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2nd January 2020, Russia

New generation ships for Russian Navy

Admiral Nikolai Evmenov, Russia’s Navy Commander.

Admiral Nikolai Evmenov, Russia’s Navy Commander.

Eugene Gerden reports

Russia plans to significantly increase the use of composites in its domestic military shipbuilding in years to come, according to some of the highest commanders of the Russian Navy and industry’s analysts.

According to Admiral Nikolai Evmenov, Russia’s Navy Commander, Russia is involved in the building of a new generation of military ships, that will be based on fiberglass reinforced composites. According to Evmenov, the use of such materials will provide additional strength, manoeuvrability and survivability to ships, particularly against magnetic mines.

“It is planned, the application of composites will take place by the use of contact moulding method, when reinforcing material is laid manually and impregnated with a binder,” a spokesperson said.

“Russian Navy command plans to use such fiberglass in the building of a variety of military ships from frigates and corvettes to large landing and mine defence ships. There are also plans to use these materials even in the building of a new Russian aircraft carrier, that will be considered as a replacement by the flagship Admiral Kuznetsov nuclear cruiser.”

The first such ship to be completed is the Ivan Antonov, a minesweeper, which is said to have the world’s largest fibreglass hull at a length of 61 metres and width of 10 metres.

Analysts at the Russian Defence Ministry predict the demand for lighter and stronger shipbuilding materials, particularly those made from composites, will continue to grow both in Russian and global shipbuilding in years to come, providing additional opportunities for growth for composite manufacturers.

According to the analysts, composite materials can already be considered as a potential replacement for steel in modern shipbuilding, due mainly to their lower weight and the ability to provide “additional savings to ship-owners during the operation and maintenance of their ships”.

In addition, composites-based ships spend less energy during their operations, which means less powerful power engines can be used with lower fuel consumption. In fact, the use of composites in military shipbuilding is part of Russia’s existing state strategy of import substitution in the field of shipbuilding and ship equipment.

That strategy involves the beginning of the production of various ship parts from composite materials. In order to implement these plans, a special catalogue of ship products that will be a subject of import substitution and that will be completely made from composite materials will soon be compiled in Russia.

During the second stage, the commercial production of such materials will begin on the basis of some leading Russian composite manufacturers. These projects will also involve the participation of various leading local scientific institutions in this field, such as the Krylov State Scientific Center, that will provide scientific support during implementation of these plans.

The list of manufacturers, that will take part in the import substitution program will include enterprises from the ‘Composite Cluster of St. Petersburg’, an association of composite producers from St. Petersburg. In addition, hopes are being placed on the Russian shipbuilding monopoly – the United Shipbuilding Corporation.

At present Russia accounts for only 0.5% of the global composites’ market, however, as part of state plans, it will reach 2% during the period 2020-2021.

According to analysts, more active composites in the military shipbuilding of Russia will contribute for the implementation of ambitious state plans for the increase of the domestic composites’ market up to RUB 100 billion (US$1,5 billion) by 2030, compared to about RUB 18 billion this year.

In addition to military shipbuilding, among the major consumers of composites in Russia within the next decade, will be aviation, space, wind energy, as well as construction industries. In addition, there are plans for the more active use of composites in the production of sporting goods.

In regard to the space industry, Russian analysts predict the consumption of composites by space sector will continue to grow, although at lower rates, compared to military shipbuilding. This is mainly due to the limited number of spaceships, which are currently built in Russia. One of such projects known as Orel and involves the development of a new generation of partially reusable crewed spacecraft, that will be partially build from composites.

Finally, another major market, that will ensure a significant growth in demand for composites is unmanned aerial vehicles. An example of these are drones, produced by the leading Russian enterprise Kronstadt, whose gliders are completely made from carbon fibre.

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