The Yasen-class submarine (year four of sea trials)

Yasen-class submarine, named Severodvinsk, firing land attack cruise missiles and analysis below:


The Yasen-class submarine is Russia’s next generation multipurpose SSN, which also packs an anti-ship or land attack missile package. Supposedly this new generation submarine is a much quieter design than the improved Akula or Victor classes.  Some allege that it may be as quiet as Western analogues, but I see that as the lesser of two issues.  The more important question is about the submarine’s acoustic properties relative to the ambient noise of the ocean, since submarines are not detected in relation to another submarine, but based on how loud they are compared to the water they’re in.  If the Yasen is truly much quieter, it could pose a cost imposition curve problem, making it overly expensive to detect in large bodies of water.

The Yasen-class is typically considered analogous to the U.S. Seawolf-class, a sophisticated and expensive multipurpose submarine that was built in the latter years of the Cold War, capable of conducting missile strikes, sub hunts, and defending the SSBN fleet.  Only three Seawolf class submarines were built, with the collapse of the USSR that submarine proved overly expensive for a mission that was increasingly a lower priority.

Below is a chart made by one individual (a Polish blogger), that purports to show the different levels of noise output among the subs.  However, I make no claims to its veracity.  In fact I promise you it is not correct.  Frankly, it is difficult to imagine anyone having access to information on how quiet this submarine is.


(Taken off wikipedia and also used by FAS)


Arms Control Wonk made this one, which gives the Yasen-class less credit.


The first ship of this class is the Severodvinsk, laid down in 1993, and left moribund for years due to lack of funding.  Eventually she was launched in the Fall of 2011 and ran into a range of difficulties with the propulsion system and acoustic characteristics.  Supposedly the system could not produce enough power and according to one fellow expert it had an absurdly loud depth measuring system.  This submarine is also quite expensive, perhaps at $1.5 billion, it comes in at almost double the cost of the new SSBNs and potentially unaffordable across the proposed line of eight vessels in the class.

This initial submarine was designated Project 885 and has spent an amazing 4 years in sea trials, going on 5 this year.  It is an artisan design.  Given the complexity, every ship of this class is liable to be somewhat different and have its own properties.  This month the Severodvinsk has finally begun weapons testing – shown above firing a Kalibr land attack cruise missile.  This indicates it is close to getting operational status, assuming everything checks out, and the myriad of propulsion, reactor and acoustic problems have likely been resolved.  However, it can also mean that no matter what this first ship in the class will be declared operational, defects and all.  Supposedly she will carry either the larger Oniks or Kalibr multi-purpose missiles in 8 vertical launch tubes and pack 10 torpedo tubes (8×650 and 2×533).


Based on the modernized design of the first ship, four more have been laid down designated Project 885M, and two more ordered (7 so far), with the hope of producing a total of eight.  Unfortunately the timeline for completing them has been pushed to the right this year, to 2023, due to production capacity and budget issues.  The new eight ballistic missile submarines SSBNs, Borei-class, have also been delayed until 2021, and I suspect both ship types will slide further to the right of expected delivery dates.  Three of the eight Borei’s have been completed so far.  There are doubts in analytical circles that either production line will be fully completed, though the SSBN’s have natural priority over the SSNs.  When it comes to Russian ship production always bet on delays.

Below is a readout of their current state and expected completion dates, translated from colleagues at BMPD:

– order. 161 (lead ship of the class 885M) “Кazan”, completed 67,5%
expected date – December 2017

– order. 162 (1st serial production ship) “Novosibirsk”, completed 35,5%, launch date – December 2018, expected date – December 2019

– order. 163 “Krasnoyarsk”, completed 19,3% launch date – December 2018.
Expected date – December 2020.

– order. 164 “Аchangelsk”, completed 4,7%, launch date – December 2019.
Expected date – December 2021.

– order. 165, (no name) completed 0,6%
To be laid down – July 2016., launch date – December 2020.
Expected date – December 2022.

– order. 166, (no name) completed 0,3%
To be laid down – July 2017., launch date – December 2021.
Expected date – December 2023.

I have doubts that more than six Yasen-class submarines will be built due to the economic crisis impact on the state armament program.  Officially it will cost nothing to lay down #165 and #166 while it is unlikely funds will be invested in their construction until the financial situation becomes more stable.

Despite this submarine’s high cost, and the production output limitations of Russia’s shipbuilding industry, the Yasen still represents the most sophisticated submarine fielded by a non-Western power.  How sophisticated remains the subject of extensive speculation. Soviet submarines could dive deeper and run faster, with more innovative hull designs, but they were incredibly loud and easy to track.  With the move towards a quieter design, Russia’s submarine force may at best be one fifth the size of its Soviet predecessor (perhaps operationally one tenth), but it could end up closing the technological gap in silence, which is key to dominance in the underwater domain.