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From the beginning of 1960s the Soviet Union had built up to 120 ballistic missile submarines with 91 of them nuclear. Now the Russian Federation has about 27 contemporary ballistic missile nuclear submarines (SSBNs) of the three newest projects: 667BDR (Delta 3) with 16 RSM-SO (SS-N-18) missiles in 14 boats; 941 (Typhoon) with 20 RSM-52 (SS-N-20) missiles in 6 boats; and 667 BDRM (Delta 4) with 16 RSM-54 (SS-N-23) missiles in 7 units (in sum-up to 456 SLBMs).

The number of such submarines and their missiles now is determined by the American-Russian ST ART I treaty which allows each side to have not more then 432 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and 3,456 nuclear warheads. If the Russian Duma ratifies the ST ART II treaty by December 31 of 2007 Russia will have to reduce the number of SLBMs to 336 and their warheads to 1, 750. In addition, Secretary of State Allright and Foreign Minister Primakov signed and exchanged letters legally codifying the Helsinki Summit commitment to deactivate, by December 31, 2003, the U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear delivery vehicles that under START II will be eliminated. The START III negotiations would consider further reductions in strategic nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles and strategic bombers to an aggregate limit of 2,000-2,500 per nation by December 31, 2007.

According to the opinion of Ambassador Linton Brooks, unofficially Russians purporting to speak for the Defense Minister Sergeev have been arguing that even the 2,000-2,500 warheads agreed to in Helsinki are more than Russia can afford. They speak of lower limits of, perhaps, 1,000-1,300 ballistic missile warheads with some greater flexibility on bombers.

The Russian leadership pays significant attention to its nuclear ballistic missile submarines’ development. As former Commander in Chief of the Russian Navy Fleet Admiral Felix Gromov wrote: “The strategic naval nuclear forces and associated command and control systems are being updated to satisfy the most advanced scientific and technological requirements”. And he also wrote: “The Navy’s main task is deterrence, nuclear deterrence, which it manages to carry out despite obvious difficulties”.

On August 25, 1996 a Russian Project 941 SSBN surfaced in the North Pole area and launched a RSM-52 MIRVed missile to a remote test range. It was a demonstration of Russian nuclear strategic capability.

What is known about perspectives of Russian nuclear ballistic missile submarine development?

The Russian press wrote about building a fourth generation SSBN, referred as Borey (Arctic Wind), in Severodvinsk. It is a St. Petersburg’s Rubin Central Design Bureau’s Project 935 submarine. The Project (Chief Designer V .A. Zdornov) had been approved for construction by presidential decree in 1995 and the submarine was laid down on November 2, 1996 at Severodvinslc shipyard. It was named YURY DOLGORUKY, for a Russian Great Prince-founder of Moscow. A representative delegation of Moscow’s high officials, including its powerful Mayor Yury Luzhkov and Deputy Minister of Defense Andrey Kokoshin were at this ceremony. The Russian TV showed it to public.

YURY DOLGORUKY would have been fitted with a new ballistic missile RSM-52U. It is assessed the YURY DOLGORUKY will carry at least 12 strategic missiles.

Funding for this program was critical if the Russian Navy was to achieve its stated goal of launching the YURY DOLGORUKY by 2002, and construction of an additional submarine each year thereafter. The cost of this sub would be huge, but some official announcements had demonstrated a national commitment to this program. If funding had been provided, the first ship of the class would have reached initial operational capability in 2004.

The U.S. naval intelligence artist’s depiction of the YURY DOLGORUKY SSBN had been used in an article of the Rubin’s Head and Chief Designer, Academician I.D. Spassky, published in August 1997 issue of the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings. The question arises: is it a war ruse or has he really agreed with this artist rendering?

From this article author’s point of view the depiction is more or less correct. Why?

In the current Russian economic situation it would be costeffective to use the weJl developed and hull from Project 971 (Acula class) SSN and only to add one or two ballistic missile compartments for 12 ballistic missile tubes and their new Trident
D-5 type solid fuel MIRVed RSM-52U (SS-NX-28) SLBMs with nuclear and, maybe, also conventional warheads, and also to use the bow part of the Project 667 BDRM (Delta 4) submarine.

A possibility for a conventional warhead option exists because Russia in 1975 created, tested and accepted the R-27K SLBM, built an experimental diesel, 3,600 t surface displacement, Project 605 submarine with the targeting system Kasatka and fire control complex Record to strike moving sea targets, first of all aircraft carriers, with nuclear and conventional warheads, at ranges of about 1,500 km using radar homing of the warhead.

