Russia has announced the launch of a Bulava ballistic missile from a new nuclear submarine

Ballistic missile nuclear submarine Prince Vladimirbest in class Borei-AAt the annual St. Petersburg Sea Parade in July 2021 (illustration). Alexey NIKOLSKY / SPUTNIK / AFP

Dedicated to nuclear deterrence, Generalissimo Suvorov It should enter service in the Russian Navy by the end of the year. Another nuclear-powered submarine is undergoing sea trials, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

Away from the front lines in Ukraine, Russia continues to modernize its strategic nuclear deterrent. Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarine (SNLE) Generalissimo SuvorovThe Bulava ballistic missile, whose nuclear warhead has been replaced with a dummy warhead for the occasion, has completed testing before entering service with the Russian Navy, likely by the end of the year.

The crew of the project’s new strategic missile submarine Borei-A successfully launched the Bulava ballistic missile as part of the last stage of state tests The Ministry of Defense of Russia announced this on Thursday, November 3. On the same day, the Russian news agency reported the presence of another nuclear-powered submarine Krasnoyarskwas conducting sea trials. This time it is not an SSBN, but a nuclear-powered attack submarine (SNA).

Second shot ability

Although the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine is feared due to the difficulties faced by Russian forces on the battlefield, such an exercise could at first glance be seen as a sign of an escalation initiated by Moscow. But as mentioned recently on the microphone of the podcast Collimator Bruno Tertrais, a nuclear expert and deputy director of the Foundation for Strategic Studies (FRS), should not interpret all of Russia’s nuclear actions as messages to the West.

In this case, the launch of such a Bulava missile Generalissimo SuvorovThe construction of which began in 2014 and was expected to join the Pacific Fleet. This test is part of the classic protocol that follows such a ship before it is put into active service. It is a sixth-class ballistic missile nuclear submarine Borei – and the third of the subclass Borei-A, modernized – with four more ships currently under construction. By 2031, Russia should have twelve of these SSBNs, which will allow it to keep all its old ones. Delta inherited from the USSR. Six of them, commissioned in 1982-1990, are still in operation.

Despite ongoing industry challenges, Russian submarines have been undergoing mandatory modernization over the past fifteen years to replace ex-Soviet vessels, some of which are over forty years old. This is especially true of SSBNs – the Russians call it “strategic nuclear submarine cruisers– its role, especially in the framework of nuclear deterrencesecond strikeFrom Moscow. These ships, diluted in the oceans, should always be able to respond to an enemy strike that would destroy the nuclear capabilities deployed on Russian territory.

Especially large submarines – 170 meters long and 24,000 tons of displacement -, Borei Deploy sixteen R-30 Bulava ballistic missiles with a range of 8,000 kilometers and deploy ten independent nuclear warheads of 50 to 150 kilotons each—compared to the 15 of the American bomb dropped on Hiroshima. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, during the test, the Bulava missile was launched from an underwater position in the White Sea (east of Finland) to the Kura test site in Kamchatka (on the Pacific coast), that is, more than 5,000 kilometers away. covered.

Aging attack fleet

Another submarine conducting sea trials Krasnoyarsk, class is a nuclear-powered attack submarine Yasen-M construction started in 2014. Displacing 14,000 tons, these 140-meter vessels have an essentially conventional role dedicated to anti-ship warfare, anti-submarine warfare, land strikes, special missions, especially espionage. The Russians have specialized submarines in this area – especially protecting SSBNs before they are diluted in the ocean. In their 32 vertical silos yasen deploy missiles from the Kalibr family, especially those used in Syria or Ukraine.

SEE ALSO – The war in Ukraine: What if Russia really used a nuclear bomb?

the Krasnoyarsk is the third unit of the class Yasen-Mwas the only success yasen It was commissioned in 2014, and five more are under construction. Here again, the Russians are struggling to renew the SNA fleet of old Soviet origin. Exaggerated on paper, 25 submarines were aligned between the two Northern and Pacific fleets – against six SNAs in France or seven in the UK. But the reality is that the others are dozens of truly operational ships, sometimes in maintenance for years. The Sierra II, Victor III, Shark and Oscar-II they are thirty years old on average, and the Russians are struggling to modernize them.

It was slowed down by Western sanctions imposed after the first conflict in Ukraine in 2014, which forced the Russians to implement their “” projects.import substitutionconstruction of difficult and expensive nuclear submarines has accelerated since 2020. Five of them were commissioned into active service in just under three years, considering that two were on sea trials and the other ten were at various levels. Construction in progress at the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk, northern Russia, the only company still building ships of this type. It remains to be seen whether the Russian invasion of Ukraine last February will affect the construction of these technically difficult and financially expensive ships, as it did in 2014.

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