Under the Waves: The Stealth Power of Russia’s K-564 Arkhangelsk Submarine

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A British newspaper made a startling discovery this week: it turns out that Russia has weapons capable of wreaking untold devastation upon its enemies. What got The Express in a twist this time was the K-564 Arkhangelsk, a Yasen-M class nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine that recently underwent sea trials and is expected to enter service in December.

While the newspaper fears that this submarine “could be undetectable by Western adversaries” and could pose a serious threat to “NATO military bases, naval convoys, and onshore critical infrastructure during a crisis,” it remains to be seen what Arkhangelsk is truly capable of. Here is what is currently known about the sub:

The K-564 Arkhangelsk is a product of extensive development and sophisticated engineering, representing the fourth generation of Russian nuclear-powered submarines. Part of the Yasen-M project, this vessel features a plethora of advanced technical solutions, both in its armament and operational capabilities. The submarine’s construction began in 2015, and after nearly a decade of rigorous development and testing, it was ceremoniously launched at the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk on November 29, 2023.

This submarine can dive to depths of up to 600 meters and boasts a maximum speed of 16 knots on the surface and 31 knots underwater. Its crew complement consists of 64 members, and it has an endurance of approximately 100 days, limited primarily by food and maintenance requirements. The vessel is equipped with 533mm torpedo tubes and vertical launch silos capable of deploying a range of missiles, including the Oniks anti-ship cruise missiles, Kalibr cruise missiles, and the Zircon hypersonic cruise missiles. Both the Kalibr and Zircon missiles have nuclear capabilities, adding a significant strategic advantage to this vessel.

The Yasen-M class submarines, including the Arkhangelsk, are designed with a high degree of automation and feature advanced sonar and noise reduction technologies. They are equipped with the MGK-600 Irtysh-Amfora sonar system, which includes a spherical bow array, flank arrays, and a towed array, making them some of the quietest submarines in operation. The hull of these submarines is constructed from low-magnetic steel, contributing to their stealth capabilities and making them difficult to detect by enemy forces.

Arming the Arkhangelsk with the Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missiles is a crucial development in Russia’s naval strategy. The Tsirkon missile, capable of reaching speeds up to Mach 9 and with a range of approximately 1,000 kilometers, can strike targets far beyond the immediate operational area of the submarine. This missile was first tested from a submerged position by the Yasen-class submarine Severodvinsk in October 2021, demonstrating its significant offensive potential.

The integration of Tsirkon missiles, along with the established capabilities of the Kalibr missile system, positions the Arkhangelsk as a formidable asset within the Russian Northern Fleet. The submarine’s ability to operate undetected in hostile environments allows it to pose a serious threat to NATO naval forces and critical infrastructure during times of conflict.

The Arkhangelsk will be based at the Nerpitcha piers at the Zapadnaya Litsa submarine base, located just 60 kilometers from Norway, a NATO member. This strategic positioning underscores the potential threat the submarine poses to Western military operations and infrastructure. Alongside the Arkhangelsk, other Yasen-class vessels such as the Severodvinsk and Kazan also operate from this base, further enhancing the Russian Navy’s capabilities in the region.

Image: Zapadnaya Litsa submarine base – copyright debuglies.com

In recent developments, Russia has announced plans to expand its fleet of Yasen-M class submarines, with the State Duma approving a defense budget that allocates substantial resources towards naval expansion. The total fleet is expected to grow to 12 vessels, with six assigned to the Northern Fleet and six to the Pacific Fleet. This expansion is part of a broader effort to enhance Russia’s naval power and ensure its strategic interests are protected in key maritime regions.

The construction of the Arkhangelsk involved contributions from over 400 companies across Russia, highlighting the extensive industrial and technological efforts required to produce such advanced submarines. The launch ceremony for the Arkhangelsk was attended by high-ranking officials, including Navy Commander-in-Chief Admiral Nikolai Evmenov, who emphasized the submarine’s superior capabilities compared to its foreign counterparts.

As the Arkhangelsk undergoes final testing and preparations for deployment, it is poised to become a critical component of Russia’s naval strategy. Its advanced weaponry, stealth capabilities, and strategic positioning make it a significant asset in the ongoing naval arms race between Russia and NATO. The full extent of its capabilities will likely become apparent as it enters service and begins operations in the challenging environments of the Arctic and North Atlantic.

As reported, on June 11, 2024, the nuclear submarine K-564 Arkhangelsk (factory number 164), completed by construction at JSC Production Association Northern Machine-Building Enterprise (NSR, part of JSC United Shipbuilding Corporation – USC), went to sea for the first time from Severodvinsk for factory sea trials. The ship of the modified project 08851 (project 885M; code “Ash-M”).

