Floating saucers: round battleships of Rear Admiral Popov

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Floating saucers: round battleships of Rear Admiral Popov
Floating saucers: round battleships of Rear Admiral Popov

The history of military technology knew many curiosities. Against the background of the rapid progress of the 19th century, engineers developed and sometimes implemented amazing projects that today seem illogical and ridiculous. One of the most notorious shipbuilders of those years was Russian Rear Admiral Andrei Alekseevich Popov. Its round battleships have no analogues in the world and to this day cause controversy among military historians …

Armored ships appeared in the middle of the 19th century - primarily due to the rapid development of steam engines. An overly heavy and powerful ship could not sail, and the steam engine opened up a huge field for engineers for research. The first battleships (French La Gloire in 1859, English HMS Warrior in 1860, and others) were built according to a completely ordinary ship scheme and carried significant sailing armament, complementing the steam engine.

At the same time, there were active disputes in Russia about the need to equip the Black Sea Fleet with battleships. Since the time of the Crimean War (1856-1859), it was in a deplorable state, and if, according to the Paris Peace Treaty, it was forbidden to develop it to a serious size in Russia, then it was simply necessary to equip the coast guard with several monitors. Low-side monitors could not fight on the high seas, but ideally performed their function off the coast: they carried powerful artillery, supporting ground forts.

It was then, in 1869, that Rear Admiral Popov appeared on the horizon. Despite the seeming madness of his project, it was the “popovka” who received the go-ahead from the government - first of all, because Popov was personally friends with the Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaevich, at that time the admiral-general of the Russian fleet.

Money money money

In developing round courts, Popov started from a number of postulates. In particular, the Coast Guard Monitor did not need speed, but it did require serious stability and the ability to carry a fair amount of weaponry. According to Popov's logic, a round ship had the largest possible displacement when compared with ships of similar parameters, plus it was practically not subject to rolling and could carry enormous weapon power. The demonstration of the floating properties of a round boat with a diameter of 3.5 m made a favorable impression on the highest commission, Popov received carte blanche and a round sum for the construction of four battleships of an arbitrary - at his engineering discretion - design. There was another trick here. Popovka was planned not to be included in the fleet, but to be ranked among the floating fortresses, thereby not in the least violating the Paris Treaty of 1856.

Battleships of Rear Admiral Popov

Before embarking on the full-size experiments, Popov built a 7, 3-meter-long steel dinghy "Flounder" with four engines (total - 32 hp), which turned perfectly, kept rolling well and generally proved the functionality of the idea.

Popov himself, being well-versed in engineering matters, was the project manager and author of ideas. Detailed drawings and calculations were carried out by a whole staff of engineers, and as a result, a ship with a diameter of 29 m was adopted for the basic design. True, it was not without the traditional Russian slovenliness and non-calculation. Despite the fact that the Grand Duke ordered the construction of a whole series of populations, initially money was allocated barely for one ship, which was laid in St. Petersburg; a little later Popov "squeezed out" funds for the second ship laid in Nikolaev. The program was designed for five years - by 1875 it was planned to complete the construction of all four populations, and then look at the situation. But everything turned out differently.

The symmetrical structure of the popovka is clearly visible: two symmetrical engine rooms, two boiler rooms, connected only by common coal pits located in the center.

Compass ship

What is popovka? Apparently, the easiest way to consider the design of a round ship is the example of Novgorod, the first coastal battleship launched. They built it in St. Petersburg, and rather quickly. By March 1872, the first parts of the "designer" (which had been previously checked for assembly in the northern capital) arrived at the Nikolaev slipways, and on May 21, 1873, two years after the start of construction, the "Novgorod" was launched. It is worth noting here that it was "Novgorod" that became the first Russian battleship - a significant milestone in the history of weapons. At the same time, the second battleship, Kiev, was under construction in Nikolaev.

Today, pop models are kept in many maritime museums. Moreover, it is not difficult to find and purchase reamers for paper modeling at home. After all, these were very interesting ships.

By design, "Novgorod" was quite an ordinary battleship, only the frames (transverse stiffeners) and stringers (longitudinal) had a shape different from ordinary ships. In particular, the stringers were closed by a ring inside the body. The frame was sheathed with outer and inner layers of iron, the upper armor belt had a thickness of 229, and the lower one - 178 mm. If not for the strange shape, the "Novgorod" would have been no different from an ordinary monitor vessel.

