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Steam-driven armor-plated fleet and destroyer forces

Based on publications of -
V.N. KRASNOV - Candidate of Naval Science, capt. of the 1st rank,
Å.À. SHITIKOV - Candidate of Technical Science, State award winner, Vice-admiral

During the sailing ships era the chronicle of outstanding Russian scientific overseas expeditions was resumed upon long-term interval by three-year around-the-world cruise of corvette Vityaz (Knight) under captain of the 2nd rank S.O. Makarov. September 12, 1886 Vityaz left Kronstadt. Her rout crossed the Atlantic, entered the Strait of Magellan then the Pacific, a short stop in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski and then Japan – Indian Ocean – Atlantic Ocean – Kronstadt. While the cruise a great number of hydrological and meteorological surveys had been performed.


Admiral S.O. Makarov

Surveys also provided for measuring of water density, temperature, direction and strength of ocean currents, bottom topography, gathering of marine animals and plants. The corvette passed about 60 thousand miles. The journey resulted in 254 deepwater surveys and 493 series of observation. The treated results were included in Makarov’s book titled The Vityaz and the Pacific Ocean which made a name for the author and had a great importance for the geography in the world. The author was awarded by the Academy of Sciences and his name was recognized among world’s leading oceanographers. And the name of the Russian corvette (starting February 1892 Cruiser of the 1st rank) was inscribed at the foreside of International Ocean Institute in Monaco.

S.O. Makarov is the originator of the concept for icebreaking ships construction. On board of the first icebreaker in the world Ermak in 1899 he made a number of high-latitude journeys (up to 81°20'). A group of scientists under the supervision of S.O. Makarov gathered important data pertaining to field ice, its thickness, physical characteristics, and allocation. S.O. Makarov’s assertion regarding hydrology of the Arctic Ocean had great scientific and practical value. Among other things he proved that deep sea warm streams come to the Arctic basin from the Greenland Sea and in the region of Spitsbergen they descend under cold polar streams.

One of many inventions of S.O. Makarov was the armour-piercing cap for projectiles that greatly increased their piercing performance. In autumn 1897 at sea test range 152 mm projectile equipped with Makarov’s cap managed to pierce Krupp-made armor plate 254 mm thick. The results of theses tests motivated the metal-makers to find ways for the enhancements of armor plates.

S.O. Makarov established the new school in the theory of naval architecture i.e. ship survivability and defined it rather precisely to such extent that it survived till now almost unchanged. Survivability as he said is the ability of a ship to continue battle having suffered damage in various structures and mechanisms. Survivability of a ship is secured by unsinkability, operational power plant, armament, explosion and fire safety means. The Admiral considered the draught of a damaged ship (list, for-and-aft trim, draft) as a main and most objective criterion of ship’s unsinkability.

D.I. Mendeleev had quite a remarkable influence on the research and technology process in the naval science. For over 30 years he was a corresponding member of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Upon receipt of confirmation of his periodic table in 1880 the name of D.I. Mendeleev entered the hall of fame among the brightest scientists of the times. He was proposed to become a member of the academy but physico-mathematical division in the Academy of Science outvoted candidacy of D.I. Mendeleev (the difference of yea and nay was one vote only) in favor of little-known professor Belschtein. Such a decision raised a chorus of protest and demonstrated how far was the Academy from the real life and as a result exploded its reputation. The scientists of the Academy did not welcome that Dmitry Ivanovich made the practical side the corner-stone of a science. The distinguished scholar served about five years in research and technology laboratory of the Admiralty, read lectures in the Sea School, for the purposes of the Navy he studied the issue of water resistance while sailing, considered the question of the Arctic Ocean exploration with icebreakers.

A greater part in his monograph About liquids resistance and aeronautics (1880) D.I. Mendeleev dedicated to the questions of hydrodynamic theory. First he analyzed the development of liquids resistance theory from Newton till Froud. Finding the weak points of various theories he came to a conclusion that "the brightest scholars as Newton, Euler, Bernulli and Dalamber" admitted their impotence in understanding of the not examined resistance. Accordingly he concluded that theoretical studies only can not resolve the issue but require conjoint regular tests of models in hydrodynamic laboratories. Mendeleev supported the concept of full-scale tests but the construction of an experimental basin for testing of ship models, propeller screw and other mechanisms was his priority.

D.I. Mendeleev was the initiator of a new school – ships’ experimental hydrodynamics. The variety of his scientific interests was extremely vast. He studied the problem of conversion of ships from coal to liquid fluid. The laboratory on investigation of gunpowder properties was established in the Admiralty on the initiative of D.I. Mendeleev. As per request of the Naval Minister Mendeleev was working on smokeless gunpowder development and tested collodion gunpowder at a shooting range. Unfortunately due to the strains between the Army and Navy and ambitions of Okhtenskiy powder mills management the collodion gunpowder did not pass into naval service.

In his note About Exploration of the Arctic Ocean (1904) he justified the value of the Northern Sea Route. D.I. Mendeleev offered to explore the Arctic with the help of capital icebreakers. Having participated conjointly with S.O. Makarov in the development of terms of reference of the first icebreaker Dmitry Ivanovich yet at the stage of conceptual design had calculated the specifications for the light icebreaker, build a model and tested it in the Experimental basin commissioned in 1894. D.I. Mendeleev also proposed to consider the possibility of polar latitudes exploration with a submarine of over 2000 tons water displacement. The great chemist indeed had a remarkable technical mentality.

