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Dr. Lajos F. Szaszdi earned his B.A. in International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University. He obtained also at the Elliott School his M.A. in Security Policy Studies with a concentration on the Russian Armed Forces and the Russian Navy, graduating with distinction in tire fields of Russia and the Russian Military Power, and Military Hist01y. He earned an M.A. in World Politics at The Catholic University of America, where he received his Ph.D. in World Politics. His book Russian Civil-Milita1J’ Relations and tire Origins of the Second Chechen War is an abridged version of his doctoral dissertation. Dr. Szaszdi worked as a Visiting Fellow on defense equipment and military technology at The Heritage Foundation. He is a11 independent open sources intelligence researcher a11d analyst, and a student of sea power, contemporary naval issues and naval hist01y. In the 1990s he was invited several times to lecture 011 the Russian Navy and its Submari11e Force at the late Professor Charles F Elliott’s courses on the Russia11 military at The George Washington University. He is a Life Member of the U.S. Naval Institute and a member of the Naval Submarine League. Dr. Szaszdi has been atte11di11g the League’s annual symposiums since at least 1995.

It was reported in the first week of October that Russia’s first fourth-generation nuclear-powered multipurpose attack submarine, SEVERODVINSK, successfully conducted its first sea trials. 1 In naval terms, a fourth-generation submarine belongs to the latest and most modem generation of submarines. SEVERODVINSK is a Project 885 submarine of the Y ASEN (ash tree) class that has been described in Russia as “an undersea nuclear-powered guided-missile cruiser.”2 It is expected to be commissioned in the Russian Navy by the end of 2012. According to the director of the submarine’s shipbuilder, Sevmash, the vessel’s weapon systems wilt still need no less than six months of tests at sea in 2012 before SEVERODVINSK can enter service.

SEVERODVINSK has been described by the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) as “Russia’s first true multipurpose submarine,” considered to be the successor of the Akula-1 and Akula-11 classes of nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSN) and of the Oscar-II class of nuclear-powered guided-missile submarines (SSGN)4 The Project 885 submarines combine the SSN and SSGN types in a single class of multipurpose submarines. In addition to SEVERODVINSK, there is a second submarine under construction, KAZAN, with plans to begin construction in 20 l 2 of five additional submarines of the improved Yasen-M class.5 KAZAN, which is due to enter service in 2015, is being seen “as a prototype” of the Yasen-M class and compared to SEVERODVINSK, it will have “more advanced equipment and weaponry.”6 SEVERODVINSK’s “estimated cost reached $1 billion” according to the Russian press.

SEVERODVINSK has significant characteristics and capabilities. It has a full load submerged displacement of 13,800 tons, a hull length of 120 meters and a beam 15 meters wide, a maximum operational depth of 600 meters, and a top underwater speed of 35 knots-or between 35 and 40 knots.8 The new submarine’s maximum acoustic speed (the speed in which it still remains silent and is thus able to listen clearly through its passive sonar) was expected in 1996 to have been 20 knots, but it could actually be as high as 25 knots.9 SEVERODVINSK has a crew of 90 including 32 officers.

EVERODVINSK’s armament allows it to engage targets on the sea surface, underwater and on land. Reportedly its armament includes 24 sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCM), including “supersonic cruise missiles.”11 The submarine carries torpedoes, rocket-propelled torpedoes and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) missiles, and it can deploy sea mines.12 The torpedo tubes weapon compartment would hold at least 40 weapons and probably 50 weapons if not more (such as 60 weapons), 13 including torpedoes and ASW missiles. In addition to its eight 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes, SEVERODVINSK carries eight large missile launch tubes abaft the submarine’s sail, probably angled.14 The reported arsenal that these missile launchers may carry is formidable and includes: the supersonic P-800 (3M55) Oniks/Yashma (NATO designation: SS-N-26) anti-ship/land-attack SLCM, the supersonic P-900 (3M5 I) Alfa anti-ship/land-attack SLCM, the subsonic land attack RK-55 Granat (NATO designation: SS-N-21 SAMPSON), and the SS-N-27 SIZZLER SLCM.

