Long road to the sea
Special attention has been focused on the nuclear submarine “Prince Vladimir” in recent years: it is she, being the first submarine of the improved project 955A, that should open a new chapter in the history of the Russian Navy. The first Borey, we recall, was commissioned a long time ago, namely in 2013. The situation is all the more indicative when you consider that the K-535 Yuri Dolgoruky submarine was laid down back in 1996. Following Dolgoruky, in 2013, another submarine of project 955, the K-550 Alexander Nevsky, was commissioned. And in the next fleet received K-551 “Vladimir Monomakh”.
The extremely long six-year hiatus ended on May 28, when the fourth Project 955 submarine, the aforementioned Prince Vladimir, was handed over to the Navy. “Today, 28 May, at Sevmash (part of USC) the acceptance certificate of the strategic missile submarine Knyaz Vladimir was signed,” the press service of Sevmash said.
The pinnacle of evolution
The nuclear submarine was laid down in 2012. The launch of the boat was carried out in 2017, and tests began in 2018. It is known that during them a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile “Bulava” was carried out at a target at the Kamchatka range of Kura. In addition, the submarine was fired off by torpedoes. On May 21, Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported that the boat was tested in the White Sea and moored in Severodvinsk: the navy promised to accept the ship after evaluating the results of this checkout at sea.
The boat is very different from its progenitors, even purely outwardly. In general, the whole history of Boreyev is a history of continuous evolution. Recall that the first three ships, K-535 “Yuri Dolgoruky”, K-550 “Alexander Nevsky” and K-551 “Vladimir Monomakh”, have a characteristic “wrong” bow end of the conning tower, which is tilted forward due to the peculiarities placing in this place one of the stations of the hydroacoustic complex.
On the new nuclear submarine, the bow contours of the wheelhouse became more streamlined. The most important difference lies in the disappearance of the “hump” of the missile launch platform. All these changes, as it became known earlier, are aimed at improving the running characteristics of the submarine and improving the low noise indicators – a key factor in the survival and, in general, the combat effectiveness of a modern submarine.
It is noteworthy that this is far from the final transformation of the project 955. As previously noted in the military department, the next submarine, “Prince Oleg”, will also have its own, unlike anything else, profile. After testing, the fleet will select the version with the best performance. That is, the K-549 “Prince Vladimir” may well become the prototype of all subsequent submarines of the 955 project. This would probably be the best option for the Navy.
It is also known that the new submarine can boast in front of its “congeners” the best maneuverability, increased ability to hold at depth, as well as a more modern airborne weapon control system. In any case, this was previously stated by the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky. Also, “Borey-A” should be distinguished by more comfortable conditions for the crew.
Characteristics such as length and displacement, according to open sources, remained unchanged. Most importantly, the armament, consisting of sixteen R-30 Bulava solid-propellant ballistic missiles, has not changed. It is worth recalling that earlier there were rumors about an increase in the number of missile silos on the Borey-A submarine from sixteen to twenty, but back in 2013 this information was denied.
Armament can be called the “weakest” side of the project, which is somewhat paradoxical considering that we are talking about ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. Experts have claims both to the nominal number of these missiles in one submarine cruiser, and to the characteristics of the missile itself. Recall that the old American strategic submarine of the Ohio class, belonging to the third generation of nuclear submarines, carries 24 Trident II D5. According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists for the past year, one such rocket can have up to eight W88 blocks of 455 kilotons each, up to fourteen W76-0 blocks of 100 kilotons each (they were decommissioned) or the same number of W-76-1 blocks approximately 90 kilotons each. In turn, “Bulava”, according to media reports, has from six to ten warheads of 100-150 kilotons. In other words, in its destructive power one “Ohio” is significantly ahead of one “Northwind”. There is, however, one “but”. All American submarines of this type are old ships: the last of the strategic cruisers entered service in 1997. It is noteworthy that the Americans themselves probably consider Ohio’s arsenal to be excessive. In any case, the promising Columbia, which is being created to replace it, will carry not 24 ballistic missiles, but 16 – like the Russian ship.
The future of the project
And although it is already difficult to unambiguously call the Borey the “most advanced” boat, and the R-30 missile was initially problematic, it is obvious that there are no alternatives to this duo in Russia. At least if we talk specifically about the marine component of the nuclear triad. In theory, in the future, the Boreyev functions may be partially taken over by the K-329 Belgorod submarines of project 09852 and Khabarovsk of project 09851, which are carriers of Poseidon nuclear torpedoes. However, the “reincarnation of the Stalinist T-15 torpedo” has so many conceptual flaws (speed, vulnerability, and so on) that the very expediency of using Poseidon as a deterrent is a big question.
Therefore, it is obvious that the submarines of the 955 project will be actively built in the future. Now, in addition to the boats already put into operation, six more have been laid down: thus, the minimum number of submarines of this type is ten. We will also remind that in February a source in the military-industrial complex said that in the summer of this year, the Ministry of Defense could sign a contract for the purchase of two more submarines of Project 955A.
However, an even more powerful submarine, previously designated Borey-B, was not included in the state armament program for 2018-2027: the cost of modernization was too high.
But in the future, the fleet may (according to unofficial data) receive the Borei-K version, equipped not with ballistic missiles, but with cruise missiles. This option, of course, is very interesting in itself, but it is unlikely to be implemented in practice: Russia’s strategic submarines are much more important than platforms for launching cruise missiles. The latter will be carried by the project 885 multipurpose submarine, which has already been commissioned, as well as the new Russian submarine of the fifth generation, known as the Husky. We’ll talk about her sometime later.