Russian Navy is about to test submarine B-90 Sarov with first Russian-made hydrogen-fueled powerplant by the end of 2012, writes Izvestiya referring to a source in defense ministry. In prospect, such powerplants can be mounted on Project 677 Lada and Amur-1500 submarines. Similar plants are used in German submarines U-212 and U-214.
According to the source, traditional diesel-electric subs like Varshavyanka-class ones (Project 636) use batteries supplying the electric motor. If the battery is discharged, submarine must surface and start diesel engines to charge the batteries. That makes subs vulnerable. In hydrogen-fueled engines, electric motors are supplied by hydrogen fuel cells.
The new Russian-made engine is an air-independent powerplant. Like other engines of this type, it considerably increases submerged endurance of non-nuclear subs. In addition, it reduces noisiness level. According to the source, Russian non-nuclear submarines powered by air-independent plants would compete with German diesel subs.
In July 2012, Russian Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Viktor Chirkov decided to resume construction of Project 677 diesel-electric submarines suspended by the ex-commander Vladimir Vysotsky. Earlier, the Navy was not satisfied with characteristics of the new air-independent powerplant for Project 677, it needed improvement.
So far, Russia has built only one Project 677 submarine named St. Petersburg. She is passing trials at the time. Other two subs of this class, Kronshtadt and Sevastopol are being built. Although their construction was suspended, it can be resumed if the hydrogen powerplant is successfully tested, reports Izvestiya.
B-90 Sarov is an experimental submarine, the only one built under Project 20120 in 2008. The sub's hull is a Project Sargan experimental submarine laid down late in 80's but not completed due to underfinancing. Sarov displaces about 4,000 tons. The submarine is used for tests of new weapons and equipment.