SEVERODVINSK’s eight missile tubes might have each a diameter similar to that of the four launch tubes of the Virginia Payload Module (VPM), intended to be inserted in future U.S. Navy Virginia class nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSN). Each payload tube of the VPM has a diameter of 87 inches or 2.2 meters that can accommodate seven Tomahawk cruise missiles per tube. 16 The Virginia Payload Module tubes will have the same dimensions as the missile tubes of the Quad Pack quadruple missile launcher module for the Ohio Replacement next-generation nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). These missile tubes will be capable of launching the Trident II D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), with four Quad Pack modules planned to be fitted to the Ohio Replacement.17 Missile tubes with a diameter of 87 inches or 2.2 meters would fit comfortably in the hull of SEVERODVINSK, which has a beam of 15 meters, compared to the Ohio Replacement SSBN’s projected beam of 13.1 meters (43 feet) or the Ohio class SSBN/SSGN with a hull beam of 12.8 meters.

It may be that the dimensions of SEVERODVINSK’s missile tubes are the same as those of the missile launchers of Russia’s fourth-generation nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines of the Borey class. This level of commonality would be similar to the level of modularity between the missile tubes of the Virginia Payload Module and those of the Quad Pack for the Ohio Replacement submarines. One indication of this may be that the first Borey class, Project 955 submarine, YURI DOLGORUKY, would be fitted with missile tubes with a diameter of approximately 2.2 meters, since it has been reported that the ballistic missile they would carry, the Bulava 30 (NATO designation: SS-NX-32), has a diameter of 2 meters while the missile’s launch canister has a diameter of 2. I meters.

Each of SEVERODVINSK’s launch tubes may carry at least three SS-N-26 missiles.20 It is also possible that each missile tube may be able to hold four SS-N-26,21 for a total of 32 missiles in the submarine. The SS-N-26, which is dubbed Yakhont in Russia,22 has a diameter of 670 mm (26.4 inches) while its missile canister has a diameter of 710 mm (28 inches). 23 Four SS-N-26 in their launch canisters would occupy a space with an overall diameter of 84 inches (2.1 meters), which would fit inside an 87-inch (2.2 meters) missile tube.

Yakhont missile has a cruise speed of Mach 2.6 and a maximum range of 300 km flying at 14,000 meters, and a cruise speed of Mach 2 and maximum range of 120 km when flying 5 meters to 15 meters above the sea surface. The missile has a conventional 250 kg high explosive and semi-armor piercing warhead (HE SAP). Although essentially an anti-ship missile, the SS-N-26 can attack land targets through satellite navigation and a planned imaging infrared (IIR) seeker.24 In addition, the missile could potentially be armed with a tactical nuclear warhead. There may be also a follow-on missile to the ramjet-powered SS-N-26 with a scramjet engine to double the speed of Mach 2.6 at altitude of the original weapon. This new missile may be similar to the Russo-Indian BrahMos 2 missile under development.25 Another report describes the hypersonic BrahMos 2 as “a kerosene-based cruise vehicle capable of speeds in the Mach 5-8 range,” and the land-attack version of the weapon would likely be designed to have twice the range of the current BrahMos missile, which is 299 km.26 The BrahMos missile, which has a maximum speed of Mach 2.8, was developed jointly by Russia and India and is based on the Yakhont. In terms of upgrades, there have been proposals to extend the range of the BrahMos to 1,000 km.

The submarine’s launch tubes could carry instead at least three P-900 Alfa ramjet-powered SLCM, each of which has a 550 mm (21. 7 inches) diameter and reportedly uses the same missile canister of the SS-N-26.28 Hence, it may be able to carry four Alfa missiles per launch tube for a total of 32 missiles. The Alfa SLCM has a cruise speed of Mach 3, a range of 300 km, and a 300 kg conventional warhead, although it could probably be armed with a nuclear warhead. The air-launched version of the P-900 is estimated to have a maximum range of 500 km.

