U.S. Navy, take note: Just recently it was reported that one of the Russian Navy's first serially produced Yasen-M submarines, K-573 Novosibirsk, was slated to enter service later this year. It is on track to be handed over to the fleet in the fourth quarter of 2021. The first of the class, K-561 Kazan, should enter service even sooner – possibly by the end of July.
Yasen-M: Why So Special?
The Yasen-M is a new modernized class of nuclear-powered cruise missile submarines that were designed to replace aging, Soviet-era attack submarines. However, the original Yasen class had been slow in arriving, and it wasn't until 2010 that the first of the boats, Severodvinsk, was finally launched after being laid down in 1993.
The submarines were refreshed, and are reportedly stealthier – utilizing low magnetic steel to give off a reduced magnetic signature. They could also be far more powerful boats.
According to a report this week from Tass, the improved Project 885M, Yasen-M will be equipped with salvo-launching Kalibr-PL and Oniks cruise missiles.
"The Project 885M nuclear-powered submarine Kazan made a salvo launch of two missiles from a vertical launcher and a torpedo tube during state trials," a source in the domestic defense industry told Tass on Tuesday.
It was in November of last year that it was announced that "Kazan made a salvo during state trials, which confirmed the possibility of such launches," the source added.
During those tests, a Kalibr-PL cruise missile was fired from a vertical launcher against a coastal target while an Oniks missile was launched from a torpedo tube against a surface target. According to the reports, both targets were successfully struck. However, Tass reported that it had no official confirmation.
Additionally, the Research and Production Association of Machine-Building, the developer and manufacturer of Oniks cruise missiles, declined to comment.
It had also been reported earlier this month that the shipbuilders would deliver the improved Project 885M, Yasen-M, lead nuclear-powered submarine Kazan to the Russian Fleet by Navy Day, which will be celebrated on July 25 this year. Kazan was floated out at the Sevmash Shipyard on March 31, 2017. The submarine began the shipbuilders' sea trials on September 25, 2018.
In addition to the submarines carrying Kalibr-PL and Oniks cruise missiles, the boats will eventually carry Tsirkon hypersonic missiles as their basic weapons. The Yasen-class Severodvinsk has been preparing to conduct tests of the Tsirkon hypersonic missile later this year.
The winged anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile (North Atlantic Treaty Organization reporting name SS-N-33) has been reported to be capable of hitting targets at a speed of over eight Mach or around 9800 kilometers per hour. Its operational range remains something of a mystery, however, with estimates ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 kilometers depending on external circumstances.
It could still make the Yasen/Yasen-M submarines a threat to be taken seriously.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.