Updated. Originally posted 17th Nov. 2017 and 5th December 2017
Russia's pr.955A Borei-A SSBN (NATO: DOLGORUKIY Class)
The NATO reporting name “Yankee” has already been coined for the Project 667 ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) which entered service in the late 1960s. The codename was given, it is said, because its strong resemblance to US Navy SSBNs in terms of layout. Since the YANKEE Russian SSBNs have diverged from their Western counterparts in many respects, but the latest type, the Borei-A, is a return to Western features.
The Russian Navy launched its 4th Borei Class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) in November 2017. Prince Vladimir (Князь Владимир) is the first of the improved Pr.0955A (aka 09552) Borei-A variant which will form the backbone of Russia's future at-sea nuclear deterrent. The design incorporates many Western design influences with new tail configuration and sail which resemble US Navy submarines. The first three Pr.955 BOREI Class boats were constructed from unfinished hull sections from AKULA Class attack submarines and OSCAR Class cruise missile submarines. The Borei-A is however completely new-build. Overall dimensions are not significantly altered and internal layout is probably very similar, although the new construction may have allowed some internal redesigns.
There are clear signs that Russian ballistic missile submarines are at sea more extensively than in the recent past, probably re-establishing a continuous at-sea deterrent (CASD). In May 2018 the first BOREI Class boat, Yuri Dolgoruky (K-535), launched a salvo of four RSM-56 Bulava (SS-N-32) SLBMs. This underlines the maturing of the Bulava missile which has been slow to reach operational readiness.
Currently one Borei-A is ungeroing sea trials, and four are under construction. According to media reports, Russia will build six more Borei-A Class boats from 2023 to 2027, bring the total to 14; 3 BOREI Class and 11 Borei-A Class. These will replace all older classes of ballistic missile submarines (DELTA-III and DELTA-IV). This force level will be sufficient to ensure two boats at sea in both the Northern Fleet and Pacific Fleets, with three at sea on each coast for much of the time.
Original artwork - CLICK for HIGH-RESOLUTION image.
The schematic shows the pressure hull diameter remaining at 11m in the missile compartment. This is not how most schematics on the Russian Internet show it. Some analysts do however believe that the pressure hull is the same diameter all the way from the bow to the reactor compartment (@11m diameter, per the AULA and OSCAR Classes). Other analysts believe that the missile compartment might be single-hulled.
The most visible difference from the baseline Pr.0955 is the western-style all-moving vertical rudders with endplates added to the hydroplanes. The towed sonar array tube has been moved from the top of the upper vertical rudder to the starboard side hydroplane. It is possible that there is a second towed array on the port side:
Another update is what appears to be a new flank array sonar running along the length of the missile compartment. This is likely a cylindrical tube buried in the double-hull, and may be part of the MG-541EM (МГ-541ЭМ) Low Frequency Passive system which which would also include the towed array:
Alternative explanations include this being a hangar for the towed array when it is retracted, or some sort of tank.
The ‘turtle back’ covering the missile compartment has been faired in to present a smoother and more angled cross-section. Despite some reports that the missile load would be increased to 20, it appears to remain 16 RSM-56 Bulava SLBMs. This will require much clearer photographs to confirm however:
The RSM-56 Bulava (3M30 Булава, NATO: SS-N-32) missile has a range of 5,800 miles (5,040 nm) and can carry 6 x 150 kt MIRVs (Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles) plus up to 40 decoys. The test program initially experienced some failures and the future of the missile appeared uncertain, but it has been in operational service since 2013. There is no suggestion that the BOREI-II carries a different missile complex.
Note that on at least one of the origial Pr.0955s the missile hatches themselves do not line up exactly with the hatch covers visible on the side of the submarine. There are however 16 tubes in two closely-packed sets of 4x2.
Images of the full sail emerged after the launch, revealing that while the back of the sail appears to be largely unchanged from the earlier model, the leading edge is completely restyled. The raked leading edge is replaced by a straight sail with blended base, similar to those applied to US Navy boats:
Photos via @lfx160219 - Twitter, from @MDC軍武狂人夢 - m.weibo.cn
Work continues on four more Borey-A submarines:
1. Prince Oleg
2. General Suvorov
3. Emperor Alexander III
4. Prince Pozharsky
The BOREI Class inherits 6 x 533mm (21") external Special Purpose External Tubes (SPETS) in the bow which are used to house REPS-324 Shlagbaum(Barrier) anti-torpedo defense system. The system launches MG-104 Brosok or MG-114 Beryl mobile Princeermeasures. It's conceivable that they could also deploy the MG-15 anti-torpedo torpedo. This feature was inherited from the three Pr.971U Improved-AKULA (unofficially AKULA-II and AKULA-III) Class attack submarines which were cannibalized for the bow sections of the first three BOREIs. It is not clear whether the new BOREI-II will retain this:
Additional Intelligence - Belgorod
During the launch ceremony, cameras were not allowed behind a large screen set up at the front of the construction hall. The likely reason for this was to prevent other submarines currently under construction from being photographed. Despite this effort, some details of the tail-end of a large submarine can be seen behind the screen. These are possibly the Pr.09852 Belgorod which is a much more sensitive project than the new SSBN.
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