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New stealthy Russian attack subs begins sea trials

A Russian-built, Kilo-class diesel submarine purchased by Iran in 2005. (U.S. Department of Defense/Released)
October 13, 2019

The first of six new Russian attack submarines bound for the country’s Pacific fleet has begun sea trials this month.

The Project 636.3 Kilo-class (Vashavyanka-class) diesel-electric submarine (SSK), named Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, began sea trials on Oct. 2nd in the waters near the Gulf of Finland, as part of its initial phase of testing, according to The Diplomat. The new Russian submarines have been dubbed “Black Holes” by the U.S. Navy for their reportedly very quiet operational capabilities.

The submarines have improved engines and combat system, as well as new noise reduction technology. Those noise reduction measures reportedly include a rubber base for the propulsion system to prevent vibrations as well as a noise-reducing anechoic material coating on the outer hull to prevent noise coming from the vessel’s interior.

Of note, the submarines do not have air-independent propulsion systems which would reportedly add to its overall stealthy operation.

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The submarine was designed with anti-submarine and anti-surface ship roles in mind, but can also reportedly launch attacks on land targets. The vessel is meant for a crew of 50 and can conduct patrols for up to 45 days.

The Russian Navy expects six of the new submarines to be ready for service by 2025 and the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky officially launched in March of this year.

“I am confident that we will complete this series by 2025 and all the submarines will arrive at their permanent bases by that time,” Russian Navy Deputy Commander-in-Chief Igor Mukhametshin said during the March ceremony for the first launch.

The initial contract for the delivery of the six submarines was signed in 2016 and the first submarine was expected to be delivered to Russia’s Pacific Fleet by 2019, though The Diplomat obtained reports in 2018 that the first submarine’s delivery date would be pushed back to November 2020.

Recently, the Russian fleet announced a June 15, 2020 date for sea trials for another, nuclear-powered, Submarine. The Project 09852 Special Mission Submarine KC-139 Belgorod was launched designed to also carry a nuclear-capable underwater Poseidon drone. The Poseidon drone has been called a nuclear-torpedo.

The Belgorod submarine is based on the existing 949A Oscar II-class of nuclear-powered guided-missile submarines.

The expansion of Russia’s submarine fleet comes amid Russian defiance of recently-expired nuclear treaties.

In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Russia would begin developing new nuclear missiles once banned under the now-expired Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Puting did signal a willingness to discontinue nuclear missile development if the United States could reach a new treaty with Russia.

“In order to avoid chaos with no rules, restrictions or laws, we need to once more weigh up all the dangerous consequences and launch a serious and meaningful dialogue free from any ambiguity,” Putin said in August.