The Russian Navy took delivery of an upgraded Project 667 BDRM Delta IV-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) this month, according to Russian Deputy Minister of Defense Yuri Borisov.
The Delta IV-class SSBN Tula (K-114), commissioned in October 1987, has spent two years undergoing repairs and modernization work as part of a service life extension program at the Severodvinsk shipyard in northern Russia. Upgrades include the submarine’s radio electronic, sonar, and combat systems. The SSBN completed its post refit trials in December 2017.
During a previous overhaul in 2004, the Tula was refitted to carry the new the R-29RMU Sineva (Nato designation: SS-N-23 Skiff) liquid-fueled submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) capable of carrying four multiple, independently targeted re-entry vehicles (MIRV). The Sineva SLBM officially entered service in 2007.
The Tula is now expected to be armed with a newer derivative of the Sineva SLBM, the R-29MU2 Layner, purportedly capable of carrying up to 12 MIRVs with a 100-kiloton yield each. The Layner SLBM, equipped with improved anti-ballistic missile defense countermeasures, has reportedly been in service since 2014. The Tula successfully test fired a Layner SLBM in 2011.
Delta IV-class boomers can carry up to 16 SLBMs and reportedly can fire them in single salvo under the water while moving. In addition, Delta IV-class SSBNs can launch heavy weight torpedoes or the nuclear-capable RPK-2 Vyuga (NATO designation: SSN-N-15 Starfish) anti-submarine missile system from four 533-milimeter torpedo launch tubes.
The Russian Navy currently operates six Delta IV-class SSBNs in its Northern Fleet stationed at the Saida Guba Naval Base. (One Delta IV-class boat, relaunched in 2015, has been converted into a mothership for unmanned underwater vehicles for intelligence gathering.) Delta III and Delta IV-class boomers are expected to remain in service until the 2030s.
In the years ahead, Delta-class boomers of all variants will slowly be phased out and replaced by a new generation of SSBNs, the Project 955 Borei-class (“North Wind”) aka Dolgoruky-class, the future mainstay of Russia’s sea-based nuclear triad. The Russian Navy will also operate an improved variant of the new boomers, the Borei II-class (also designated Borei-A).
The Navy plans to operate eight Borei-class SSBNs – three Borei-class and five improved Borei II-class boats – by 2o25, although multi-year delays can be expected until the entire fleet is operational. The first Borei II-class boomer Knyaz Vladimir (Prince Vladimir) was launched at the Severodvinsk shipyard in November 2017.
“Three Borei-class SSBNs have been commissioned to date with one submarine, the Yuri Dolgoruky, serving with the Northern Fleet and the remaining two – Alexander Nevsky and Vladimir Monomakh — deployed with Russia’s increasingly more active Pacific Fleet,” I reported in June 2017.