The Russian navy has launched its second Lada-class diesel-electric submarine, The Kronshtadt, this week at the Admiralty Shipyards in St. Petersburg Thursday, reports Tass.
“The importance of this event is hard to overestimate. The submarine began to be built in 2005. There have been some pauses in construction work and in financing, but the launch day has come at last. The delay in construction work allowed for using the experience gained in building and operating the submarine The St. Petersburg,” Admiralty Shipyards CEO Alexander Buzakov said at the ceremony.
“By all parameters, this submarine surpasses its predecessor – project 636. We are certain that the future of non-nuclear submarine force of the Russian Navy should be pinned on project 677. There will be a large series,” he added, according to Tass.
The Lada class is a fourth-generation submarine with a displacement of about 1,750 tons. Their maximum underwater speed is 21 knots. The subs feature a crew of 35 and they carry Kalibr cruise missiles. This class, an upgraded version of the Soviet-era Kilo-class subs, also feature six torpedo tubes for a mix of 18 torpedoes or tube-launched cruise missiles. The subs feature new acoustic outer coating for a lower sonar signature and sophisticated radar.
This particular submarine was laid down in 2005, but design challenges and other construction delays led the Russian government to discontinue the program in 2011. However, the Kremlin restarted it the following year after design changes were made.
Analysis: The design problems aside, Lada-class subs are attack subs being built for coastal defense, anti-submarine and anti-shipping warfare. They feature a fuel cell plant, which gives air-independent propulsion with oxygen/hydrogen fuel cells and electric/chemical generators. This gives them 45 additional days’ worth of submerged endurance for a range of about 500 nautical miles at 3 knots.
While they’re capable enough, it’s where they fit into Russia’s overall sea strategy. By deploying them to the Mediterranean Sea, NATO is the obvious target. According to Russian military experts, these boats are being developed and deployed in response to the United States’ and the West’s ongoing development of non-nuclear forces.
That said, the Lada won’t be the Russian navy’s answer to replacing the capable Kilo-class. There have just been too many issued with the air-independent propulsion (AIP) system, according to independent analysts. But they are believed to be extremely quiet.
Nevertheless, Russia will attempt to recapitalize its submarine fleet with smaller, stealthier, non-nuclear-powered boats that are cheaper and more difficult to spot. That’s what makes their deployment in the Med that much more significant.