SEVERODVINSK may be able to hold at least 32 SS-N-21 land attack cruise missiles in its missile tubes if only four are contained in each launch tube. The SS-N-21 has a 510 mm (20. I inches) diameter and it can be launched from 21-inch, 533 mm torpedo tubes. 30 The SS-N-21 has a launch canister that is 650 mm (26 inches) in diameter, which may be used to launch the missile from the SEVERODVINSK’s “vertical weapons bay.”31 In such case each of the submarine’s launch tubes would be able to contain only four SS-N-21. However, each missile tube could potentially hold up to seven of these SLCM if they are arranged the same way as seven Tomahawk TLAM (Tomahawk Land Attack Missile) are carried in the Virginia Payload Module.32 Thus, SEVERODVINSK may have the potential to carry 56 SS-N-21 in its eight missile tubes. The Sampson missile could have a I 00/200 kiloton nuclear warhead or possibly a 410 kg conventional warhead. It has a maximum range of 2,400 km to 3,000 km.33 There may be a version of the SS-N-21 with an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) generator of a high-power microwave pulse “to disrupt electronic circuits.”34 The missile could also be equipped with a radar stealth active cancellation system. In the active cancellation system “the incoming … radar wave is sampled by a receiving antenna. Having predicted the aircraft’s reflectivity at this frequency and angle, the avionics create and transmit a false echo (mauve), a signal designed to cancel out the genuine reflection … from the aircraft’s skin.

Other SLCMs that could be carried in SEVERODVINSK’s missile tubes are three members of the Klub-S (submarine-launched) family of missiles, which are similar in design to the SS-N-21. One candidate is the Klub 3M54 (SS-N-27 A) anti-ship missile, which cruises at subsonic speeds until the weapon’s radar seeker locks on to the enemy ship, when the SS-N-27 A’s third stage with a 200 kg high explosive warhead detaches and flies zigzagging towards the target at Mach 3. The maximum range of this version is 220 km.36 There is a version of the 3M54 developed by 1998 “in which the forward part of the weapon becomes a supersonic rocket-propelled pay-load stage,”37 presumably for different types of warheads and loads that may include an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) generator against the phased array radar and electronic systems of a ship.38 A second anti-ship missile version is the Klub 3M54M 1 (SS-N-27B), a subsonic SLCM with a 450 kg high explosive warhead and a maximum range of 300 km.39 Then there is the Klub 3M14 (SS-N-30A), the land-attack version of the 3M54M I missile. Like the SS-N-27B missile, the SS-N-30A is also subsonic, and has a range of 300 km and a 450 kg high explosive warhead, but it is equipped with a satellite guidance system.40 There may also be a version of the land-attack 3M 14 missile with an EMP generator. The Klub-S missiles have a 21-inch, 533 mm diameter, but they are contained in canisters with a 26-inch, 650 mm diameter.41 The SS-N-27 may be kept inside the missile canisters when carried in the submarine’s missile tubes, which would allow for only four missiles per vertical launch tube. In addition, the SS-N-27 can be launched from SEVERODVINSK’s 21-inch torpedo tubes.42 The SS-N-27 and SS-N-30A missiles, including perhaps the subsonic stage of the SS-N-27 A, may be fitted with an active cancellation system for radar stealth.

