TechRussia launches advanced Knyaz Pozharskiy nuclear sub amid naval upgrade

Russia launches advanced Knyaz Pozharskiy nuclear sub amid naval upgrade

The launching ceremony of the submarine Kniaź Pożarski
The launching ceremony of the submarine Kniaź Pożarski
Images source: ©

4:23 AM EDT, March 22, 2024

On February 3, 2024, the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk, northern Russia, saw the launch of the nuclear ballistic missile submarine Knyaz Pozharskiy (K-555). It represents the eighth vessel of the Borei-class series and, specifically, the fifth ship constructed under the improved Borei-A variant.

The initial trio of Borei-class (Project 955) submarines incorporated hull sections from unfinished Typhoon-class vessels following the dissolution of the USSR. However, the Project 955A submarines, including Knyaz Pozharskiy, are entirely new builds, boasting a more streamlined design. These submarines measure about 558 feet in length and have a submerged displacement of roughly 26,455 tons, marking the first introduction of a pump-jet propulsion system in Russian submarines, a departure from the conventional propeller machinery.
The primary weaponry of these behemoths is their arsenal of 16 intercontinental ballistic missiles, known as the R-30 Bulava. Initiating development in the 1990s, the Bulava is a maritime adaptation of the Topol missile system. Its inaugural test flight took off in September 2005, followed by a successful underwater launch later that December. The first Bulava launch from a Borei-class submarine was achieved in 2011.

While the Bulava's specifics remain undisclosed, accessible data suggests that it is roughly 43 feet long with a 6.6-foot diameter and weighs between 40 and 43 tons. Capable of delivering up to 10 independently targetable nuclear warheads—each with a yield of up to 160 kilotons—over a range of approximately 5,157 miles, the missile also boasts an estimated precision within 820 feet. According to Russian officials, these warheads can maneuver mid-flight to evade Western anti-missile defenses potentially.

Knyaz Pozharskiy is named after Prince Dmitry Mikhailovich Pozharskiy of the Rurik dynasty, a historical figure celebrated for leading the expulsion of Polish-Lithuanian occupants from Russia during the 1609-1618 Polish-Russian War. Joining its predecessors, including Vladimir Monomakh, Alexander Nevsky, Prince Oleg, Generalissimo Suvorov, and Emperor Alexander III, this submarine adds to the lineage of Borei-A class vessels.

Launched into construction in 2016, the completion of Knyaz Pozharskiy experienced several delays, moving from an initial 2021 end to a later 2022 deadline before concluding in early 2024. The submarine now faces a series of rigorous shipyard and state trials, which will test its navigation and propulsion systems, weaponry, and other significant components. These evaluations will occur in the White Sea, with participation from both shipyard and navy experts. If successful, the submarine might be commissioned into the Navy within two years.

Russian submarines most often operate under the ice around the North Pole.
Russian submarines most often operate under the ice around the North Pole.©

Knyaz Pozharskiy is poised to join the Northern Fleet, with Gadzhiyevo on the Barents Sea coast as the primary base for such missile-carrying submarines. These vessels typically undertake combat patrols in the northeastern Barents Sea and beneath the polar ice caps in the far north.

In an ambitious plan to modernize its naval capabilities, Russia intends to construct 12 submarines in the Borei and Borei-A class, facilitating the retirement of the earlier Project 667BDR Kalmar submarines from the Pacific Fleet and Project 667BDRM Delfin from the Northern Fleet.

Submarine Kniaź Władimir of the Borei class
Submarine Kniaź Władimir of the Borei class© HoteitH, CC BY-SA 4.0
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