The second submarine K-561 Kazan, which is a modified Project 08851 Yasen-M design, went to sea for builder’s trials on 24 September.
The sub is Russia’s most advanced, stealthy nuclear sub ever, and some analysts say it represents a substantial threat to NATO navies.
Launched on 8 April 2017, the Kazan was initially scheduled to be delivered to the Russian navy in December. However, construction work was delayed and as such, the vessel isn’t expected to be deployed to Russia’s Northern Fleet until sometime in 2019.
Still, The National Interest reports, “the Russian vessel is expected to be the most formidable enemy submarine the United States Navy has ever faced.”
The site reported further:
The United States Navy was already impressed with the original Severodvinsk, which is an older design that had been under construction since 1993 before eventually being commissioned into service in December 2013. Shortly thereafter in 2014, Rear Adm. Dave Johnson, who was then Naval Sea Systems Command’s (NAVSEA) program executive officer (PEO), told me he was so impressed with the Russian submarine that he had a model of Severodvinsk built for display outside of his office.
“We’ll be facing tough potential opponents. One only has to look at the Severodvinsk, Russia’s version of a [nuclear-guided missile submarine] (SSGN). I am so impressed with this ship that I had Carderock build a model from unclassified data.” Johnson said. “The rest of the world’s undersea capability never stands still.”
As a response to the capabilities of the Severodvinsk, the U.S. Navy launched the Acoustic Superiority Program (ASP) as a means of improving the performance of its new Virginia-class submarines.
In 2016, Rear Adm. Michael Jabaley, then the Navy’s program executive officer for submarines, said of the ASP, “This is our response to the continued improvement in our peer competitors’ submarine quality. The Russians with the production of the Severodvinsk SSGN took a significant step forward in their acoustic ability. We want to maintain pace ahead of that. We never want to reach acoustic parity, we always want to be better than anything any other country is putting out there in the submarine domain.”
Adm. James Foggo, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, said that Russia has put the bulk of its naval research and development budget into improving its undersea force.
“It’s a very impressive submarine,” Foggo had told The National Interest in 2016 . “If you look across the design of the Russian Federation Navy, where they have put their resources and their research and development efforts has primarily been in the undersea domain and in the submarine force.”
Speaking of the fast-attack Virginia-class subs, the USS Indiana, the Navy’s newest vessel, was commissioned on Saturday.
The Indiana is the 16th Virginia-class fast attack submarine, and sixth of the Block III class, commissioned into the Navy. The vessel will be the third to carry the name, following BB 1, which served during the Spanish-American War, and BB 58, which earned nine battle stars during service in the Pacific during World War 2.
“The future USS Indiana shows the increased capabilities that our industrial partners bring to the fleet as we deliver the Navy the nation needs,” Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer said in a statement. “This submarine sends a signal to friend and foe alike that we will maintain supremacy under the waves, and extend our lethality and readiness in every domain.”
Virginia-class subs carry torpedoes and cruise missiles. They can also offload special operations forces because they can operate in shallow water.
Analysis: The Severodvinsk certainly is a major upgrade for the Russian navy. With 10 missile silos and eight torpedo tubes, it’s a formidable offensive weapon. And, of course, it’s very stealthy.
The U.S. Navy has been tracking the construction and development of this submarine for years. In fact, the boat has been under construction at various stages since 1993; the first boat of the class finally entered sea trials in 2011. U.S. Navy officials believe it is the most capable attack submarine ever built.
But is it a game-changer for NATO? That depends on a couple of factors.
First of all, it’s not clear how many of these submarines Russia will be able to build. Two, three, or even four of these submarines may be formidable, however, Russia’s economy isn’t large enough to support the additional construction of several more subs.
Also, the U.S. Virginia-class subs which are being built with the Severodvinsk-class subs in mind are far more numerous. In addition to the USS Indiana, the Navy just took delivery of the USS South Dakota, the first of the Virginia-class subs equipped with the ASP system.
The U.S. Navy consensus is that the new Russian submarines are indeed formidable. But it’s not at all clear Russia will be able to build enough of them to pose an insurmountable threat.