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Russia’s Pacific Fleet to Receive 2 Fast Attack Subs in 2020

 
 

Russia’s Pacific Fleet is slated to receive the first two out of six planned improved Project 636.3 Kilo-class (aka Vashavyanka-class) diesel-electric attack submarines in November 2020, the St. Petersburg-based Admiralty shipyard said in its annual report released at the end of June.

Originally, the Pacific Fleet was expected to receive the first Project 636.3 Kilo-class sub already in 2018, a date subsequently pushed back to the end of 2019. As a result of funding uncertainties and bottlenecks in construction, November 2020 has now been set as the new handover date, although additional delays can be expected.

The two submarines — christened the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and the Volkhov — were laid down in July 2017. The initial plan was to deliver two improved Project 636.3 Kilo-class subs in 2019, two in 2020, and the last two in 2021. The revised timeline now foresees the last submarine to be delivered at the end of 2022.

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The decision to procure upgraded Project 636.3 Kilo-class boats primarily comes as a result of cost overruns and delays in the Russian Navy’s Project 885-M Yasen M-class program. While there are currently five nuclear-powered Yasen M-class subs under various stages of construction, only one Yasen-class sub, the K-329 Severodvinsk, has so far been commissioned into the Russian Navy.

Yet, as I noted elsewhere, it is unlikely that the Russian shipbuilding industry “will complete more than two additional Yasen M-class boats by 2020 due to budgetary constraints — the subs are among the most expensive pieces of military hardware ever built by Russia.”

As a result, Russia is working on a new nuclear-powered fifth-generation submarine expected to join the Navy in the 203os. Meanwhile, the improved Project 636.3 Kilo-class boats will serve as a stopgap measure. As I explained previously:

The Project 636.3 Kilo-class is an improved variant of the original Project 877 Kilo-class design. The updated version is slightly longer in length — the sub’s submerged displacement is around 4,000 tons — and feature improved engines, an improved combat system, as well as new noise reduction technology. The submarine has a crew of around 50 and can conduct patrols for up to 45 days. The improved Kilo-class can fire both torpedoes and cruise missiles, launched from one of six 533 millimeter torpedo tubes.

The boats have been primarily designed for anti-submarine and anti-surface ship warfare, but can also be used for land-attack missions. For example, Project 636.3 boats have repeatedly attacked land targets in Syria M-54 Kalibr (NATO designation: SS-N-27A “Sizzler”) cruise missiles from submerged positions in the Mediterranean Sea.

One of the major technological drawbacks of Russian-designed and built diesel-electric submarines remains the lack of a functioning air-independent propulsion system, which reduced the boats’ overall stealth capabilities.

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