Russia launches upgraded nuclear-armed sub from northwestern base

Russia launched the first of its Borey-A class nuclear-armed submarines. (
The first upgraded ballistic missile submarine has left Severodvinsk, northwest Russia and embarked on comprehensive sea trails.

Several Russian media, including military TV channel Zvezda and newpaper Rossiskaya Gazeta, report the new submarine to be based with the Northern Fleet and not with the Pacific as previously assumed.

That will happen next year. First, Knyaz Vladimir will confirm its technical readiness through a series of sea trails.

The sub is the first Borey-A class, an upgraded version of Borey which the Russian navy already has three of.

A photo of the new ship sailing out from Severodvinsk in the dark was first published by the blogsite BMPD Livejournal. Its main differences with the first three Borey-class submarines are improved maneuverability, lowered noise emissions and design changes on the hull.

Its main weapons are still 16 Bulava missiles which can each carry 6 to 10 nuclear warheads. If fully armed, the submarine will then have 96 to 160 nuclear warheads on board.

With the Northern Fleet, the Borey-class submarines are based in Gadzhiyevo on the Kola coast to the Barents Sea.

Earlier this autumn, the Barents Observer published recent satellite photos showing a upgrade of storage bunkers for missiles both in vicinity of Gadzhiyevo and at the main weapons deposit in Okolnaya Bay near Severomorsk.

When put into service in 2019, Knyaz Vladimir will be the second Borey-class sub with the Northern Fleet. The first, Yury Dolgoruky, was commissioned in January 2013.

Subs for Northern, Pacific fleets

The two other, Aleksandr Nevsky and Vladimir Monomakh are both sailing with the Pacific Fleet.

Kristian Åtland, Senior Research Fellow with the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI), says it is natural to believe the eight Borey-class submarines will be divided 50/50 between the Northern and Pacific fleets.

“The Northern Fleet got the first. The next two went to the Pacific and now the Northern Fleet gets the fourth,” Åtland says, anticipating vessels 6 and 8 to also be assigned to the Northern Fleet’s Gadzhiyevo base.

Gadzhiyevo naval weapons and missile storage. (The Independent Barents Observer/map by Google Earth)

The four Borey-class submarines under construction at the yard in Severodvinsk are Knyaz Pozharsky, Knyaz Oleg, Generalissimus Suvorov and Imperator Aleksandr III. By 2021, if schedules are not delayed, all eight Borey submarines will be on active duty.

In May, Barents Observer quoted TASS stating up to six addition Borey subs could be built within the state armament program lasting until the end of 2027. Now, another TASS report suggests construction of the first of these additional ballistic missile subs could start in 2024 and the second in 2025 with an aim to join active service in 2026 and 2027.

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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