The K-564 Arkhangelsk nuclear submarine (factory number 164) of the modified project 08851 (code “Yasen-M”) built for the Russian Navy at JSC “Production Association “Northern Machine-Building Enterprise” enters factory sea trials from Severodvinsk, 06/11/2024 (c) Oleg Kuleshov / paluba.media

Arkhangelsk (factory number 164) is the third of five serial nuclear submarines of project 08851 (Yasen-M) with factory numbers 162, 163, 164, 165, and 166, the construction of which is carried out under a contract signed on November 9, 2011, by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation with JSC United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC). The project was developed at JSC St. Petersburg Marine Engineering Bureau Malachite. The official laying of the K-564 Arkhangelsk nuclear submarine (factory number 164) of the modified project 08851 was carried out in Severodvinsk on March 19, 2015. The ceremony of Arkhangelsk’s withdrawal from the NSR workshop took place on November 29, 2023.

The lead nuclear submarine of the fourth generation of the Project 885 series (code “Ash”) K-560 Severodvinsk (factory number 160) was laid down on the NSR on December 21, 1993, and transferred to the Russian Navy for trial operation on June 17, 2014.

Further construction of the series is carried out at the NSR according to the modernized project 08851 (code “Ash-M”), according to which the first nuclear submarine K-561 Kazan (factory number 161) was laid down on July 24, 2009, which was withdrawn from the NSR workshop on March 31, 2017, launched on April 8, 2017. She entered factory sea trials on September 24, 2018, and was commissioned into the Russian Navy on May 7, 2021.

Within the framework of the mentioned 2011 contract, the construction of the first serial nuclear submarine of the project 08851 K-573 Novosibirsk (factory number 162) was carried out at the NSR, which was laid down on July 26, 2013, withdrawn from the workshop on December 25, 2019, entered factory sea trials on July 1, 2021, and was commissioned by the Navy on December 21, 2021, joining the Pacific Fleet. On September 28, 2021, the Novosibirsk, having made an inter-fleet transition from the Northern to the Pacific Fleet, arrived at its permanent base in Kamchatka.

The second ship under the 2011 contract K-571 Krasnoyarsk (factory number 163) of the modified project 08851 was laid down in Severodvinsk on July 27, 2014, withdrawn from the workshop on July 30, 2021, and entered factory sea trials on June 26, 2022. Krasnoyarsk joined the Navy on December 11, 2023.

Arkhangelsk (factory number 164) was laid down as the third under this contract on March 19, 2015. Under the 2011 contract, the construction of the serial ships Perm (factory number 165, laid down on July 29, 2016) and Ulyanovsk (factory number 166, laid down on July 28, 2017) is also continuing at the NSR.

In June 2019, the Russian Ministry of Defense signed a contract with USC for the construction of two more serial nuclear-powered submarines of project 08851 (Yasen-M), which were officially laid down on the NSR on July 20, 2020, under the names “Voronezh” and “Vladivostok” (factory numbers 167 and 168), with contractual deadlines of 2027 and 2028.

Overview of the Yasen-M Project and its Significance

The Yasen-M project, an evolution of the Yasen class, represents the pinnacle of Russian submarine technology. Developed by the St. Petersburg Marine Engineering Bureau Malachite, the project aims to bolster the capabilities of the Russian Navy in terms of stealth, armament, and operational versatility. The Yasen-M submarines are designed to undertake a variety of missions, ranging from anti-submarine warfare to striking land targets with precision-guided missiles.

The importance of the Yasen-M project cannot be overstated, especially in the context of modern naval warfare where stealth and precision are paramount. The project underscores Russia’s commitment to maintaining a robust and technologically advanced submarine fleet capable of countering potential threats from adversaries.

Historical Development and Technological Advancements

The historical trajectory of the Yasen-M project reflects significant technological advancements and strategic milestones. The lead submarine of the series, K-560 Severodvinsk, laid the groundwork for subsequent vessels. The Severodvinsk, commissioned in 2014, incorporated numerous innovations that set it apart from previous classes. These included improved sonar systems, quieter propulsion mechanisms, and enhanced missile capabilities.

The transition to the Yasen-M variant marked further refinements. The K-561 Kazan, the first Yasen-M submarine, introduced even more sophisticated technology. It featured upgraded nuclear reactors, advanced stealth materials, and a state-of-the-art command and control system. The Kazan’s commissioning in 2021 demonstrated the successful implementation of these enhancements, paving the way for the construction of additional units.

The Construction Timeline and Key Milestones

The construction timeline of the Yasen-M submarines highlights a series of key milestones. The Arkhangelsk’s journey from keel laying to sea trials is emblematic of the rigorous process involved. Laid down in 2015, the Arkhangelsk underwent several critical phases, including the installation of major systems, extensive testing, and ultimately, its launch.

