February 1, 2012: The new Russian Graney (Yasen) class SSGN (nuclear powered cruise missile sub) has been delayed yet again. Undisclosed problems with the first Graney have postponed it from entering service for at least a year. That will mean, if the latest delay is the last one, the first Graney will enter service twenty years after construction began. These problems are not restricted to the Graney, as other new sub designs are also encountering numerous construction and design problems.
Last February the fifty man crew of the first Graney took their boat to sea, or at least around the harbor, for the first time. Sea trials were to begin in three months but first the sub took baby steps to ensure that everything worked. These harbor trials were seen as a major progress. Things went downhill again after that, with a growing number of delays as more and more problems were encountered.
Russian submarine building has been on life support since the Cold War ended in 1991. Many subs under construction at the end of the Cold War were cancelled, and the few that avoided that spent a decade or more waiting for enough money to get finished. The first Graney crew was put together six years ago and has been training, and waiting, ever since. The crew now continues training on their new boat, which was supposed to have entered service by now.
Three years ago, construction began on a second Graney. Russia plans to complete six boats of this class by the end of the decade. Construction of the first Graney class boat, the Severodvinsk, began in 1993 but lack of money led to numerous delays. Originally, the Severodvinsk was to have entered service in 1998. Work on the Severodvinsk was resumed eight years ago. If work is not interrupted the second Graney class boat should be ready in less than five years.
The 9,500 ton Graneys are armed with 24 cruise missiles, as well as eight 650mm (25.6 inch) torpedo tubes. Some of the cruise missiles can have a range of over 3,000 kilometers, while others are designed as "carrier killers." The larger torpedo tubes also make it possible to launch missiles from them, as well as larger and more powerful torpedoes. The ship is highly automated, which is why there is a crew less than half the 134 needed to run the new U.S. Virginia class boats. The Graney design is based on the earlier Akula and Alfa class SSNs. Russia had originally planned to build 30 Graneys but now eight seems the most optimistic goal.