Nuclear subs construction hits post-Soviet peak

The Yasen class submarine "Severodvinsk" was transferred from the Sevmash yard to the Northern fleet last in June 2014.

While foreign countries over the last 20 years have cashed out for scrapping Russia’s Cold War fleet of nuclear submarines, Moscow puts its money into building new advanced vessels for underwater warfare.


On July 19th, officially the Navy Day in Russia, Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk will lay down the keel to no less than three new nuclear powered submarines. The three submarines are the strategic missiles submarine “Knyaz Oleg” – of the Borei class, the Yasen class multipurpose submarine “Krasnoyarsk”, and the “Khabarovsk”, supposedly also of the Yasen class. 

With construction startup of the three new, not less than ten nuclear powered submarines will then be in pipe from the naval yard on the coast of the White Sea. Not since the breakup of the Soviet Union back in 1991 has so many submarines been under construction at the same time.

Sevmash is today the only naval yard in Russia building nuclear powered submarines for combat missions. 

10 new nuclear subs under construction
The others currently under construction are the “Kazan” and “Novosibirsk” of the Yasen class and the “Vladimir Monomakh” and “Knyz Vladimir” of the Borei class. In addition, Sevmash is likely constructing two nuclear submarines for special purpose missions, either from scratch or in cooperation with the Admiralty yard in St. Petersburg. One of them are the coming sister vessel to the deep-diving titanium hull submarine “Losharik” used to sea floor studies. 

The Borei class submarine “Vladimir Monomakh” still belongs to the Sevmash yard, although she three weeks ago sailed out in the White Sea on the first sea trails

Plans for another eight nuclear powered submarines to be commissioned before 2020 are approved, four of the Yasen class and four of the Borei class. 

Russia is currently spending hundreds of billions of dollars on a rearmament program, including new submarines.

Russia is currently in the middle of a huge rearmament program, earlier reported by BarentsObserver to reach $659 billion (€502 billion) by 2020 and the navy is a high priority. 

24 in operation
The Northern fleet, with naval bases on the Kola Peninsula west of Murmansk towards the border to Norway, has 24 nuclear powered submarines in operation. Although it is not clear how many of the new submarines that will sail for the Northern fleet, it is believed that most of them will be based here. Traditionally 2/3 of the nuclear powered submarines in the Navy are based in the north, while 1/3 are based with the Pacific fleet.

Russia’s two other fleets, the Black Sea and the Baltic do not operate nuclear powered vessels.

In the years after the breakup of the Soviet Union, other nations have granted billions of dollars for decommissioning the old Cold War fleet of retired nuclear powered submarines and securing plutonium and uranium from their warheads and reactor fuel. 

Norwegian officials visit the Saida bay storage where reactor compartments from decomeissioned submarines are stored.

Norway paid for scrapping 4 old subs
The U.S. financed decommissioning of the older fleet of strategic Yankee- and Delta-class submarines, while countries like Norway, United Kingdom, South Korea and Canada among others have paid for dismantlement of attack,- and multipurpose submarines. Norway granted cash to four submarines decommissioned at the Zvezhdockha yard in Severodvinsk and Nerpa yard north of Murmansk. 

In 2002, the G8 countries began a $20 billion donor program aimed at preventing terrorists from acquiring fissile material from old-Soviet stocks, including spent fuel from submarines that could be used for developing weapons of mass destruction. 

Spends more on building new than scrapping old
The price tag for constructing new nuclear powered submarines in Russia varies much, depending on types and sources of information. According to Wikipedia, the cost of a Yasen class submarine, like the “Severodvinsk” and the “Kazan” varies from $1 billion to $3,5 billion. The Borei class subs, larger in size and equipped with more expensive nuclear warhead armed intercontinental missiles, are likely even more expensive. 

Russia has anyhow already spent more cash on building new lethal submarines than the $20 billion from foreign donor countries aimed at cutting up the old ones and secure the nuclear waste.