Round armadillos of Rear Admiral Popov

Armored ships appeared in the middle of the XIX century - primarily the rapid development of steam engines contributed to this. The excessively heavy and powerful ship could not sail, and the steam engine opened up a huge field of research for engineers. The first battleships (the French La Gloire of 1859, the English HMS Warrior of 1860 and others) were built according to a completely ordinary ship's scheme and carried significant sailing weapons that complemented the steam engine.

At the same time, there was active debate in Russia about the need to equip the battleships of the Black Sea Fleet. 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, then it was simply necessary to equip the coast guard with several monitors. Low-sided monitors could not fight in the open sea, 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 “priests” who received the go-ahead from the government, primarily because Popov personally was friends with Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaevich, at that time Admiral General of the Russian Navy.

Money money money

Developing round vessels, Popov made a start from a number of postulates. In particular, the coastal guard monitor did not need speed, but it required serious stability and the ability to carry hefty weapons. According to Popov’s logic, a round vessel had the greatest possible displacement when compared with vessels of similar parameters, plus it was practically not subject to pitching 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 armadillos of any design, in his engineering discretion. There was another trick. It was planned not to include popovki in the fleet, but to classify them as floating fortresses, thereby not a bit breaking the Paris Treaty of 1856.

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Before embarking on full-size experiments, Popov built a steel 7.3-meter boat “Flounder” with four engines (a total of 32 hp), which perfectly rotated, had good pitching and generally proved the functionality of the idea.

Popov himself, being a good expert in engineering, 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 could not do without the traditional Russian slovenliness and non-calculation. Despite the fact that the Grand Duke ordered the construction of a series of priests, initially money was allocated barely for one ship, which was laid in St. Petersburg; a little later Popov "squeezed out" the funds on 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 flocks, and then look at the situation. But everything turned out differently.

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

Compass boat

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

Today, models of popov are stored in many maritime museums. Moreover, it is not difficult to find and purchase reamers for paper modeling at home. Still, they were very interesting ships.

By design, “Novgorod” was a completely ordinary battleship, only the frames (transverse stiffeners) and stringers (longitudinal) had a shape different from ordinary ships. In particular, the stringers closed in a ring inside the case. 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. Had it not been for the strange form, Novgorod would have been no different from an ordinary monitor ship.

True, the configuration of the clerk seriously affected the location of guns, cabins and powertrains. The barbet (rotary weapon tower) on the "Novgorod" was one and was located exactly in the middle. Two 280-mm rifled guns of the Alfred Krupp system were mounted on the barbette - at that time very modern. The guns were guided and charged independently of each other. The cabins of the officers, sailors and mechanics were distributed throughout the ship, but most of the living quarters were located in a deck superstructure on the bow of the priest. Almost the entire deck space was occupied by the engine room - more precisely, two engine rooms on both sides of the axis of symmetry of the vessel. Each housed a boiler room and three compound double-acting steam engines. Surprisingly, almost all of the elements of the batches were made at Russian factories.

Tests have shown that in popovok significantly more disadvantages and problem 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 was “grown” to 30.8 due to problems with laying armored plates, and the flat bottom was equipped with longitudinal keels to avoid agrounding. Draft, however, increased by 30 cm.

Kiev story

Kiev was less fortunate. In the process of working on “Novgorod”, new deficiencies were revealed, and the construction of the second clerk was decided to be suspended until the Novgorod passed the tests.

However, Novgorod even managed to develop its maximum speed of 7.5 knots only once - in the summer of 1874 under the command of Lieutenant Commander Bistrom.

Already on May 24, 1873, the first popovka successfully traveled some distance on its own, “squeezing” 6 knots out of itself (11 km / h), which was extremely slow even for the monitor. In this case, coal went up to two tons per hour - "Novgorod" was an uneconomical ship. The first tests revealed all the flaws of the clerk. During the excitement, water whipped through the low sides and flooded the lower rooms, the rate of fire was extremely low (each gun was loaded for ten minutes), and from the shots the ship spun around its axis. As a result, in the winter, the ass was sent for revision to the Sevastopol workshops. They reinforced gun stops, repurposed deck superstructures - in general, made upgrades to get rid of "childhood diseases." Popov personally led both the tests and the modifications. As a result, Novgorod began to tolerate the pitching well and even made a number of voyages (to the Caucasian coast and Taganrog), but they could not cope with an extremely low speed. When the oncoming wave, the popovka generally stood still, and the record for its speed was only 7.5 knots (13.9 km / h).

Nevertheless, on August 27, 1874, they officially resumed work on 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. Weapons were also increased: two 305-mm guns in the center and four 87-mm guns in the superstructure constituted a seemingly formidable force. In addition, improvements in the hull configuration made it possible to break the Novgorod high-speed record the first time and bring 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 back, when firing from the main caliber, the ship shook, and the deck shook until the structure was damaged. Strengthening led to a heavier popovka and, consequently, to a decrease in speed ...

