Updated. Originally posted 13th Oct 2018
Yasen Class: Russia's most potent submarines
● NATO: SEVERODVINSK Class
● Project 885 (pr.08850) "Ash" (Ясень) Yasen / Graney Class
● Project 885-M "Ash" (Ясень) Yasen-M , unofficially SEVERODVINSK-II Class
The Yasen Class nuclear-powered cruise missile submarines (SSGN) represent Russia's most modern and potent submarines. They are widely regarded as coming close to the latest Western submarines in terms of stealth. The closest comparison is the US Navy’s Seawolf Class but the Russian design incorporates a large bank of vertical launch tubes (VLS) for cruise missiles.
Due to the end of the Cold War, the first boat, K-560 Severodvinsk, took almost 18 years to build followed by extended sea trails. This delay does not detract from their relative modernity however although some internal systems may be dated (the same can be said of many otherwise impressive Western boats). The second boat, K-561 Kazan, has followed a more typical build schedule.
The SEVERODVINSK was the first Russian boat to feature a spherical sonar array instead of the typical cylindrical array found on almost all Russian submarines. This arrangement means that the torpedo tubes have to be moved aft to below the sail, and angled outwards to fire around the sonar which takes up the entire nose.
The new Irtysh-Amphora bow and flank sonar was tested aboard a modified YANKEE Class SSBN, the pr.09780 "Kazan" (YANKEE-BIG NOSE) in 2005-7. The bow had to be enlarged, giving an indication of how large the SEVERODVINSK Class is:
The improved Pr.885A Yasen-A Class has a shorter bow however which suggests the adoption of a conformal array similar to the Lada Class. See Admiralty Trilogy website
As originally conceived, the YASEN Class would have been a pure attack submarine but the cruise missile role was adding in the design phase due to the cancellation of the Project 881 Mercury design in 1989, which would have been an OSCAR-II follow-on. A land-attack capability would be included in the form of S-10 Garnet (SS-N-21 SAMPSON) cruise missiles, which most/all nuclear-powered attack submarines would be able to carry in their torpedo room. The nuclear-armed S-10 was banned by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 1987 however, although a conventionally armed version did reportedly enter service. The Tomahawk-like S-10 was relatively inaccurate (it was after all intended as a nuclear strike weapon) and has been superseded by more modern types.
In the meantime, conventional land-attack has risen to prominence and the YASEN Class is now a dual-role cruise missile platform with formulable anti-ship and land-attack weapons sharing the vertical launch tubes.
In the anti-carrier strike role, the Project-885 YASEN carries the 320 nautical mile ranged P-800 (3M55) Oniks. In the added land-attack role it carries the 1,600 nautical mile ranged SS-N-30A SIZZLER (3M14K) Kalibr missiles. The Oniks can also be employed against land targets. With these systems the Pr.885 could target East Coast US cities from the mid-Atlantic.
Oniks (left) and Kalibr (right)
Eight СМ-346 complex (3Р-14В) vertical launch tubes are positioned aft for Onik and Kalibr cruise missiles. The system can launch missiles from both surfaced and submerged positions.
In March 2019 Russian state media reported (in Russian) that the 3M22 Zircon (Циркон) hypersonic anti-ship missile would be tested aboard K-561 Kazan in 2019. Zircon is reported to have a range of 160 nautical miles at a speed of Mach 7. Some claims suggest a range of 540 nautical miles and speeds of Mach 9. In its cruise mode it uses a scramjet to achieve incredible speeds.
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Pr.885 is equipped with ten heavyweight torpedo tubes with two highly-automated torpedo rooms behind them. Because of the large spherical sonar array in the bow the torpedo tubes are positioned further aft and angled to fire outward. Possibly the lower three tubes on each side are angle downward also to aid firing at deep targets.
Although many internet sources suggest larger 650mm torpedo tubes, it seems more likely that Pr.885 is equipped with regular 533mm (21”) tubes only. The latest UGST-M wire-guided torpedoes are 533mm .
Pr.885 has six countermeasures launchers carried externally under the casing. four are positioned forward above the torpedo tubes, and two aft of the VLS. Although unconfirmed, they likely carry a small 324mm torpedo similar to the ‘Barrier’ system carried by TYPHOON and AKULA boats.
The countermeasures act as a hydroacoustic decoy, diverting the incoming torpedo. Although the countermeasures are smaller than regular torpedoes, they have been mounted in full-size ‘heavyweight’ Universal Outboard Launchers (UZPU) tubes on earlier submarines. The new hatch openings suggest that the configuration is modified on the Pr.885 and it is possible that they are carried in more compact launchers.
There are suggestions that twelve are carried, two beneath each hatch.
Following Western influences, the Pr.885 is unusual among Russian submarines for its single-hull construction amidships. This allows for four decks (five would be possible). The aft section, from the missile compartment back, returns to typical Russian double-hull construction.
The entire engineering compartment, and likely others, are on raft-mounted frames to reduce noise transference to the hull.
The control room is directly below the sail, behind the large multi-deck escape capsule which can accommodate the whole crew. The first boat was built with traditional masts but may be refitted with non-penetrating electrooptical masts which improve ISR (intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance) capabilities and reduce risk if the mast impacts a ship or other hazard. The control room is more modern than other Russian boats but still slightly dated by Western standards.
An escape capsule which can hold the entire crew is located in the forward part of the sale and also provides access to the navigation bridge when the submarine is surfaced. The design is taller and narrower than previous types allowing a narrower sail. The patented design (http://www.findpatent.ru/patent/228/2280586.html) has multiple chambers which can also be used for decompression:
Improved Pr.885M 'Yasen-M'
The first improved project-885M Yasen-M Class submarine, K-561 Kazan, was launched at the Sevmash yard on 31st March 2017. It is approximately 10-12 meters shorter than the first boat. The reduction in length is distributed across most sections with single frames removed from several places. The most significant external change is the elimination of the large vertical flank array immediately behind the bow sonar.
Sail analysis by Richard W. Stirn (Twitter)
The smaller size is likely intended to reduce construction costs. Because of general improvements in technology the newer boats are unlikely to be any less capable than the original design, except perhaps in terms of passive sonar due to the reduced flank arrays.
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