True, the configuration of the popovka seriously influenced the location of the guns, cabins and power units. There was only one barbet (swiveling weapon tower) on the Novgorod and was located exactly in the middle. On the barbette were attached two 280-mm rifled guns of the Alfred Krupp system - at that time very modern. The guns were guided and loaded independently of each other. Cabins for officers, sailors and mechanics were distributed throughout the ship, but most of the living quarters were located in the deck superstructure at the bow of the popovka. Almost the entire under-deck space was occupied by the engine room - more precisely, two engine rooms on either side of the ship's axis of symmetry. Each had a boiler room and three double-acting compound steam engines. Surprisingly, almost all popovka elements were manufactured at Russian factories.

Tests have shown that pops have significantly more disadvantages and problematic nodes than advantages. In particular, when trying to develop at least some decent speed, the battleships "buried" in the breaker.

During the assembly process, the parameters of the vessel changed noticeably - in particular, the planned diameter of 29.3 m "grew" to 30.8 due to problems with the laying of armor plates, and the flat bottom was equipped with longitudinal keels to avoid grounding. The draft, however, increased by 30 cm.

"Kiev" history

"Kiev" was less fortunate. In the process of work on the Novgorod, all new imperfections were revealed, and it was decided to suspend the construction of the second popovka until the Novgorod passed tests.

However, even its maximum speed of 7.5 knots "Novgorod" was able to develop only one time - in the summer of 1874 under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Bistrom.

Already on May 24, 1873, the first popovka successfully covered some distance on its own, "squeezing" out of itself 6 knots (11 km / h), which was extremely slow even for a monitor. At the same time, it took up to two tons of coal per hour - the Novgorod turned out to be an uneconomical ship. The first tests revealed all the shortcomings of the popovka. During the excitement, the water spilled over the low sides and flooded the lower rooms, the rate of fire was extremely low (each gun was loaded for ten minutes), and the shots spun the ship around its axis. As a result, in the winter the popovka was sent for revision to the Sevastopol workshops. They reinforced the gun stoppers, re-profiled the deck superstructures - in general, they made modernization to get rid of "childhood diseases". Popov personally supervised both tests and improvements.As a result, the "Novgorod" began to endure the pitching well and even made a number of voyages (to the Caucasian coast and to Taganrog), but they could not cope with an extremely low speed. With the oncoming wave, the popovka generally stood still, and its speed record was only 7.5 knots (13.9 km / h).

Nevertheless, on August 27, 1874, work was officially resumed on the "Kiev", renamed "Vice-Admiral Popov" in connection with the promotion of the designer in the rank. The second popovka did not differ much from the first, but was much larger - its diameter reached 36 m, and the deck was raised higher above the water, which improved the seaworthiness of the vessel. The armament was also increased: two 305-mm guns in the center and four 87-mm guns in the superstructure made up a seemingly formidable force. In addition, improvements in the hull configuration made it possible to break the speed record of Novgorod from the very first time and bring it to a maximum of 8 knots.

Only now the results of the shooting were terrible. Even the reinforced machines of the Pestich system did not hold recoil, when firing from the main caliber, the ship shook, and the deck shook up to damage to the structure. Strengthening led to a heavier popovka and, accordingly, to a decrease in speed …

To the war

Did the Popovs fight? Yes a little bit. When the Russian-Turkish war began in 1877, Andrei Alekseevich Popov repeatedly petitioned for his ships to be allowed to go on a raid and engage in hostilities, proving their functionality in practice. But the high command was completely unimpressed with the test results (along the way, another problem emerged: due to the poorly thought out ventilation system of the boiler room, the workers fainted from the heat and could not work for a long time and continuously). The Popovs were ordered to remain floating coastal fortresses - as originally intended.

Nevertheless, on July 27-28, 1877, the ships made a military raid along the Danube, covering the transport workers of the Lower Danube flotilla. Subsequently, there were two more test raids, once the Turks even appeared on the horizon … but it did not come to a battle, and the slow-moving popovki simply could not catch up with the enemy.

