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Russia’s Pacific Fleet to Upgrade 4 Subs With Supersonic Cruise Missiles

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Russia’s Pacific Fleet to Upgrade 4 Subs With Supersonic Cruise Missiles

All four nuclear-powered submarines are slated to be retrofitted with new weapons systems by 2025.

Russia’s Pacific Fleet to Upgrade 4 Subs With Supersonic Cruise Missiles
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/

Russia’s Pacific Fleet plans to upgrade four Project 949A Oscar II-class nuclear-powered guided missile submarines (SSGN) with 3M-54 Kalibr cruise missiles, Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said during a visit of the Zvezda shipyard in the Russian Far East on June 3.

“We plan modernization of the multi-purpose nuclear submarines of Project 949,” Borisov said, according to TASS news agency. “The outdated Granit missiles will be replaced with Kalibr missiles, which have demonstrated themselves well, including in the Syrian conflict.”

In December 2015, an improved Project 636.3 Kilo-class (aka Vashavyanka-class) diesel-electric submarine of the Russian Navy fired four Kalibr land-attack cruise missiles from a submerged position in the Mediterranean Sea against targets near the city of Raqqa in Syria.

The 3M-54 Kalibr, a supersonic cruise missile available in land-attack, anti-ship, and anti-submarine variants, has been specifically designed to evade active air defenses and electronic countermeasures. The submarine-launched anti-ship variant of the missile, dubbed 3M54K, has an estimated range of 270 to 410 miles.

“There are over a dozen variants in the Kalibr missile family (some nuclear-capable), and the subs could also likely be equipped with a land-attack version of the weapon system, dubbed Kalibr 3M14T and 3M14K (NATO designation: SS-N-30A), with a substantially larger range estimated between 1,000 and 1,500 miles,” I explained in March.

The Project 949A submarines will also be upgraded with a new navigation and life support systems.“In fact, the old submarine will have new qualities,” the deputy defense minister said. “This work is under the current state program (…) The Irkutsk submarine is modernized now, and it is due in 2021, now we consider modernization of another three submarines under the future state program for 2018-2025.” However, so far it has only been confirmed that there are plans to upgrade two boats, as  I reported in March:

It is still unclear how many Project 949A submarines will be upgraded in the coming years. The Russian Navy officially has eight submarines of the class in service at the moment. In 2015, it was announced that all eight will be upgraded for an estimated $180 million per boat. However, this number was later reduced to two: The Irkutsk and the Chelyabinsk.

Furthermore, I explained:

The status of a third Project 949A submarine, the Oryol, currently being retrofitted at the Zvezdochka shipyard in the Arkhangelsk region in Northern Russia, remains unknown. As I reported previously, the submarine caught fire during maintenance work at a dry dock in April 2015. The boat was supposed to rejoin its submarine squadron by the end of 2016, but this appears to not have been the case.

Project 949A submarines were built from 1985 to1999, and are primarily designed to attack U.S. carrier strike groups as well as coastal targets. Project 949 subs are the largest cruise missile submarines currently in service in Russia capable of carrying up to 24 P-700 Granit (NATO designation: SS-19 Shipwreck) anti-ship cruise missiles. The Russian Navy currently operates two Project 949A subs in its Northern Fleet and five with the Pacific Fleet.