The PK-500 is the first patrol boat in the series of Mirazh craft (Project 14310). It is being tested at the 31st training center of Russia's Ministry of Defense. The center's motto-"Create ahead of others!"-best reflects the essence of its work.
The PK-500 is a unique boat in many respects. In the mid-1980s, smugglers, drug traffickers, pirates and poachers, who trespassed exclusive sea economic zones, wrested control over the sea from the coast guard. "Gentlemen of fortune" around the world, who sailed high-speed and well-armed boats and schooners, fitted out with state-of-the-art equipment, easily escaped the coast guard.
This brought about the need for a new concept of a patrol boat. A new patrol boat was to combine qualities that contradicted each other: high speed and seagoing ability, powerful armaments, various surveillance and detection means. It would also have the ability to remain at sea for several days, with comfortable living conditions for the crew, while providing at the same time, limited displacement.
Specialists from the St. Petersburg-based Almaz Central Marine Design Bureau have fully met these requirements in the Mirazh project. The most important feature of the Mirazh craft is that it can develop a speed of 50 knots. This ability is provided by a system of automatically controlled interceptors. When extended, bow and stern interceptors produce high pressure pockets in front of them, which literally raise the craft above the water surface. Moreover, a cavern filled with atmospheric air is formed behind the bow interceptors. As a result, the craft's wetted surface becomes considerably less, and the air under the craft's bottom acts as lubricant. The interceptors enable the Mirazh to accelerate to speeds formerly unattainable by crafts of this class. They also reduce rolling by two or more times and damp pitching motions by 1.5 times. We could appreciate all the advantages of the ship ourselves.
... The sea met the Mirazh with strong gusting wind and rough waves. At an eight-knot economical speed, the craft markedly rolled. We had to hold on to the handrails and stanchions. At this point the PK-500 commander, Captain 3rd Rank Sergei Seleznyov ordered the crew to increase the speed and switch on the interceptor system. Much to our surprise, at first we had a feeling that the Mirazh was slowing down instead of speeding up. Instead of the expected punches of waves against the craft's bottom, we felt only the smooth motion of the craft. I again compared the boat ride to a first-class car rushing along an ideal highway. Within 30 seconds, the Mirazh accelerated to a speed of 30.8 knots. The deck was no longer being splashed with water; we felt no sea, only a slight roll as if the craft rested on springs. The sea foam was hissing lullingly. We had the impression that we were not at sea but perhaps in a giant bowl of champagne.
Special mention should be made of the living conditions on board the Mirazh. The 12-men crew is accommodated in three cabins (they are intended for officers and warrant officers) and a bunk room for eight seamen. The rooms are rather spacious. There is also a cook galley, a cloak room, a shower room, and water closets. Air conditioners maintain an optimum temperature and humidity levels, which is particularly important in tropical and subtropical areas.
When the Mirazh existed only on paper, some naval specialists criticized the project for the "excess" of conveniences on the proposed craft, arguing that naval ships are built for combat, not for pleasure voyages. Of course, no one will doubt this thesis. However, during a long cruise or tiresome patrolling, conveniences are not at all out of place. They enhance the crew's efficiency and combat readiness. The Mirazh designers seem to have found the golden mean for the "comfortableness/fighting capacity" dilemma.
The craft's armament suite can be customer-specified. The base variant includes the AK-306 cal. 30 mm six-barrel automatic gun mount with a rate of fire of 600 to 1,000 rounds per minute, and two cal. 14,5 mm pedestal-mounted machine guns.
To engage aerial targets, the Mirazh is armed with the Igla portable SAM system with a gunner's station located in the craft's stern.
To engage surface and shore-based targets, the patrol craft is armed with the Shturm missile system which incorporates two container-launchers with three tubes each to fire the Ataka missiles. The maximum firing range of the missile controlled over a radio link is up to 5,800 m.
... "Target detected!", the radar operator reported. The commander gave the general alarm and ordered all "unauthorized persons" to leave the bridge and the pilot room. We had to go downstairs to the crew's room and follow the exercise via the intercom.
"Target locked!", the missile operator reported from the "crow's nest"-a tiny room on the mast. "Prepare for firing!", the commander ordered. "The first, fire!"
The craft slightly shuddered. Soon we heard a report: "Target hit!" An Ataka missile had pierced a battle practice target.
The success of the PK-500 testing must be attributed, above all, to the Vympel Shipbuilding Company in Rybinsk which built it. The lack of sufficient funding slowed down the work on the craft, but the persistence and inventiveness of the Vympel shipbuilders, as well as the skills of the naval specialists, have turned the Mirazh from a phantom into a real, full-scale combat craft.