The withdrawal of the Arkhangelsk from the NSR workshop in November 2023 was a significant event, marking the transition from construction to operational testing. The commencement of factory sea trials in June 2024 represents the final phase before the submarine is handed over to the Navy for active service. These trials are crucial for verifying the performance and reliability of all onboard systems under real-world conditions.

Operational Capabilities and Strategic Implications

The operational capabilities of the Yasen-M submarines are a testament to their advanced design and engineering. Equipped with a versatile array of weaponry, including cruise missiles, torpedoes, and anti-ship missiles, these submarines can engage a wide range of targets. Their stealth features enable them to operate undetected in hostile environments, providing a strategic advantage.

The Yasen-M’s advanced sonar and electronic warfare systems enhance situational awareness and defensive capabilities. These systems allow the submarine to detect and track enemy vessels while remaining concealed. The integration of modern communication and navigation technologies ensures that the Yasen-M can coordinate effectively with other naval assets, further amplifying its combat effectiveness.

The Role of the Arkhangelsk in the Russian Navy

The inclusion of the Arkhangelsk in the Russian Navy’s fleet represents a significant enhancement of its underwater combat capabilities. As the third Yasen-M submarine, the Arkhangelsk brings additional firepower and operational flexibility. Its deployment will contribute to the Navy’s ability to project power and maintain a strategic presence in key maritime regions.

The Arkhangelsk’s role extends beyond mere combat operations. Its advanced sensors and communication systems make it a valuable asset for intelligence gathering and surveillance missions. The submarine can monitor adversary movements, collect critical data, and provide early warning of potential threats. This intelligence capability is vital for maintaining situational awareness and ensuring the security of Russian maritime interests.

Future Prospects and Ongoing Developments

The future prospects of the Yasen-M project are shaped by ongoing developments and the broader strategic context. The construction of additional submarines, such as the Perm and Ulyanovsk, is progressing steadily. These vessels will further augment the capabilities of the Russian Navy, ensuring a continuous enhancement of its underwater combat forces.

The signing of the 2019 contract for two more Yasen-M submarines, Voronezh and Vladivostok, signifies a long-term commitment to the project. With contractual deadlines set for 2027 and 2028, these submarines will incorporate the latest technological advancements, ensuring their relevance in future naval operations. The continuous improvement and expansion of the Yasen-M fleet underscore Russia’s dedication to maintaining a cutting-edge submarine force.

The completion of the K-564 Arkhangelsk and its transition to factory sea trials mark a significant milestone in the Yasen-M project. This advanced submarine, along with its sister vessels, represents a formidable addition to the Russian Navy’s arsenal. The Yasen-M project’s emphasis on stealth, firepower, and technological sophistication ensures that these submarines will play a pivotal role in modern naval warfare. As construction continues and new units are introduced, the Yasen-M fleet will remain a cornerstone of Russia’s maritime strategy, capable of addressing emerging threats and securing national interests in an increasingly complex geopolitical landscape.

In conclusion, the K-564 Arkhangelsk represents a significant advancement in submarine technology and military strategy for Russia. Its potential to operate undetected, coupled with its powerful arsenal of missiles, makes it a formidable threat to NATO and Western military interests. As it prepares to enter service, the international community will be closely watching to see how this new addition to the Russian Navy will impact the balance of power in critical maritime regions.


APPENDIX 1 – Comprehensive Analysis of the Yasen Class Submarine (Project 885/885M)

The Yasen class, also known as Project 885 Yasen and Project 885M Yasen-M, represents the latest generation of Russian nuclear-powered cruise missile submarines. Designed by the Malakhit Marine Engineering Bureau and constructed by Sevmash, these submarines are a critical component of the Russian Navy’s strategic and tactical operations. The class succeeds the Oscar and Akula classes and is planned to be succeeded by the Laika class. The development and deployment of the Yasen class underscore Russia’s commitment to modernizing its naval capabilities amid evolving global threats.

Construction and Commissioning

The construction of the Yasen class submarines began in 1993, with the first unit, the Severodvinsk (K-560), being commissioned in 2013. Despite financial and technological challenges, Russia has made significant strides in advancing this project. As of June 2024, a total of five Yasen-class submarines have been completed, four of which are active, and four more are under construction. The submarines are built at the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk, with each unit costing approximately 47 billion rubles for the Kazan, one of the latest models.

