Nerpa anti-diver UUV
Patrolling harbors and inspecting the undersides of ships to ensure that no limpet mines have been attached is physically exhausting work for divers. Cold water and long nights increase fatigue levels. Therefore Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) are being considered, but so far none have been armed so they are less able to deal with an intruder if one is found. The Nerpa (Нерпа - named after the Siberian Baikal seal) is being developed by IACS (МАКО) however will be the first to be armed, thus offering endurance advantages over divers. Cost of development in the corporation was estimated at more than 10 million rubles.
Since the 1960s Russia has placed a greater emphasis on countering enemy combat swimmers than most Western countries. As well as an array of counter-diver grenade launchers for deployment on ships, this led to specially equipped PDSS units (ПДСС - Противо-диверсионные силы и средства) whose job is to directly engage enemy divers. They also perform clearance diving if limpet mines are found on the target they are protecting. PDSS' combat swimmers (Боевой пловец) are equipped with knives, the four-round SPSS-1 underwater pistol and the iconic APS underwater rifle. There are currently 13 of these PDSS units distributed throughout Russia's fleets, and teams routinely deploy in support of overseas operations.
If it is adopted by the Russian Navy the system will likely complement rather than replace PDSS divers. The system will likely be deployed over-the-side of small harbor patrol boats which will act as the control point. Patrol areas will have to be deconflicted with friendly diver's areas of responsibility since although the operator will likely see high-definition sonar images of a target, the chances of blue-on-blue would be high.
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The APS underwater rifle carried by Nerpa is highly effective against divers but of limited use against SDVs or UUVs. Thee is the suggestion that the Nerpa could carry a small charge, presumably to counter these types of target. The slow speed of Nerpa, about the same as a swimmer, would be a handicap when engaging an SDV however.
1. APS underwater rifle being fired.
2. The Kerch Strait Bridge between Crimea and Russia is cited as a possible critical infrastructure target which could be defended by Nerpa drones.
3. Ukrainian combat swimmers exercising near the Tendra Spit in Ukraine, August 2018. Although most of the Soviet era diving equipment has been replaced by Western sourced gear, these divers still have the Russian APS rifle which the Nerpa will also use.
The APS (Avtomat Podvodny Spetsialnyy (Автомат Подводный Специальный)) 5.66mm underwater rifle has a range of 30 meters at 10 meters depth, which reduces to 11 meters at 40 meters depth. Muzzle velocity is 360-340 meters per second. The standard magazine holds 26 of the dart-like rounds.
Photo: Arthur Shaikhutdinov / TASS
Length: 1.2 meters (approx)
Width: tbc. Less than 1 meter
Height: Weight (in air): >30 kg, of which 3.6 kg is APS rifle.
Operating depth: 50 meters
Speed: 1 knot cruising
Endurance: 4 hours
Autonomy: 80 meters from nearest communication node
Armament: 1 x APS underwater rifle or small explosive charge
Photo: Alexey Isaev, WARHEAD.SU
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