Project Lira

Though the Project 705 Lira-class attack submarine—better known in the West as the Alfa-class—is perhaps most famous for starring as the main antagonist in the movie The Hunt for Red October, the ill-fated boats have left an outsized legacy independent of the silver screen. That’s because Moscow’s future submarine fleet will be far more automated than current designs—continuing a trend that was pioneered in the late 1970s by the Soviet Union’s Project 705 Lira-class attack boats.
While the Alfa-class boats were in many ways an unsuccessful experiment, the fast titanium-hulled submarines pioneered many innovative technologies. Their strong hulls gave them tremendous speed—close to 45 knots according to some sources—and they could dive to impressive depths. Indeed, the Liras had a never-exceed depth of around 3,900ft, but operationally rarely exceeded 2,000ft. Moreover, the submarines were relatively tiny—displacing only 3,200-tons submerged.Other than the titanium hull—which was a huge innovation for the time—the Lira-class boats featured two other innovations. One was a very compact liquid-metal cooled reactor, which could generate enormous amounts of power. In all, two types of lead-bismuth cooled fast reactors were used on the Lira—the OK-550 and BM-40. Both reactors produced more than 40,000shp. The result was blistering speed and acceleration—but at the price of being extremely noisy (though the boats had a pair of 100kW electrical propellers for low speed tactical maneuvering).The other major innovation introduced by the Lira-class was automation. Because the Soviet about 155-MW of power giving the boat wanted a small, fast interceptor submarine, a small crew-size was mandatory. The Soviets did manage to reduce the crew-size to about thirty-two officers, but no enlisted crew. Ultimately, however, the Lira-class was a technological bridge too far—safety was a major concern. “We spent twenty years using the Lira (Project 705) subs during the 1970s through 1990s. . . . It was a very promising project but it was eventually shelved due to the abundance of new technological ideas simultaneously implemented in one boat,” quoted an unnamed defense source, according to state-owned Sputnik.(YahooTech)


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