Moreover, each missile launcher may fire a new generation of long-range cruise missiles (LRCM). It has been widely reported that the SEVERODVINSK will carry SLCM with a range of 5,000 km or about 3, 100 miles, armed either “with conventional or nuclear warheads.’.43 The reported sea-launched LRCM could be a submarine-launched variant of the new stealthy land-attack Kh-101 and Kh-102 subsonic air-launched cruise missiles (ALCM). The Kh-101 has a 400 kg conventional warhead and the Kh-102 a 250 kiloton nuclear warhead, and both missiles are reported to have a range of 5,000 to 5,500 km.44 The Kh-101 and Kh-102 have a diameter of 550 mm,45 and the SEVERODVINSK’s missile tubes could thus carry up to four or just three of these missiles. The Kh-10 l (and Kh-102) has a stealthy design, with a reported radar cross-section of 0.01 square meters. The missile has “a variable flight profile, cruising at altitudes from 30-70 m to 6,000 m,” with a circular error probable (CEP) of between 12 meters and 20 meters.46 The LRCM carried by SEVERODVINSK may have an active cancellation system to achieve a lower radar cross section (RCS).

Another possibility is that the design concept of the Meteorit LRCM project of the late-Soviet period-which reportedly was cancelled-has been pursued secretly as another missile. There may be a new missile replacing the cancelled supersonic Meteorit-M (NATO designation: SS-NX-24 Scorpion) submarine-launched LRCM. In the 1990s, research continued with Kh-90, a successor to the Kh-80 or Meteorit-A (NATO designation: AS-X-19 Koala), the air-launched equivalent of the SS-NX-24.47 The ALCM version of the Meteorit had a 1.2 meter diameter, a length of I 0.5 meters, a cruise speed of Mach 2.5 to Mach 3 and a maximum range of 5,000 km.48 Comparatively SS-N-24 had a diameter of 1.2 meters, a length of 12.5 meters, and a speed of Mach 2 -Mach 3.49 More ominously, the Meteorit missile could carry two independently targeted 90-kiloton nuclear warheads, capable of attacking targets up to JOO km apart.50 Interestingly, Jane’s reveals that according to experts, the Kh-80 and Kh-90 “ramjet-powered platforms were used as testbeds for the plasma-stealth technology (codename Marabou) touted as being developed in Russia over the last decade.”51 This plasma-stealth technology would refer to the stealthogenic, cold plasma cloaking device Russia has reportedly been developing to make its combat aircraft stealthy against enemy radar.52 In such active stealth system a plasma cloud engulfing the missile would absorb incoming radar waves or these would pass around {the] plasma cloud as if there would not be any missile present.s3 Each launch tube of SEVERODVINSK could carry one missile belonging to this class of large LRCM if it becomes operational.

EVERODVINSK also has the potential to be armed with a submarine-launched version of the land-based Iskander-M Tender (NATO designation: SS-26 Stone) short-range ballistic missile (SRBM), if it is developed. Such an idea would imitate intermit-tent plans to deploy in U.S. Navy submarines (SSN and SSGN) the Navy T ACMS (Tactical Missile System), a navalized version of the A TACMS (Army Tactical Missile System) “tactical semi ballistic missile.”54 The U.S. Navy showed interest in the proposed TACMS-P (Tactical Missile System Penetrator), which would have a range of 300 km that could be extended to close to 500 Russia could follow up this idea and thus develop a naval version of the SS-26 for use against land and sea targets. Since the SS-26 has a 920 mm (36 inches) diameter,s6 each of the eight missile tubes in SEVERODVINSK could hold at least one and up to two missiles inside canisters. The SS-26 equipping the Russian Army has a maximum range of 400 km to stay within the limits of the INF Treaty, but a submarine-launched version of the missile could have a range of 500 km. This would not be improbable, since the Iskander-M is a direct descendent of the 500 km-range land-based SS-23 SRBM, which was eliminated by the INF Treaty.s7 And a tactical sea-based SRBM is not covered by the INF Treaty.

