Russia’s State-Of-The-Art Titanium Submarine Was Superior to the U.S. Navy’s For These Reasons
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union thought they could outsmart the United States when it came to marine warfare by including titanium hulls in Lira-class boat design. The idea was to make their submarines faster, quieter, and more capable of reaching greater depths.
However, as impressive as this idea was, the U.S. Navy didn’t try to level up to it. Weren’t they feeling competitive enough, or was there something they knew that Russia didn’t? Let’s find out.
The Numerous Advantages of Titanium
There’s no doubt that the Soviet Project 705 “Lira” (or “the Alfa”) was the nuclear submarine of its time, and it had titanium to thank for it. Although titanium alloy had superior strength compared to steel, it was also half as weighty. So, it had the strength and lightness advantage that other submarines lacked.
Plus, titanium is more resistant to corrosion in saltwater and able to withstand more pressure in deep waters than steel.
The US Navy Considered its Disadvantages Too
Although the U.S. Navy was aware of all the advantages the Alfa afforded the Soviet Union, the disadvantages were also obvious. First, titanium was extremely expensive. Secondly, it was also difficult to weld.
To shape titanium, the welders must be provided with an external oxygen source as they work. Even the slightest mistake would be dangerous and compromise the integrity of the hull.
They Had a Different Idea
The U.S. Navy weighed the pros and cons of building titanium submarines and decided that it wasn’t the best option for them. Instead, they decided to focus their resources on improving undersea warfare abilities.
While the Lira boats could travel at a speed of 41 knots, the MK 48 heavyweight torpedo they built could reach 63 knots. They also began building the Sea Lance anti-submarine missile that could take down the Lira boats.
The U.S. Navy Made the Perfect Call
The Russians were only able to produce seven Lira boats. To make matters worse, the submarines didn’t meet expectations as they were not as quiet as everyone thought they would be.
They were also too costly to maintain and had to be decommissioned after the Cold War. The U.S. Navy was right after all—the Lira boats weren’t worth the money and effort.