Asia Defense | Security

Commissioning of Russia’s First Upgraded Borei-Class Ballistic Missile Sub Delayed

The Knyaz Vladimir is expected to be delivered to Russia’s Northern Fleet by the end of June.

Franz-Stefan Gady
Commissioning of Russia’s First Upgraded Borei-Class Ballistic Missile Sub Delayed
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/HoteitH

The nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) Knyaz Vladimir (Prince Vladimir), the Russian Navy’s first upgraded Project 955A Borei (A) II-class (“North Wind”) or Dolgorukiy-class boomer, will likely be commissioned before the end of June, according to a Russian defense industry source.

“The Project 955A lead nuclear-powered submarine is planned to be delivered to the Russian Navy before the end of the first half of the year, i.e. before the end of June,” the source was quoted as saying by TASS news agency on April 13. “Before that time the vessel will certainly undergo at least one more sea trial, perhaps even two or three more sea trials.”

Earlier reports citing anonymous defense industry sources indicated that the submarine might be delivered to the Navy in April or May. In February, the head of the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC), Alexei Rakhmanov, said that the SSBN will likely be commissioned in March or early April. “I think another month and a half is needed,” Rakhmanov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency on February 10.

He added that that sea and weapons trials of the Knyaz Vladimir had all been successfully completed. The defense industry source cited by TASS on April 13, however, notes that further testing is now required. The Knyaz Vladimir was laid down in 2012 and floated out in 2017 with a two-year delay. As I noted back in February:

The boomer was originally expected to be commissioned by the end of 2019. However, the latest round of sea trials in November of last year revealed a number of deficiencies that needed fixing. 

The Borei-(A)-II-class boomer’s initial round of sea trials reportedly began in late November/early December 2018 and finished in January 2019. The second round kicked off in early July 2019 and lasted until November of the same year. 

The Knyaz Vladimir also conducted weapons trials during that period.  The SSBN has for the first time test fired a RSM-56 Bulava (NATO reporting name: SS-N-32) submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in October 2019. 

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As I explained back in 2019:

The Bulava SLBM–a sea-launched variant of the Topol-M—can reportedly be fitted with six to 10 nuclear multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) warheads yielding 100 to 150 kilotons apiece, as well as 10 to 40 decoys. The three-stage solid propellant (with a liquid head stage) Bulava has an estimated range of over 8,300 kilometers (5,157 miles).

Borei-(A)-II-class boomers reportedly have upgraded stealth capabilities, better underwater maneuverability, and carry extra SLBMs in comparison to the baseline Borei-class, three of which are currently in service with the Russian Navy.