To the war!

Did the priests fight? Yes a little bit. When the Russo-Turkish War began in 1877, Andrei Alekseevich Popov repeatedly requested that his ships be allowed to go on a raid and engage in military operations, proving their functionality in practice. But the high command was completely unimpressed by the test results (one more problem was revealed along the way: due to a poorly designed ventilation system of the boiler room, the workers lost consciousness from the heat and could not work long and continuously). Popov was ordered to remain floating coastal fortresses - as originally intended.

Nevertheless, on July 27–28, 1877, the ships made a combat raid on the Danube, covering the transporters of the Lower Danube Flotilla. Subsequently, there were two more test raids, once the Turks even appeared on the horizon ... but it didn’t come to the battle, and the slow-moving popov simply could not catch up with the enemy.

The main problem with the flocks was not even their technical flaws. The fact is that Russia, battered by the Crimean War, did not have the necessary financial resources to systematically revive the fleet. Everything that was in the treasury, in fact, was thrown onto strange experimental ships, which were expensive, but did not bring much benefit. Of course, it was necessary to build ordinary armored cruisers capable of operating both offshore and on the high seas.

But they continued to improve the priests - not to leave the expensive project unfinished! After another modernization in 1879, the guns at the Vice Admiral Popov were brought back to normal: they fired smoothly, clearly and every seven minutes. The cocks were well tolerated, which inspired new strength in Popov - he presented the draft of the third, now elliptical armadillo. But the naval leadership was already aware of its mistakes. Two priests are good, but the third is not necessary, they decided at the top. But that was not the end.

In the civilian world

Back in 1874-1875, Popov built three round sailboats (two 4.6 m in diameter, one 6 m). It was during their trials that Popov came to the conclusion that it was precisely the ideal circular shape that spoiled everything;

TTX Popovok (1884)

Just in October 1878, the imperial yacht Livadia crashed on Crimean rocks, thank God, without an emperor on board. Popov immediately "pulled a blanket over himself", indicating that his round vessels perfectly tolerate pitching and are characterized by a smooth ride, and in the absence of heavy armor will also be quite fast. The new Livadia project was prepared in conjunction with the Scottish shipbuilding company Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering. After a resolution by British engineers, Alexander II agreed to the construction of a round yacht - the Scots guaranteed stability, comfort, and high speed. In addition to Popov, the co-authors of the yacht were the British William Pearce and marine engineer Erast Gulyaev.

Scots, who else!

The inventor of the round vessel is not considered to be Andrei Popov (although he was the first and only to realize this in metal), but the Scot John Elder, founder of Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering. It was he who in 1868 patented the round vessel, and his patent inspired Popov to original developments. Although Elder died in 1869, later Popov turned to his company for help in building the Livadia yacht. It is worth noting that Elder’s design was less radical than Popov’s monitors; it retained the traditional keel bottom, while the buttocks had a flat bottom. A later patent to improve the design of the Elder was received by British Admiral Sir Gerard Henry Noel. Interestingly, according to Noel’s idea, the armadillo’s guns were located crescent not on the bow of the ship, numbering seven.

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

The yacht was elliptical (maximum length - 79.25 m, width - 46.63), comfortable and very roomy. It had two cases: the usual upper one "plunged" into the elliptical lower one; thanks to this, an unprecedented degree of unsinkability and ride was achieved. The yacht easily reached a speed of 15 knots (28 km / h), and inside it was a chic 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 the European newspapers trumpeted the yacht, Popov and Piers received huge bonuses. If not for one “but.”

During the transfer of the yacht from Greenock to Sevastopol, a strange - and terrible - thing was discovered. The yacht fell into a moderate storm, and then all its passengers felt terrible blows in the bottom, as if they were not hit by waves, but by some ancient sea dragons or shells. The speed reduction did not help. Upon arrival in the Spanish Ferrol, it was discovered that the front lining was crumpled and torn, five airborne and one double bottoms were flooded.

After many years, this phenomenon (when the bottom of the bow of the hull beats against water during the pitching of the vessel) will be given the name "slaming". Due to the atypical shape of the nose of Livadia, slaming reached a monstrous force, the waves simply tore the skin. After 7.5 months, the repaired yacht reached Sevastopol, but her sentence was already signed. Control tests in August 1881 showed that nothing can be done, and the ill-fated Livadia was decommissioned, barely joining the fleet.

The result is sad. The battleships remained in combat until 1903, and were later removed from the lists and sent for scrapping. “Livadia” was rebuilt into the ship “Experience”, then into a blockchain, which stood in Sevastopol until 1926, and the skeleton chased it back in the late 1930s. Andrei Popov never again received a penny for his experiments - but, even if he was mistaken in his calculations, he nevertheless entered one entertaining page in the history of world shipbuilding.

The article “Floating Saucers” was published in the journal Popular Mechanics (No. 3, March 2013).


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