights to the Stockman Field (expected to have primarily gas and gas condensate products) in the Barents Sea to ROSSHELF. The chairman of the ROSSHELF group is Academician E.P. Velikhov, Vice President of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Director of the Kurchatov Institute (nuclear reactors). The Russian group is actively seeking foreign partners to provide investment capital and some technology transfer.

The complex will be built at a depth of 100 to 350 m and will be powered by a nuclear reactor on the seafloor. A nuclear submarine will be constructed for crew transfers and servicing the modules. Several manned submersibles and ROVs will be built to assist with seafloor operations and rescue in case of emergencies. There also has been some discussion about building a nuclear powered tanker for transport.

Lazurit's role will be to design the seafloor modules, as well as the submarines and submersibles, needed to support the complex. Major issues now include the development of optimal engineering solutions to ensure safety and reliability for such underwater complexes and the laying of pipelines to transport the produced gas. It was mentioned that the missile section of a Typhoon class SSBN could be adapted for some of the seafloor modules in the complex.

Clearly, this is a very complex project representing the convergence of several different undersea technologies. Nothing like this has ever been done.

For testing purposes, ROSSHELF plans early creation of an "experimental-and-industrial" (pilot) complex rated at 10% of the planned capacity of the field, to include U.S. and other international participation. Once funding has been secured, it is estimated that full development of the first industrial seafloor complex will take 10 to 12 years and approximately $18 to 19 billion. The pilot complex could be completed in 7 or 8 years at a cost of about $2 billion. Both of these time and cost figures may be optimistic.

Ocean Shuttle

The Ocean Shuttle is proposed as a built-for-the-purpose, nuclear-powered oceanographic research submarine. It is to be a 1,300 ton, 600 m capable submarine, carrying a crew of twelve plus eight to twelve scientific staff persons for a maximum mission time of sixty days. One of the models on the conference table was of this submarine.

This originally was a joint USSR-Canadian program. Lazurit planned to design the hull and major operating systems, which would be built in the Soviet Union, and the Canadians would supply the nuclear reactor. Unfortunately, the breakup of the USSR resulted in this program being postponed indefinitely by the Canadians.

However, in the United States (in the Office of Naval Research and at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute) there has been some interest in getting a retired Soviet nuclear submarine and converting it for horizontal oceanography. The Lazurit Design Bureau believes that a newly built vessel would be cheaper and more efficient. The estimated cost for the Ocean Shuttle would be $100 to 160 million if the Canadian reactor were used and $60 million if a Russian reactor were substituted. When asked about the latter, the team was told to obtain this information from the Kurchatov Institute.

The team was shown a brief video tape that showed some artists' sketches of the Ocean Shuttle. Of interest was their showing as one of the key program documents an American study on the marine science rationale for this submarine. As the narrator said, it was done by Don Walsh, a member of this WTEC site visit team. He did this work about three years ago for ECS Group, the Canadian company that did the nuclear reactor development.

Although it appears that this proposed project is still in the conceptual stages, it has a lot of powerful friends in the Russian oceanographic community. However, the funding for a project as large as this must come from the West.

Submerging Ship Platform

The submerging ship platform was developed to find a way for submersibles to work under ice or in areas of heavy seas, and to be safely launched and recovered at each end of the mission. It is designed to be a launch and recovery system that would permit manned submersibles to fly off the deck of the ship while submerged.

There is operational experience available in this technique. The Russian Navy has conducted submerged launch and recovery of its submarine rescue submersibles from the deck of specially configured India class submarines, also designed by Lazurit.

The submerging ship would be able to conduct these operations down to 150 m, or it could do this while anchored submerged. It would be able to carry two manned submersibles roughly the size of the Russian Navy DSRVs.

Tourist Submarines

Of eleven submersible models on the conference table, six were tourist submarine concepts. The designs ranged from conservative, large (forty to fifty passengers) submarines to a small one-person vehicle. One design was a trimaran cruising yacht with speed of up to 25 kts featuring a side-by-side dual hull configuration, with the third (central) hull being a small submarine capable of detaching and sailing autonomously. Other concepts are self-propelled by diesel-electric power plants.

Of particular interest were two that have transparent hulls. Tourist submarines in the West have used cast and machined massive acrylic pieces for transparent hulls. Lazurit plans to use glass for its hulls. Massive glass has not been used successfully in manned submersibles; its properties are simply too uncertain. Lazurit representatives say that they will use a composite organic and silicon glass. This type of glass, developed by the Krylov Institute, has been successfully used in military helicopters. Lazurit has developed the engineering design of its first all-glass submarine. With a capacity of forty-eight passengers and diesel-electric propulsion, the submarine would require about two years to build once an order is received.