Specifications and Capabilities

General Characteristics

  • Type: Nuclear cruise missile submarine
  • Builders: Sevmash
  • Operators: Russian Navy
  • Cost: RUB 47 billion for Kazan (2011)
  • Built: 1993–present
  • In Commission: 2013–present
  • Planned: 12
  • Building: 4
  • Completed: 5
  • Active: 4

Dimensions and Displacement

  • Length: Yasen: 139.2 m (457 ft), Yasen-M: 130 m (430 ft)
  • Beam: 13 m (43 ft)
  • Displacement:
  • Surfaced: 8,600 tons
  • Submerged: 13,800 tons

Propulsion and Performance

  • Propulsion: OK-650KPM pressurized water reactor with 200 MWt turbines generating 43,000 shp
  • Speed:
  • Surfaced: 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)
  • Submerged (silent): 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph)
  • Submerged (max): 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph)
  • Range: Unlimited
  • Endurance: Limited only by food and maintenance requirements
  • Test Depth:
  • Safe depth: 450 meters (1,475 feet)
  • Never exceed depth: 580 meters (1,804 feet)
  • Crush depth: 658 meters (2,160 feet)

Crew

  • Complement:
  • Yasen: 85
  • Yasen-M: 64

Sensors and Armament

The Yasen-class submarines are equipped with state-of-the-art sensors and weaponry, making them formidable opponents in underwater warfare.

Sensors and Processing Systems

  • Rim Hat ESM/ECM
  • Snoop Pair Surface Search Radar

Armament

The submarines are armed with a variety of missiles and torpedoes, capable of engaging both surface and underwater targets.

  • Missiles:
  • Zircon hypersonic cruise missiles
  • 32 (8 × 4) Oniks anti-ship cruise missiles
  • Kalibr anti-ship, anti-submarine, and land-attack submarine-launched cruise missiles
  • Torpedoes:
  • 10 x 533 mm torpedo tubes with Futlyar (UGST-M) heavyweight torpedoes
  • Air Defense:
  • Igla-M surface-to-air missiles

Operational History and Deployment

The Yasen class has been actively deployed in various strategic missions, reflecting Russia’s broader military and geopolitical ambitions. Recently, the Kazan, one of the latest Yasen-M class submarines, has been deployed to the Caribbean, marking a significant demonstration of Russia’s naval reach and operational capability. The deployment involved a flotilla that included the Project 22350 frigate Admiral Gorshkov, the oil tanker Pashin, and the salvage tug Nikolai Chiker. This deployment underscores the Russian Navy’s ability to project power far from its home waters and operate in critical regions globally.

Technological Advancements

The Yasen class features several technological advancements over its predecessors. Notably, the Yasen-M variants are equipped with quieter propulsion systems and advanced sonar capabilities, enhancing their stealth and detection capabilities. The introduction of the Zircon hypersonic cruise missile further increases their strike capabilities, making them a significant threat to adversaries.

Strategic Implications

The Yasen class submarines represent a critical component of Russia’s naval strategy, capable of long-range strike missions and anti-submarine warfare. Their deployment in strategic regions, such as the Caribbean, signals Russia’s intent to assert its presence and influence in key geopolitical areas. The integration of advanced missile systems, including the Zircon, enhances their offensive capabilities, posing a significant challenge to NATO and other potential adversaries.

Updated Data Table

NameYasen class
BuildersSevmash
OperatorsRussian Navy
Preceded byOscar class, Akula class
Succeeded byLaika class
CostRUB 47 billion for Kazan (2011)
Built1993–present
In commission2013–present
Planned12
Building4
Completed5
Active4
TypeNuclear cruise missile submarine
DisplacementSurfaced: 8,600 tons, Submerged: 13,800 tons
LengthYasen: 139.2 m (457 ft), Yasen-M: 130 m (430 ft)
Beam13 m (43 ft)
PropulsionOK-650KPM pressurized water reactor 200 MWt turbines 43,000 shp
SpeedSurfaced: 20 kn (37 km/h; 23 mph), Submerged (silent): 28 kn (52 km/h; 32 mph), Submerged (max): 35 kn (65 km/h; 40 mph)
RangeUnlimited
EnduranceOnly limited by food and maintenance requirements
Test depthSafe depth: 1,475 feet (450m), Never exceed depth: 1,804 feet (580m), Crush depth: 2,160 feet (658m)
ComplementYasen: 85, Yasen-M: 64
SensorsRim Hat ESM/ECM, Snoop Pair Surface Search Radar
ArmamentZircon hypersonic cruise missiles, 32 (8 × 4) Oniks anti-ship cruise missiles, Kalibr anti-ship, anti-submarine, and land-attack submarine launched cruise missiles, 10 x torpedo tubes (533 mm) with Futlyar (UGST-M) heavyweight torpedoes, Igla-M surface-to-air missiles

The Yasen class submarines represent a significant leap in Russia’s naval capabilities, blending advanced technology with formidable offensive power. Their ongoing deployment and operational readiness underscore Russia’s strategic intent to maintain a potent and flexible naval force capable of operating across the globe. As geopolitical tensions continue to evolve, the role of the Yasen class in Russia’s military strategy will undoubtedly remain a focal point of interest for military analysts and policymakers alike.


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