Friday, March 26, 2010

Some Strained Russian Sub Crews

..............For a larger photo, click image to open in new tab

One of the best U.S. submarine designs for function (as opposed to cost and function) have been boats of the USS Seawolf class. The nominal ratio of officers (less the CO) to men in SSN-21, for example, is 1 officer per 7 enlisted men. This will vary of course, and nominal refers to berthing arrangements in large measure, not how many men would actually ever be onboard.

Contrast the Seawolf's 1:7 ratio with that of Russia's latest, state-of-the-art, multi-purpose nuclear submarine Yasen, Project 855, to be launched in May. The highly automated Russian boat (allegedly no nuclear propulsion crew aft, at all) will have an officer ratio of 1 to 1.1.

A ratio of one officer per sailor would no doubt scare the bejesus out of surface sailors worldwide. Can we even imagine what it will be like for Russia's enlisted submarine 'volunteers'?

U.S., submariners have historically developed a closer officer-enlisted bond than almost all other submarine navies, which have tended toward relationships preserving the formalities of surface warfare sailors (skimmers).

Speaking of U.S. history, we must start with the Confederate sub Hunley (one officer and 7 enlisted), which no doubt employed the informal bond of today's U.S. subs, as well as EXACTLY the same officer ratio as the modern USS Seawolf (SSN-21) nominally does.

Russian sub history has been notably different. Consider the venerated Alpha class (decommissioned since July 1996), for instance. What was the ratio of officers to enlisted crew like on the Alphas? Ignoring the CO again, the given ratio was 26 officers to 4 enlisted (a ratio of about 6.5 officers to each enlisted man). It must be noted that the enlisted on Alphas were in fact petty officers and some sources give the entire complement (31) as all-officer. Unless usual Russian naval rigidity was somehow relaxed, such submarine duty must have been hellish for those 4 POs.

Submarines are always silent and strange.



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