Asia Defense

Russia Drops Plans For Upgraded Borei-Class Ballistic Missile Sub

Russia will reportedly build six more Borei II-class ballistic missile submarines instead.

Franz-Stefan Gady
Russia Drops Plans For Upgraded Borei-Class Ballistic Missile Sub
Credit: Rubin Design Bureau

The Russian government has reportedly cancelled an upgraded variant of the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) Project 955A Borei II-class (“North Wind”) or Dolgorukiy-class following a cost-effectiveness analysis, according to a Russian defense industry source.

The so-called Borei B-class (Borei III) of SSBNs, which was expected to feature a new water jet propulsion system, an upgraded hull, and new noise reduction technology, next to others, is also apparently no longer listed in Russia’s state armament program for 2018-2027. An earlier draft had included a provision for the construction of four Borei B-class subs.

“After the analysis of proposals on building Borei-B nuclear-powered submarines, a decision was made to give them up as the project of building these subs does not meet the ‘cost/efficiency’ criterion. Instead, the final version of the state armament program through 2027 includes Borei-A [Borei II-class] submarines,” the source told TASS news agency on May 21.

The decision to scratch an upgraded variant of the boomers comes as no surprise as senior defense industry officials have repeatedly voiced their unhappiness with the Borei B-class design work done by the Rubin Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering in St. Petersburg. The head of Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation, Alexey Rakhmanov, in a March interview, said, “I believe we can talk about it in late 2018… Borey B concept R&D [research and development] was fulfilled last year. The conceptual design was unsatisfactory in economic feasibility. We shall return to the issue.”

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has plans to build six additional Borei II-class (also designated Borei-A) SSBNs in addition to the five already ordered, which eventually will bring up the total number of Borei-class ballistic missile subs to 14.

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“The construction of the new series of Project 955A submarines will begin at the Sevmash Shipyard after 2023,” the source added. “Overall, there are plans to build six Borei-A subs, which will be operational in the Northern and Pacific Fleets. With the completion of this series, the Navy will operate 14 new strategic nuclear-powered submarines: 11 Borei-A-and three Borei-class subs.”

The Russian Navy is slated to receive Borei II-class SSBN  Knyaz Vladimir (Prince Vladimir) in 2019, following a two-year delay due to a contract dispute between the Russian MoD and the Severodvinsk-based Sevmash Shipyards. Borei II-class SSBNs  reportedly have increased maneuverability, upgraded stealth capabilities, and carry additional missiles than the original Borei-class (See: “Russia Will Start Constructing New Ballistic Missile Submarine in December”):

In comparison to the Borei-class, Borei II[A]-class submarines are fitted with four additional missile tubes, boast smaller hulls and cons, and feature improved acoustics and lower sound levels, next to a number of other technical improvements.

Both variants of Borei-class subs will be armed with Bulava (RSM-56) intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The Borei-class will be capable of carrying up to 16 Bulava ICBMs, whereas the improved Borei II-class can carry up to 20 ballistic missiles.

The improved variant of the Borei-class will be capable of launching 96-200 hypersonic, independently maneuverable warheads, yielding 100-150 kilotons apiece. 

The Russian Navy currently operates three Borei-class boomers. The Borei-class SSBN Yuri Dolgoruky is in service with Russia’s Northern Fleet, while the remaining two – Alexander Nevsky and Vladimir Monomakh — are deployed with the Russian Pacific Fleet.