The Russian Navy's 5 Most Powerful Warships

March 23, 2021 Topic: Russian Navy Region: Eurasia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: Russian NavyVladimir PutinSubmarinesWeaponsWarMilitary

The Russian Navy's 5 Most Powerful Warships

The Kremlin has embarked on an ambitious naval modernization program involving deep refits as well as entirely new designs.

The Russian Federation inherited a vast, if not bloated, navy from its Soviet predecessor. Plagued by neglect and chronic budgetary shortfalls, large swathes of that Soviet inheritance fell into disrepair throughout the 1990s.

In the past several decades, the Kremlin embarked on an ambitious naval modernization program involving deep refits as well as entirely new designs. The result is an eclectic mix of new submarines and smaller surface vessels, complemented by older, larger Soviet-era warships that are being updated with new equipment.  

Here are five of the Russian Navy’s most potent vessels.  

Petr Velikiy, Kirov-class battlecruiser 

Commissioned in 1998, Petr Velikiy is still the largest surface combatant ship in the world and serves as the flagship of Russia’s Northern Fleet. Petr Velikiy is armed to the teeth, boasting twenty P-700 Granit cruise missiles, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) rocket systems, several different types of surface-to-air systems, and ten 533-millimeter torpedo tubes. And it is about to get even deadlier—according to recent reports, Petr Velikiy will be refitted with the S-400F naval-based missile defense system and with Russia’s new 3M22 Tsirkon winged hypersonic cruise missile.

Knyaz Vladimir, Borei-A class submarine 

Knyaz Vladimir is the first model of the Borei-A line, an update to the Borei class of nuclear-powered strategic submarines. The Borei class is substantially smaller and lighter than the iconic Typhoon class that it replaces, but is faster and packs a more destructive payload. Its RSM-56 Bulava is a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) variant of the Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile, widely seen as the apex of Russian missile technology. Knyaz Vladimir entered service in 2020—the Russian Navy looks to commission six more Borei-A submarines through 2027.

Kazan, Yasen-M submarine

Yasen-M represents the next generation of Russian nuclear-powered cruise missile attack submarines. Kazan is the first entry in the Yasen-M line—an upgrade package to the original Yasen class—with seven more models planned to enter service through 2027. With its significantly lower acoustic signature, the Yasen-M class narrows the noise signature gap between U.S. and Soviet/Russian submarines that persisted throughout the Cold War and early post-Soviet years. But where Yasen-M truly distinguishes itself is in its diverse and formidable arsenal, notably including Russia’s new Kalibr-M cruise missiles with a range of up forty-five hundred kilometers and optional compatibility with 3M22 Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missiles. 

Marshal Ustinov, Slava-class missile cruiser 

The second Slava-class cruiser, Marshal Ustinov was designed with a similar carrier-killer philosophy to that of the Kirov-class. Ustinov was recently refitted, trading its aging  

P-500 Bazalt missile system for newer P-1000 Vulkan cruise missiles. The cruiser likewise serves as a powerful area defense tool, equipped with forty missiles from the 9K33 Osa short-range surface-to-air missiles (SAM) systems. It also hosts a naval-based variant of the S-300 missile system that houses sixty-four missiles spread across eight launchers.  

Gremyashchiy, Gremyashchiy-class corvette  

A recent successor to the Steregushchiy-class, Gremyashchiy is the lead ship in the Gremyashchiy line of large multipurpose corvettes. Gremyashchiy is more heavily armed than its predecessors, boasting a new, eight-launcher UKSK vertical launching system (VLS) with Kalibr and Oniks missiles, as well as compatibility with the Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile. Gremyashchiy is the latest entry in Russia’s emerging naval procurement doctrine, focused on acquiring a modernized rapid response force of submarines and smaller surface ships.  

Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest. 

Image: Reuters