The main problem of the pops was not even their technical shortcomings. The fact is that Russia, battered by the Crimean War, did not have the necessary financial resources for the systematic revival of the fleet. Everything that was in the treasury, in fact, was thrown into strange experimental ships, which were expensive and did not bring much benefit. Of course, conventional armored cruisers should have been built, capable of operating both offshore and on the high seas.

But the popovki continued to improve - do not abandon an expensive project unfinished! After another modernization in 1879, the guns on the "Vice-Admiral Popov" were brought back to normal: they fired smoothly, accurately and every seven minutes. They tolerated the swing of the popovka perfectly, which breathed new strength into Popov - he presented the project of the third, now elliptical battleship. But the naval leadership has already realized their mistakes. Two popovka is good, but the third is not needed, they decided at the top. But that was not the end.

In civilian life

Back in 1874-1875, Popov built three round sailboats (two with a diameter of 4, 6 m, one - 6 m). It was on their tests that Popov came to the conclusion that it was the ideal circular shape that spoils everything, you need to go to the elliptical one.

TTX Popovok (1884)

Just in October 1878, the imperial yacht "Livadia" crashed on the Crimean rocks, thank God, without the emperor on board. Popov immediately "pulled the blanket over himself", pointing out that his round ships perfectly endure rolling and are distinguished by smooth running, and in the absence of heavy armor, they will also turn out to be quite fast. The project of the new Livadia was prepared jointly with the Scottish shipbuilding company Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering. After the resolution of British engineers, Alexander II agreed to build a round yacht - the Scots guaranteed stability, comfort, and speed.In addition to Popov, Briton William Pierce and marine engineer Erast Gulyaev acted as co-authors of the yacht.

The inventor of the round vessel is not Andrey Popov (although he was the first and only one to embody this in metal), but the Scotsman John Elder, the founder of Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering. It was he who patented the round vessel in 1868, and his patent inspired Popov for original designs. Although Elder died in 1869, Popov later turned to his company for help in building the yacht "Livadia". It is worth noting that Elder's design was less radical than Popov's monitors; it retained the traditional bottom with a keel, while the popovka had a flat bottom. A later patent for improving Elder's design was obtained by British Admiral Sir Gerard Henry Noel. Interestingly, according to Noel's idea, the guns of the battleship were located in a crescent on the bow of the ship, seven in number.

They built Livadia near Glasgow, and very quickly. The official bookmark was made on March 25, 1880, when the skin was already mounted on the ship! According to the documents, the Livadia was handed over in four months - on June 25, Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich took over the ship.

The yacht turned out to be elliptical (maximum length - 79, 25 m, width - 46, 63), comfortable and very spacious. It had two hulls: the usual upper one "plunged" into the elliptical lower one; thanks to this, an unprecedented degree of unsinkability and smooth running was achieved. The yacht easily reached a speed of 15 knots (28 km / h), and inside was a luxurious palace equipped with electric lighting, running water and many rooms and halls with a total area of ​​3950 m². It would seem that everything ended perfectly: the popovs found their destination, all European newspapers trumpeted about the yacht, Popov and Pierce received huge prizes. If not for one "but".

During the ferrying of a yacht from Greenock to Sevastopol, a strange - and terrible - thing was discovered. The yacht got into a storm of medium strength, and immediately all her passengers felt terrible blows in the bottom, as if they were not hitting waves, but some ancient sea dragons or shells. Slowing down the speed didn't help. Upon arrival in the Spanish Ferrol, it was found that the front paneling was crumpled and torn, five side rooms and one double bottom room were flooded.

Many years later, this phenomenon (when the bottom of the bow of the hull hits the water during the pitching of the ship) will be called "slaming". Due to the atypical shape of the Livadia's nose, the slamming reached monstrous strength, the waves simply tore the skin. After 7, 5 months, the repaired yacht reached Sevastopol, but the verdict had already been signed. Control tests in August 1881 showed that nothing could be done, and the ill-fated Livadia was decommissioned as soon as it entered the fleet.

The result is sad. The battleships remained in combat until 1903, and were later excluded from the lists and sent for scrap. "Livadia" was rebuilt into the steamer "Experience", then into the block ship, which stood in Sevastopol until 1926, and its skeleton was rotting back in the late 1930s. Andrei Popov never received a dime for his experiments again - but he, albeit mistaken in his calculations, still wrote one interesting page in the history of world shipbuilding.

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