The first three of Russias new Borei Class ballistic missile nuclear
subs (SSBN, or "boomers") will be based in the Pacific. During the Cold War,
most of Russias SSBNs were based in the north, at several bases east of the
Norwegian border, and facing the Arctic ocean. But now Russia is spending over
$350 million to expand and improve its submarine base on Kamchatka island. This
will enable its new SSBNs to threaten China, as well as the United States.
The first of its new Borei class subs was launched
only four months ago. This ship, the
Yuri Dolgoruky, was supposed to have taken place last year. But there were
technical problems that delayed it until this month. Construction of the Yuri
Dolgoruky began eleven years ago, but money shortages, and technical issues,
slowed progress. The Borei will put to sea later this year.
This is the first new Russian boomer to be launched
in 17 years. The second ship in the class, the Alexander Nevsky, is also
nearing completions. Construction on the third, the Vladimir Monomakh, has just
begun. Russia wants to have about a dozen of these boats, to replace the
current Delta IV class SSBNs. The Delta IVs are getting old, and have only
about a decade of useful service left. Currently, it appears that the navy will
get at least eight Boreis.
The Boreis are closer in design to the Delta IVs,
than to the more recent, and much larger, Typhoon boats. The Boreis are 558
feet long and 44 feet wide. Surface displacement is 15,000 tons, and twelve
Bulava SLBMs (Sea Launched Ballistic Missile) are carried. Work on the Yuri
Dolgoruky was delayed for several years because the first missile being
designed for it did not work out. A successful land based missile, the Topol-M,
was quickly modified for submarine use. The Bulava was a larger missile,
cutting the Boreis capacity from twenty to twelve missiles. The boat also has
four torpedo tubes, and twelve torpedoes or torpedo tube launched missiles. The
Borei also sports a huge sonar dome in the bow.
The Boreis have a crew of 107, with half of them
being officers (a common Russian practice when it comes to high tech ships like
nuclear subs). Each of these boats will cost at least two billion dollars. This
high cost, by Russian standards, is partly because many factories that supplied
parts for Russian subs were in parts of the Soviet Union that are not now
within the borders of present day Russia. So new factories had to be built. All
components of the Boreis, and their missiles, will be built in Russia. A dozen
of these boats probably won't be completed for at least a decade.
Another problem is the reliability of the new
Bulava missile, which has failed three of its four most recent flight tests.
The Bulava is believed to be fundamentally sound, but it could be several years
before all the kinks are worked out. It will take that long to finish work on
the Yuri Dolgoruky, which is not unusual for a new class of SSBN, carrying a