Key point: If you want to hide underwater and surprise your enemies, then silence is king. Here is how Moscow is expanding and maintaining its Kilo II-class fleet, what some naval experts call the "black hole".
The Russian Navy’s effort to upgrade its Pacific Fleet has continued in earnest this year. Over the summer Moscow announced that the Pacific Fleet would receive fifteen new warships and supply vessels that would operate in the Far East by the end of this year. Last week the Russian Navy inched closer to those goals when it announced that the Project 636.3 diesel-electric submarine Volkhov would enter service with the Pacific Fleet on Oct. 24.
“The submarine Volkhov, the second in a series of six ships under construction at the Admiralty Shipyard for Russia’s Pacific Fleet, will be accepted for service with the Russian Navy on October 24 in compliance with an order by Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov,” Russian Navy spokesman Captain 1st Rank Igor Dygalo told Tass.
The ceremonial raising of the St. Andrew’s flag, Russia’s naval ensign, aboard the submarine will take place at the Admiralty Shipyard.
The submarine, which was laid down in 2017 and floated out in December 2019, completed its sea trials over the summer. From the end of June to the end of July the shipbuilders checked the sub’s sonar, radar, communications and life-support systems as well as other equipment. The Volkhov also successfully accomplished its planned submergences, while all the systems and mechanisms were reported to have operated in the normal mode and in complete compliance with the stated operational characteristics.
Second of Six
The Project 636.3 Varshavyanka-class submarines (NATO reporting name: Improved Kilo-II) has been referred to as the third generation of large diesel-electric underwater cruisers in service with the Russian Navy. The improved Kilo-class subs, which have been nicknamed “Black Holes” by the U.S. Navy, are meant for operations in shallower, coastal waters and are tasked with anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare. They carry a crew of fifty-two submariners.
The Volkhov is the second of the six diesel-electric submarines built by the Admiralty Shipyard for the Pacific fleet. The first boat of this Project, the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, was delivered to the Navy last December, while the Admiralty Shipyard is currently constructing two more submarines of this type for the Pacific Fleet: the Magadan and the Ufa.
Russia has been steadily increasing its submarine fleet in recent years, and three of the Varshavyanka-class submarines were also delivered by Admiralty Shipyards to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in 2014.
The Project 636.3 submarines are 74 meters long and displace more than 3,900 tons, and due to their strong hull, the submarines have an operational depth of 240 meters and can dive to a maximum depth of 300 meters. The submarines have an operational range of up to 7,500 miles. The Russian submarines have been considered among the world’s quietest underwater cruisers, and the boats can travel at speeds of up to twenty knots, while they have sea endurance of forty-five days.
The boats are armed with Kalibr-PL cruise missiles that are launched from torpedo tubes from the sub’s submerged position. They are also furnished with modern radar and communications systems, sonars and 533-millimeter torpedoes.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. This article first appeared earlier and is being reposted due to reader interest.