Only one Russian-built tourist submarine is in service. This was designed by Rubin Central Design Bureau; the submarine began operations in 1993 at Antigua in the Caribbean. While the tourist submarine industry has done fairly well in the West, the bureau needs to be careful with its market analysis. The market for large tourist submarines (forty to fifty or more passengers) is mature, and probably no more than ten remain to be sold in the world. Lazurit should concentrate on the smaller (six to twenty passengers) tourist submarines where there is still considerable sales opportunity.

Submersible Rescue Vehicles

Lazurit designed the Poseidon class DSRVs now in use by the Russian Navy. Four operational and one experimental models were built. The DSRVs operate in pairs, generally carried onboard an India class submarine. They are capable of launch and recovery while the submarine is submerged. The team was shown a video of a simulated rescue mission.

The team was told that normal navy procedure is for the crew of a downed submarine to escape by locking out at depths down to 120 m. Beyond this depth, to a maximum of 500 m, the DSRVs are used. The current vehicles can carry twenty-four passengers and a crew of three.

One of the design models in the conference room was an advanced version of the DSRV, none of which has been built. It probably has a greater depth capability and more passenger capacity than the current models.

In addition to the naval rescue submersibles, the team was shown a design and model of a rescue vehicle to be used for emergency removal of people from offshore oil platforms or from seafloor complexes such as those envisioned in the ROSSHELF project. The submersible lifeboat would be based onboard the platform and transfer operations would be conducted submerged. This requires that the underwater structures be fitted with passageways for emergency exits and hatches compatible with the submersibles. The proposed rescue submersible would have a forty-two person capacity and twelve hours submerged endurance.

Air Independent Propulsion

Lazurit designed a conversion of a diesel-electric submarine (probably a Whisky class) to be powered by an H2-O]2 fuel cell. The liquefied gases were carried topside in four large cylindrical tanks, two forward and two aft. Some weight compensation was achieved by removing most of the submarine's storage batteries. Lazurit said that submerged endurance was increased five to ten times with this propulsion system. The panel saw a video of this submarine in operation. The most recent operation of this experimental submarine was in 1991.

Other Submersibles

Because the visit was brief, panel members did not have an opportunity to discuss all the submarine/submersible designs, concepts, and models that were in the conference room. Some of the others that were briefly mentioned were:

ROSSHELF Mother Submarine. As noted above, this would be a nuclear-powered submarine designed to support the seafloor operations of the ROSSHELF complex. From its general size and mission requirements, it appears that the submarine design would have much in common with Ocean Shuttle.

9,000 M Depth Submersible. The panel saw a model of this submersible on the conference table but was not briefed on it due to lack of time. It was generally known that the Soviet Union, through its P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, was planning to develop a submersible to go to the oceans' deepest depths (about 11,000 m). This model may have represented that design concept.

Cargo Submarine

This concept proposes a 130,000-ton nuclear submarine container ship with a capacity of 1,000 20-ft containers. The vessel's length would be 250 m, its beam 33 m, and its draft 11 m. The maximum operating depth would be 200 m. A transpolar voyage from Japan to Europe would reportedly take about ten days compared to twenty-five days by conventional surface ship routing. While land bridge service by the Trans-Siberian Railway would be about eight days, the railroad was described as "not fully satisfactory for this service."


Clearly Lazurit has been involved in a wide variety of submarine/submersible programs, and the bureau is very well qualified to undertake any of the projects proposed. Lazurit is able to invoke a wide spectrum of military-developed technologies that are coming to the commercial market for the first time. The question is whether the bureau can develop sustaining programs to avoid damaging reductions in personnel. A major difficulty in making this conversion from military to civil work is being able to effectively market the bureau's capabilities.

The visiting WTEC team agrees with Director Kvasha that four hours was simply insufficient to get into the technical details of the wide variety of deep submersibles and commercial submarines designed/proposed by Lazurit. The scope of projects underway, or proposed, by the bureau was very impressive and educational. However, at best, the visit was only a reconnaissance. Knowledge of technical details would require several more days' work at this site. The director extended an invitation for a more extensive visit.

At the conclusion of the meeting the team requested brochures or papers on the various underwater systems that had been shown. The team was informed that much was not on hand at this time. Some brochures were provided with the promise that a full package would be sent to the team in Moscow before the end of the week. However, this package did not arrive before the WTEC team left Russia.


Lazurit Central Design Bureau.

Product description brochure.

Published materials on ROSSHELF.

Brochures for two designs of tourist submarines.

Brochure for the underwater container ship.

Published: June 1994; WTEC Hyper-Librarian