Russia Is Set To Launch Its Quietest Submarine Yet

A Yasen-class submarine. Photo credit: Russian Ministry of Defense.
A Yasen-class submarine. Photo credit: Russian Ministry of Defense.

The fourth Yasen-class submarine, the Krasnoyarsk, has passed critical tests of its structures and pressure hull, according to Russia’s TASS news agency. It’s supposed to be the most quiet nuclear-powered attack sub ever to enter the Russian fleet.

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As TASS reports, the Krasnoyarsk’s pressure hull withstood hydraulics tests and that further work is being planned for installation and assembly. The hull is built with low magnetic steel to help it avoid detection, according to The Diplomat. Keep in mind that Magnetic Anomaly Detectors were a large part of Cold War submarine hunting.

Russia has five Yasen-class subs under construction at the Sevmash Shipyard, in Severodvinsk, Russia. The only one in service at the moment is the K-329 Severodvinsk. That boat is 390 feet long and 13,800 tons; it carries a crew of 32 officers and 58 enlisted submariners. It has “The vessel has eight torpedo tubes, four of which are 650mm tubes while the rest are 533mm tubes,” according to The National Interest.

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As far as speed, it can travel as fast as 35 knots, and is considered the fastest sub in Russia’s fleet. Russia has had much faster subs back in the day, like the K-222 that could supposedly top 44 knots underwater, though that almost certainly wasn’t very quiet.

That said, the Yasen class subs have alarmed U.S. Navy officials over fears the Russians are encroaching on their decades-long underwater dominance. Rear Admiral Dave Johnson, Naval Sea Systems Command’s program executive officer, was so impressed with the Severodvinsk that he had a model of the sub made for his office just so he could look at it every day.

But the Severodvinsk is not exactly a dominant competitor with America’s top subs when it comes to silence. It doesn’t move through the water with less noise than the U.S. Navy’s Seawolf- or Virginia-class submarines, Navy sources told The National Interest in March. The Virginia carries 15 officers and 117 enlisted men. As far as its own armament, the Virginia has space for twelve VLS tubes and four torpedo tubes, the latter of which can fire Mark 48 ADCAP torpedoes.

Though neither may be as quiet as subs with AIPs (air-independent propulsion system), that are supposed to be so quiet that they can skip detection. The U.S. Navy has none of these AIP subs, while China reported has as many as 15 of them. To get a feel of the technology, the U.S. Navy leased one of Sweden’s AIPs, HSwMS Gotland in 2005 to see how well it would stack against its vessels.

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As Foxtrot Alpha reported in 2014, the Navy didn’t fair so well:

By mid summer of 2005 the Gotland arrived in San Diego and war games immediately commenced. Apparently the Navy got more than they were bargaining for when it came to finding and engaging the stealthy little sub. The Gotland virtually “sunk” many US nuclear fast attack subs, destroyers frigates, cruisers and even made it into the ‘red zone’ beyond the last ring of anti-submarine defenses within a carrier strike group. Although it was rumored she got many simulated shots off on various US super-carriers, one large-scale training exercise in particular with the then brand new USS Ronald Reagan ended with the little sub making multiple attack runs on the super-carrier, before slithering away without ever being detected.

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The lesson was clear: bigger and nuclear doesn’t always win.

As for the Yasen-class subs, they may not be a top competitor against the Navy’s submarine fleet at the moment, but the Russians are slowly getting the technology down. While the Severodvinsk may not be able to compete with the Seawolf or Virginia-class subs, the Krasnoyarsk may be the one that finally does.

Terrell Jermaine Starr is a senior reporter at The Root. He is currently writing a book proposal that analyzes US-Russia relations from a black perspective.

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DISCUSSION

Terrell,

I am sorry, but this article contains so many errors and omissions that as a defense news piece it is borderline unprofessional.

1) K-571 is NOT “set to launch”. Hydralic hull test is done before ANY internal fitting. The sub is 4-5 years from completion and 5-7 years from service.

2) It’s not going to be different than the sister-ships of her subclass, of which Kazan should actually be delivered next year.

3) The description of armament loadout omits the 10 VLS cells (40-50 missiles depending on type) which are sub’s main armament. This is akin to saying that M1A2 is armed with a “mix of 7.62mm/12.7mm machine guns”.

4) Nuclear subs, by the very purpose, have AIP. Saying that “<any type> nuclear sub is not <something> as AIP” is akin to saying “This supercharged Corvette is not as good as the internal combustion cars”. The novel feature of Gotland-class was extension of this capability to non-nuclear vessels via installation of Sterling engine-powered generators. Furthermore, this design parameter in of itself has nothing to do with tactical stealth: Gotland-class are faster or quieter when running off batteries. AIP units on non-nuclear subs are an operational stealth asset, as D-E boats do not need to regularly surface to recharge their cells.