During the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War, Russia has used submarines a number of times to launch cruise missiles at Ukrainian military targets, thereby demonstrating the power of the Russian naval submarine fleet.
There are about 60 submarines in the submarine fleet of the Russian Navy, basically these sixty subs are categorised into three different types.
Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBN)
As part of the strategic nuclear triad, the core of the Russian naval SSBN force was previously the Project 941 Akula Typhoon-class submarines, but these subs have now been retired. Currently, the SSBN fleet has 12 subs: one Delta III, five Delta IV, one Typhoon-class (used as a test platform, will be disposed after 2025) and five new Borei class subs.
K-535 Yuriy Dolgorukiy is the lead vessel of the Borei-class submarine. It’s construction started in November 1996, but due to budget and technical problems, it was not until February 2008 that the ship was launched and in January 2013 the ship joined the Northern Fleet of the Russian Navy. After that, the Russian navy put into operation the ships Alesander Nevsky and Vladimir Monomakh in the Pacific Fleet. The fourth ship, the Knyaz Vladimir, entered service in June 2020 as part of the Northern Fleet.
Borei-class subs are smaller than their predecessors in size and crew, but can carry a similar number of missiles. The ship has a length of 170m, a diameter of 13m, a crew of 107 people, including 55 officers. With the ability to dive to a maximum depth of 450m and a maximum diving speed of 29 knots, the ship carries 16 Bulava-M SS-NX-30 intercontinental ballistic missiles, each with 10 nuclear warheads aimed at independent targets and has a range of 8,000 km. Thus, the ship can operate thousands of kilometers from shore in any weather conditions.
Nuclear powered attack submarines (SSN)
The SSN can be equipped with missiles with tactical or low yield nuclear warheads. In addition to the traditional tasks of detecting, identifying, and destroying enemy submarines and surface ships, the SSN fleet also performs strategic strikes on land targets, secretly scouting and carrying surveillance operations in the coastal area, transporting and withdrawing special forces teams.
The Russian Navy SSN fleet currently has 15 submarines: two Sierra II, two Victor III , and rest eleven are of the Akula Class. The Russian-built Akula-class ships are considered the best stealth submarines, quietest, fastest and most modern serving in the Russian navy, their combat capabilities are even higher than most modern American SSNs.
However, the future of the Russian naval SSN force is the Yasen submarine of Project 885, a fourth-generation model that combines very strong anti-submarine and anti-ship capabilities. With the armament capability of ten torpedo tubes and eight vertical launch systems for 32 Kalibr land-attack cruise missiles or 24 P-800 Oniks supersonic anti-ship missiles, this submarine class has got massive firepower as compared to other subs of its class. The Yasen can attack land targets with cruise missiles capable of delivering a tactical nuclear warhead with a range of about 5,000 km.
Overall, this class of ships has demonstrated the ability to be “stealth” in front of NATO’s detection systems. It is expected that the Russian Navy will have at least 9 Yasen subs by 2030.
Diesel-electric submarines (SSK)
The Conventional diesel-electric submarine fleet of the Russian Navy consists of approximately 22 subs, most of them are of Kilo and Improved Kilo Class and one sub of the Lada class. The Improved Kilo Class Subs are quite modern, famous for their quiet running ability and high combat effectivenes.
Like most submarines in the world, the Russian Navy’s diesel-electric submarines are also equipped with torpedoes and cruise missiles. The most famous is the VA-111 Shkval Supercavitating torpedo built by Tactical Missiles Corporation, a torpedo capable of moving towards enemy target at very high speeds (over 200 knots), inside a air bubble bag created by an assembly attached to the front of the nose. This reduces the impact force and resistance caused by water, thereby allowing for very high speeds.
This remarkable feature makes the torpedo no different from an underwater bullet, with a version of this torpedo can be fitted with a tactical nuclear warhead.
In terms of cruise missiles, the most famous is the 3M-54 Kalibr series, manufactured by the Novator Design Bureau, known in Russia as Kalibr and named Club in the export market. The 3M54E1 version of this missile has a three-stage design, a cruise speed of about 850 km/h, and is accelerated to Mach 2 in the terminal attack stage.
The Russian submarine fleet is patrolling the seas and oceans of the world. Russian submarine technology is also being sought by many countries to build modern ships for themselves.