Why Russia Is Packing Its Old Typhoon-Class Submarines With Hundreds Of Cruise Missiles

Why Russia Is Packing Its Old Typhoon-Class Submarines With Hundreds Of Cruise Missiles

Sebastien Roblin

Security,

Will it succeed?

Key Point: It’s probably sensible to await more concrete evidence the Russian Navy is ready to follow through with the considerable money and effort necessary to revamp its moth-balled mega-subs.

On April 20, 2019, Russia’s TASS Agency reported that Vice Admiral Oleg Burtsev announced Russia’s intention to take two of its decommissioned Typhoon-class ballistic submarines and pack them full of hundreds of cruise missiles.

“The dimensions of these submarines allow arming each of them with at least 200 cruise missiles [each],” he said.

The Typhoon ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), famously featured in the film Hunt for Red October, are by far the biggest and most expensive submarines ever built. Cruise-missile-armed Typhoons would give Russia direct analogs of the United States’ four Ohio-class cruise missile submarines (SSGNs), which had their launch tubes for nuclear-armed ballistic missiles replaced with vertical launch systems for 154 conventionally-armed Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Burtsev made the missile-envy issue explicit:

“American Ohio-class submarines can carry 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles and Chinese Project 055 destroyer is capable of carrying 112 cruise missiles. But our frigates belonging to the Project 22350 can currently carry only 16 of them. Subsequent frigates will get 24 of them. It is still insufficient,” he added.

But there’s a big problem this plan—revamping the two mothballed subs would likely cost more than simply building newer, better submarines for the job.

The Typhoon and Kalibr

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