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Analysis 3/3: Russia focuses on the development of nuclear submarines

The Yasen Class is nuclear-powered cruise missile submarines (SSGN Submersible, Ship, Guided, Nuclear) that represent the most modern submarine developed and designed by the Russian naval defense industry. The Russian Navy’s first-of-class Project 885-M SSN/SSGN Kazan was launched in March 2017. The Kazan recently conducted torpedo trials in the White Sea off the northwest coast of Russia.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Russian navy Project 855 Yasen class submarine. (Picture source Russia Defence website)

In a complementary sense, Russia should limit its efforts in aircraft carriers, cruisers and destroyers and leave them for the Chinese. Moscow should stake on SSN (Submersible Ship Nuclear)and SSGN (Submersible, Ship, Guided, Nuclear).

It is due to the excellent Yasen-class SSGN of project 885. The Severodvinsk sub is already operational. A major series is built by the upgraded Yasen-M-class project 885M. The Kazan is undergoing running trials and the Novosibirsk is preparing for them.

Project 885M SSGN are armed with Kalibr missiles with conventional and special warheads. The submarines are specifically important as the role of non-nuclear deterrence is on the rise. It is based on precision destruction of strategic targets of the aggressor by long-range missiles with conventional warheads in case of an armed conflict.

Since 2013, project 885M SSGN has been annually laid: the Krasnoyarsk in 2014, the Arkhangelsk in 2015, the Perm in 2016, and the Ulyanovsk in 2018. A break followed, but the Voronezh and the Vladivostok were laid on the same day in July 2020.

The major series of project 885M is much better than different types of warships typical of the Russian Navy for a long time. Sevmash Shipyard CEO Mikhail Budnichenko said the enterprise was ready to build more project 885M subs.

There are nine SSGN of projects 885 and 885M in float and under construction (the lead one and eight serial). The decision to continue the construction is explained by a completely new seaborne weapon — hypersonic Tsirkon missile which can be fired from the vertical launchers of projects 885 and 885M.

Project 885M is fit for all existing and prospective seaborne cruise missiles. There are over a dozen of their types and modifications. The submarines also carry a dozen types and modifications of torpedoes.

The broad range of missiles and torpedoes complicates trials, as the weapons have to be thoroughly tested before arming the submarine with them. The Severodvinsk has joined the Navy and thus confirmed that Russian shipbuilders had progressed a lot.

Block-modular technology has to decrease labor intensity and construction time of nuclear submarines. It was suggested during Husky R&D and supported by Sevmash. The proposals of Malakhit and TsTSS design bureaus resulted in a project of the United Shipbuilding Corporation.

The acceleration of nuclear submarine construction in Severodvinsk is due to their resumed production in workshop #50. Sevmash used three slipways in the late Soviet years. The first one was in workshop #42, the second — in #50, and the third — in #55, which built project 941 SSBN. Reduced arms procurement order compelled the shipyard to switch workshop #50, which built project 971 subs, to civilian output. The assembly of all nuclear submarines accumulated in workshop #55.

The growing arms procurement order resumed the production of nuclear submarines in workshop #50. The Krasnoyarsk submarine of project 885M is being built there. Several years ago, it was planned to concentrate SSBN production in workshop #55 and SSGN in #50 and use workshop #42 for the production of sections, blocks and specialized hardware. However, the situation developed by a different scenario and multirole submarines are built in two slipways at a time. It confirms demand for them, the Independent Military Review said.


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