The fourth generation SSBN’s bow sonar and torpedo complex probably would be similar to that on the Project 667BDRM SSBN ( 4 533 mm torpedo tubes with up to 20 torpedoes and antisubmarine missiles and Scat 3 sonar).

As to a reduced number of strategic ballistic missiles on the YURY DOLGORUKY, it now is conceivable that due to START II and, maybe START Ill implementation, there is a possibility. It could also be a small ploy of the Russian Navy to preserve more SSBNs and more commanding officer’s and admiral’s posts with a future smaller number of SLBMs and their warheads for each ship. Of course, from a Russian state interests point of view it is not a cost effective decision. A ballistic missile submarine with 24 SLBMs Oike the U.S. Ohio clw) would have been almost twice as cost effective.

One of the principle naval architectural questions about the YURY DOLGORUKY is her diving depth. The Rubin Design Bureau, on all its contemporary ballistic missile newest submarines, provided only a 400 m test depth. The test depth of all contemporary Russian SSNs and SSGNs is 600 m. It seems that a 600 m test depth is more probable for the Yury Dolgoruky class SSBNs.

If it is more or less accurate that the Yury Dolgoruky’s number of SS-NX-28 ballistic missiles is 12, the submarine would have approximately the following characteristics:

Surfaced displacement, t : 12,000

Submerged displacement, t : 15,000

Length, beam, draft, m : 135×13.6×10

Strategic missiles : 12 solid fuel SS-NX-28 (50 t, 13m x 2m), with up to 8 nuclear MIRVs or one conventional warhead

Range of strategic : more than 8,000 km

Torpedo tubes : bow 4-533 mm, 20 torpedoes

Sonar : improved SCAT-3 with height 5 m and diameter 7 m sonar cylindrical array

Test depth, m : 600

Speed, submerged, knots : 30

Reactor : improved OK.{)50, 190 mgwt

Turbine : 1×50,000 shp

Propeller : one skewed 7 bladed, 200 revolutions/min

Reserve power plant : two retractable electric motors 400 kwt each, one diesel generator (800 hp), speed 4 knots for 10 days

Material of hull : AK-32 steel with yield strength 100 kg/square mm

Complement : 100

The submarine will have eight compartments and 25 percent reserve buoyancy. Surface unsinkability with any one flooded compartment will be provided.

The first compartment-torpedo, hydroacoustic equipment and living; the second compartment-control room and living; the third compartment-auxiliary mechanisms; the fourth and fifth compartment-ballistic missiles; the sixth compartment-reactor; the seventh compartment-turbine and turbogenerators; and the eighth compartment-planes and rudders hydraulics machines and auxiliary mechanisms.

It should be mentioned that one unofficial Russian publication presented its own artist depiction of the two reactors, two turbines and two propellers for the Yury Dolgoruky SSBN in an architectural scheme which is more traditional for the Rubine Central Design Bureau.

The surface displacement of that version was estimated as 14,720 t, with 24,000 t submerged, and a speed of some 30 knots, and 12 RSM-52U ballistic missiles.

But in August 1998 Commander in Chief of the Russian Navy Fleet Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov announced that this SLBM’s development had been canceled and a new smaller SLBM will be developed for the Yury Dolgoruky on the base of the solid fuel ICBM Topol-M. As a result the new Russian SSBN delivery date was shifted from 2004 to 2010.

In conclusion, it is necessary to say that the Russian Federation, in contrast with the United States, is building a new SSBN and developing a new SLBM for her. The main reason of such difference is some Russian lag in development of SSBNs and SLBMs from the USA and START II agreements which were concluded in an atmosphere of Russian-American relations’ euphoria and which shifted MIRVs only to SLBMs.

But at the same time it is logical to expect some Russian renaissance of stationary and mobile ICBMs with nuclear and conventional warheads (an example is a new Topol missile) because of organic Russian continental mentality and the fact that ICBM complexes are cheaper in comparison with SLBM complexes.


Since the purpose of the cruise is fundraising in addition to fun, the cruise agent is donating $100 per stateroom sold to be shared between Dolphin Scholarship, USSVI Scholarship and Naval Submarine League Scholarship funds. This represents all proceeds minus some expenses.

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