KILO Class Submarine
Many of the cruise missiles that the Russia is throwing at Ukraine are launched from submarines. In the Black Sea, 4 Improved KILO Class submarines represent the most formidable Russian Navy assets. Each boat can carry 3-4 Kalibr cruise missiles, particularly the SS-N-30A SAGARIS land attack variant. Russia has leant heavily on this missile to disrupt Ukraine's counteroffensive.
The KILO Class was the last major Soviet diesel-electric submarine of the Cold War era. Today it remains the most prolific class of submarine. Much of its success has been after the collapse of the USSR, with it becoming the main Russian non-nuclear submarine class and also widely exported. There are even reports that six more were sold at the current Army2023 expo in Moscow.
The original Pr.877 has been superseded by the Pr.636 Improved-KILO (pr.636.3 Russian Navy version). The main difference is a switch from analogue to digital combat systems. This allowed the addition of Kalibr cruise missiles and other more modern weapons and sensors.
The Black Hole In The Sea?
During the Cold War the then-new submarine gained a reputation for stealth, sometimes with the nickname ‘black hole’. The term is still used and much is made of its stealth even today.
But that was relative. Older Russian submarines, still widespread when the KILO was introduced, were incredibly noisy. Although exact details are naturally not available, there os no reason to suppose that the KILO family is any quieter than the latest western non-nuclear submarines. In fact, the lack of AIP (air independent power) will limit overall stealth. That’s not to say it’s noisy, Russia is experienced at noise reduction and has excellent anechoic tiles. But the ‘black hole’ label has become a bit of a myth.
Pr.636.3 Improved-KILO Class submarine, Stary Oskol, sailing into Sevastopol, Crimea, April 2023
One of the KILOs, Alrosa (B-871) is fitted with a pumpjet propulsor. This is unusual for a non-nuclear submarine since pump jets are generally optimal for higher underwater speeds. Possibly it was for testing since similar pumpjets are fitted to some Russian ballistic missile submarines. Although its use aboard Alrosa is questionable, it remains fitted after the submarine's recent (and protracted) refit. It remains the only diesel-electric submarine with a pump jet.
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