The Russian Navy is planning in two years to receive its first multipurpose nuclear-powered submarines with long-range cruise missiles, a move that could follow with arming them with low-capacity nuclear warheads, a Russian defense ministry source told the official Itar-Tass news agency there March 27.
The new Severodvinsk attack submarine - Project 855 Yasen, also known as Graney - is expected to be commissioned in 2011. At least six such subs of the class will be built, the ministry said. The Sevmash shipyard could complete deliveries of the entire group by 2017.
Manufacturing of the Severodvinsk was initiated at the end of 1993 and was practically frozen for more than a decade due to luck of adequate financing.
The Severodvinsk's long-range cruise missiles could be equipped with low-capacity nuclear warheads and intended to attack aircraft carrier strike groups, as well as a coastal targets, the ministry said. The missile could maneuver at a hypersonic speed at its terminal phase of flight.
New weapon capabilities could influence Russian Navy strategy. "Probably, tactical nuclear weapons [on submarines] will play a key role in the future," Vice Adm. Oleg Burtsev, deputy head of the Navy General Staff, told the Ria Novosti state news agency. "Their range and precision are gradually increasing."
"There is no longer any need to equip missiles with powerful nuclear warheads. We can install low-capacity warheads on existing cruise missiles," he said.
Nevertheless, the Navy is planning to boost and upgrade its fleet of strategic submarines, carrying larger nuclear ballistic missiles. "We will build at least six Borey-class [Project 955] strategic submarines to serve in the Northern and the Pacific fleets," Burtsev said.
The Yury Dolgoruky, the Borey-class flagship, already is built and is undergoing trials. The sub will carry up to 16 Bulava-M (SS-NX-30) solid-propellant rocket engine ballistic missiles, which are still in development.