A naval scientist I.P. Alymov that taught applied mathematics and steamship mechanics in naval schools labored at theory of naval architecture and marine propulsion plants. His works The Aspects of Modern Situation in Theory of Naval Architecture, The Effect of Submerged Board for Ship’s Stability, and Essay on Stream Formation of Ship’s Hull and Case History Study enriched the ship knowledge. I.P. Alymov suggested unique ship’s lines called stream lines. On the recommendation of Alymov a torpedo boat was built that demonstrated excellent performance with regard to a ship of ordinary body lines. Alymov was also interested in thermotechnics and betterment of steam engines.

Another utilitarian scholar V.I. Kalashnikkov utilizing multiple steam expansion managed to enhance steam engines for river steamers. Further on the Academy of Science introduced an award of his name.

The works of P.P. Amosov were used as the basis of armor construction. He was the first to discover connection between steel structure and its properties.

Shipbuilding industry in Russia in the middle of the 19th century became a stimulus for the development of metallurgical industry. The founder of metal science is considered D.K. Chernov who was in charge of metallurgy division in the Mikhailov’s Artillery Academy for over 25 years. Thanks to his efforts the process of ordnance, projectiles, and armor manufacture was improved essentially.

P.L. Chebyshev as per request of Kronstadt’s port Admiral developed elongated cast iron projectile with the steel cap specially designed for use against the English and French metal-clad vessels. The fact that the ordnance of the fortress was smooth-bored added to the complexity of the task. Accordingly P.L. Chebyshev studied the issue of the projectile in-flight stability that resulted in a conclusion of shell rotation requirement. As an acknowledgement for the works in the field of artillery science he was elected to the Artillery Academy as an honorary member.

The well-known Chebyshev’s parallelogram had its practical use in the Navy in fire-direction systems. He also invented manually driven rowing mechanism though quite complicated. Chebyshev’s works on applied mathematics were of greater use for naval architects namely: approximate integration, interpolation, theory of chances, theory of functions approximation, etc. Most frequently the designers applied Chebyshev’s method and formulas while calculating parameters for the designed vessel.

The transition to metal hulls in shipbuilding and especially to armor-plated ships gave birth to a problem related to work stability and accuracy of nautical compasses. Accordingly the compass observatory was established in Kronstadt in 1865 under naval officer I.P. Belavinets. He was a remarkable scientist and developed the methods for determination and decrease in compass errors. He proposed to use the method of opposite courses for magnetic field compensation of the armor-plated ships. The findings of Belavinets’s researches were published in Compasses Deviation and Napier Diagram, Compass installation in a Metal Boat, etc. He is actually can be considered as the originator of magnetic compass school in Russia.

Teammate of I.P. Belavinets and one of the founders of magnetic compass deviation theory was I.P. Kolong, a corresponding member of the Petersburg’s Academy of Science. He built a deflector designed for measurement and adjustment of semi-circular and heeling deviation, and also developed methods of measurement and correction of deviation of various kinds. For the works in the field of deviation theory the Petersburg Academy of Science awarded I.P. Kolong with prestigious Lomonosov’s prize. It ought to be noted, that scientific and teacher activities of future academician A.N. Krylov took a start under Kolong’s guidance. The first of A.N. Krylov was an article Placement of Needles on a Compass Rose (1886). At the meeting of physical division of the Russian Physico-Chemical Society Krylov presented a report about the magnetic deflector of his teacher.


Navy’s challenges interested many technical societies in Russia. As an instance, the first chairman of the Russian Physical Society professor F.F. Petrushevskiy was the founder of hydroacoustics basics in Russia. In his work Audio Signals (1882) he colligated the results of various studies on the principles of acoustic propagation in sea water and proved that sound beams have a tendency to deviate to the colder layers of water. He also noted that in shallow waters the sound can propagate for a long distance due to reflection from the bottom and water surface. On October 1, 1874 the classes in the Officers’ Mine School in Kronstadt were started with the lecture of F.F. Petrushevskiy.

In 1887 A.S. Popov, the future inventor of radio became a member of physical division of the Russian Physico-Technical Society spending 18 years in the Officers Mine School to date. A.S. Popov taught in the Sea Technical School as well, however the electrotechnical laboratory was situated in Kronstadt. In that very lab he studied thoroughly the nature of electromagnetic waves. As a matter of fact the Officers’ Mine School was not educational office only but a research facility with well-equipped physical class. It was natural as the fleet had a great need in communication between ships at sea as well as in electrical illumination of ships.

On May 7, 1895 at the assembly of physical division of the Russian Physico-Technical Society he addressed the meeting with the report that justified the possibility of wireless signal transmission for some distance away. This date is celebrated as the Day of Radio since. In principle Popov’s stormscope was the first radio receiver. The creation of radio transmitter was the matter of time only. Thus the wireless communication system came to light. A number of trials took place in 1897 connecting two cruisers with 5 kilometers between them. It took only few years to increase the range to 150 kilometers. During the trials Popov noticed that metal vessels located between receiver and transmitter affected the propagation of electromagnetic waves thus he foresaw the concepts of radio detection. Having continued his studies Popov suggested the method of direction sensing to an operational radio station this principle was later used as a foundation for radio direction finding.

For the practical purposes the radio communication for the first time was used in 1900 refloating armor-plated ship General Admiral Apraksin. Almost to his last days A.S. Popov was working on installation of radio telegraph devices at warships although for the last years his official work place was Electrotechnical Institute.

This is the way once single naval architecture in the end of the 19th century gradually transformed into a vast field of technical knowledge which further divided into various scientific and technical branches.