New subs need upgrade before commissioning

"Severodvinsk" is now sailing for a series of tests in the Barents Sea. Photo from

Ready to shoot. Russia’s brand new multi-purpose submarine “Severodvinsk” set sail for the Barents Sea for a new series of tests, including launching of cruise missiles. The crew is well aware they are sailing a vessel with systems that “have significantly deteriorated.”


“Severodvinsk” is said to be the most expensive submarine ever built in Russia. After nearly 20 years of construction and testing the price tag is more than 70 billion rubles (€1,7 billion), according to Izvestia.

On Tuesday this week, “Severodvinsk” once again set sail from the naval yard in Severodvinsk, heading for a one month long test-period in the winter cold and dark Barents Sea. A Navy source says to the newspaper that the sub will do deep diving to test the systems, including the reactor and the ballast tanks.

Ready to launch
Most exciting, the submarine will launch three of her cruise missiles – two from submerged position and one from surface.

It is not said what kind of cruise missiles that will be tested, but according to an infographic of the submarine posted by RIA Novosti, the sub can carry two types. A long-range nuclear capable cruise missile with a range up to 5,000 kilometers and a anti-ship cruise missile.

If all goes well with the tests, the sub will be back in port by November 25. But this is not a normal voyage for the crew of 90.

Significantly deteriorated
As the submarine is heading out the White Sea towards the Barents Sea, former Deputy Commander Admiral Igor Kasatonov comes with disquieting statements to Radio Golos Rossia about the technical condition of both “Severodvinsk” and the new strategic missile submarine “Yuri Dolgoruky.” 

“After years of construction and sea trails, some systems in both subs have significantly deteriorated. The subs cannot be commissioned until all problems of this kind have been fixed.”

Admiral Kasatonov points to “Severodvinsk” when claiming the equipment and facilities to launch cruise missiles are far from perfect.

2,000 technical flaws
Construction of K-329 “Severodvinsk” started in 1993 with a goal to commission in 1998. Delays have since then been a repeating headline in Russian media, including the BarentsObserver. Last autumn, the maiden voyage took place, followed by several test tours. The portal of Sevmash, the yard that have built K-329, reported on October 19 that the sub after the last test voyage had been at sea for a total of 100 days since she first set sail a year ago. 

Some 2,000 technical flaws were discovered during the tests, according to Izvestia. If all systems, the reactor and weapon launching are approved after the voyage now going on, the submarine is expected to enter service in 2013.

Russia plans to build at least eight similar multi-purpose submarines, named Project 885 - Yasen-class. Work has already started with the second vessel, “Kazan.”

Chronic delayed ballistic missile sub
Another submarine that has become infamous for repeating delays is “Yuri Dolgoruky” – the first of the 4th generation ballistic missile submarines. After 13 years of construction, she sailed out from the yard in Severovinsk near Arkhangelsk in June 2009. Today, more than three years later, the submarine is still waiting to enter service for the navy. Last delay was reported by BarentsObserver in October, now set to be next year.

Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov confirmed the delay this week.

“We are expecting the “Yury Dolgoruky” submarine to enter service in 2013,” Serdyukov told Russian lawmakers at a meeting on defense issues, RIA Novosti reports.

Built of old spare parts
When the construction of “Yuri Dolgoruky” started at the Sevmash yard back in November 1996, the shipyard simply took the unfinished hull of what was supposed to be an Akula-class attach submarine and started the welding to enlarge it. That hull was already four years old when it was decided to use it for Russia’s new generation SSBNs, as reported by BarentsObserver.

The second vessel in the Borey-class, the “Aleksandr Nevsky” is reported to be delayed with active service for the navy until 2014. Also this sub is originally built on the half-done hull of what in 1993 was supposed to be an Akula-class sub.

Kola instead of Kamchatka
Both Borey-class subs were supposed to sail for the Pacific fleet, but due to delays with needed infrastructure at the naval base in Vilyuchinsk, at least “Yuri Dolgoruky” will be based at the Northern fleet’s Gadzhievo base northwest of Murmansk for a period.

Vilyuchinsk naval base on the Kamchatka Peninsula is today incapable of handling and servicing the new Bulava missile, the main weapon to be carried by the Borey-class subs.

Every month of delay with transfer of the submarines to the navy costs the naval yard Sevmash two million rubles (€49,400), according to a comprehensive article published in the newspaper Vzglyad this week.