April 23, 2007:
After many delays, Russia has
finally launched the first of its new "Borei Class" ballistic missile nuclear
subs (SSBN, or "boomers"). The launching of the first ship in the class, the
Yuri Dolgoruky, was supposed to have taken place last year. But there were some
more unexplained technical problems that delayed it until this month.
Construction of the Yuri Dolgoruky began eleven years ago, but money shortages,
and technical problems, have slowed progress. 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.
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 new Bulava missile, which
has failed three 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,