SS-26 can carry 480 kg or 700 kg warheads, which include according to Jane’s “tactical HE [high explosive] earth penetrator for bunker-busting, an EMP [electromagnetic pulse], and an anti-radar blast/fragmentation warhead.” Moreover, “the missile can fly a depressed trajectory below 50 km altitude, and that the RV [reentry vehicle] can make evasive maneuvers up to 30 g during the terminal phase, to prevent interception by a surface-to-air missile.”58 With a guidance system that includes an inertial navigation system (INS), satellite navigation, and TV or imaging infrared (IIR) for digital scene matching area correlation (DSMAC), the SS-26 has a CEP ranging between I 0 meters and 30 meters.s9 Like the shorter-range Tochka-U (NATO designation: SS-21 Scarab) SRBM, the SS-26 could be fitted with an anti-radar blast warhead to be used against ship radar targets. Like the SS-21, the SS-26 might be anned with tactical nuclear warheads with yields of 10 kilotons and 100 kilotons.60 With inclined missile tubes the submarine could launch the SRBM while underway, without having to stop to launch the missiles.61 Launched from Yasen class submarines, the SS-26 could be used to attack land-based radars and command and control centers. A submarine-launched Iskander-M could be employed as an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) against AEGIS cruisers and destroyers to breach the defenses of an aircraft carrier battle group, in preparation for a saturation anti-ship cruise missile attack. Moreover, an attack aimed at AEGIS ships armed with the SM-3 missile would be intended to destroy elements of the sea-based leg of the European missile defense system.

Incidentally, the new land-based Iskander-K tactical missile system uses an Iskander SRBM road-mobile transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) to carry and launch two rounds of the R-500 ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM), a weapon which reportedly has a maximum range of 500 km.62 Needless to say, this range of 500 km would constitute a violation of the INF Treaty. The R-500 GLCM, designed by the KBM missile design bureau, might be the ground-launched equivalent of the Kh-SD medium range air-launched cruise missile, developed by the Raduga (rainbow) design bureau. The Kh-SD ALCM has a reported maximum range of 600 km when flying at 15,000 meters, and a subsonic cruise speed of Mach 0.75. The Kh-SD shares with the 5,500 km-range Kh-101 the same mission p/a1111i11g system and a common guidance system.63 Moreover, the new Kh-SD missile was apparently developed from the earlier Kh-65SE ALCM, which was designed as an anti-ship cruise missile.64 Kh-65SE, which has been displayed with a stealthy design, has a range of 500 km to 600 km flying at Mach 0.48 to Mach 0.77, it cruises at an altitude of 40 meters to 110 meters and it has a 410 kg warhead. There was reportedly a land-attack version of the Kh-65SE missile, which has a CEP of 18 meters to 26 meters.65 In comparison, the R-500 GLCM during trials cruised at a speed of about 250 meters per second, equivalent approximately to Mach 0. 74, at a height of 100 meters, and conducted “several maneuvers” on its way to the target. Its CEP may be “less than 30 meters.”66 Such a missile may have an active cancellation system for greater stealth.

There could be a submarine-launched equivalent of the R-500 GLCM and the Kh-SD ALCM with a 500-600 km range for anti-ship and land-attack operations. Such a missile would be anned with a conventional or a nuclear warhead. It may have a diameter of 770 mm (30.3 inches) in the forward part of the missile, like the Kh-65SE appears to have.67 If this type of missile is ever developed and deployed in the Yasen/Yasen-M class submarines, two could be carried in each of their missile tubes.

RDML Michael A.Sharp, USN(Ret)
MCPON Rick D. West, USN

CAPT George W. Greene, USN(Ret)
LT Kenneth M. Kirkwood, USN

SKCS(SS) James A. Englund, USN(Ret)
CAPT Richard 0. Harnly, USN(Ret)

CAPT Brett Ayotte, USN(Ret)
CAPT William P. Bancroft, USN(Ret)
Mr. Mark C. Buxton
Mr. Norman J. Roy
RDML Michael A. Sharp, USN(Ret)
LCDR Russell G. Van Moppcs, USN(Ret)

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