In three years, the naval component of the US-Russian nuclear triad will be approximately the same. Construction continues in Russia “strategists” project 955 “Northwind”, and in the United States by the mid-20s there will be a fundamentally different carrier of nuclear weapons: they ordered the construction of two next generation submarines. Andrey Vasiliev compares American and Russian submarines and their capabilities.
Dead “strategist” America
Premier League “Ohio” - the last carrier of strategic nuclear weapons, remaining with the US Navy. Workability “Ohio” has long been the subject of controversy, but despite this, the US Navy is armed with almost two dozen such submarines. At this stage, the Americans did not get involved in the arms race, however, combat capabilities “Ohio” just in case expanded. In a couple of years, the US Navy nuclear submarines will receive modified Trident II D5 ballistic missiles with a launch range of 11 300 kilometers, and to 2030 a new ballistic missile may be created for them.
This is the history of military service “Ohio” It will be completed, since the project has already been selected for the production of new nuclear submarines, and contractor. Key Pentagon partners received almost 10 billion dollars for the construction of the first and second ships under the project “Colombia”. Submarines of this type are distinguished by increased stealth and increased autonomy.. Plus, they don't need a big management team: the crew will be cut by almost half.
Submarine “Ohio” cutaway | A photo: Pinterest / Jordan Chappie
Key differences “Colombia” from nuclear submarines of the current generation - lack of mechanical connection between the turbine shaft and propellers, as well as the use of elements that absorb sound and vibration. Former U.S. Navy officers from Covert Shores magazine say, that there are no direct analogues of such submarines and there will not be in the coming years 15-20.
Another innovation “Colombia” - maintenance-free “eternal” nuclear reactor, to climb into which you will not need to recharge. Each of 12 submarine type “Colombia” will cost the Pentagon in the amount of 13 to 17,5 billion dollars is almost four times more, than asking for one “Ohio”. Russia has an adequate answer? And yes, and there.
“Northwind” may still, but already with difficulty
In summer 2020 the first strategic nuclear submarine entered the fleet after several years of construction and factory tests, built according to the modified project 955A “Borey-A”. “Prince Vladimir” - the fourth representative of the nuclear submarine family “Northwind”, the most armed and technologically advanced nuclear deterrent. However, there are two problems. first: “Boreev” too little. The Russian Navy has four submarines, while in service with the US Navy 14 submarines “Ohio”. The second problem is weapons. Combat complex “Boreas” modestly, than the “Ohio” — 16 missiles “Mace” against 24 Trident. However, the prospects for the development of the US Navy are as follows, that the ammunition load of strategic submarines in a few years will be identical: and new “Colombia”, and Russian “Northwind” will carry on 16 ballistic missiles. In this sense, the Americans will follow the Russian path. 16 SLBM - a reasonable maximum, which allows you to carry nuclear weapons with minimal risk to the submarine and provides the possibility of covert movement in the oceans and seas.
TTX APL “Alexander Nevskiy” project “Northwind”
However, the numbers in the future are again not in favor of the Russian Navy.. Considering, that everything is planned for construction 10 submarines 955 project, and the submarines “Colombia” can be built in series in 22 ship, technological and combat superiority in nuclear deterrence forces will be on the side of the United States.
Given the fact, that the naval nuclear shield in Russia is experiencing problems with both technology, and with the adoption of, a reasonable question arises: whose shoulders will be charged with the task of protecting the country and delivering a nuclear retaliatory strike? At the moment, this problem is being solved through the use of the most massive carrier of nuclear weapons in the Russian Navy - the 667-BDRM submarines. “Dolphin”. Despite, that they are called relics of the cold war, “Dolphins” - almost the same age “Ohio” and still serve the country.
Noise, manufacturability, control and detection systems “Dolphins” and “Ohio” about the same. Of the seven submarines, six remained carriers of nuclear weapons, and one submarine is already undergoing a deep modernization program. In fact, exactly on “Dolphins” and K117 “Bryansk” the task will be to repel the threat from the US Navy.
Premier League “Tula” project “Dolphin” | A photo: Defense Ministry / AT. Sawicki
For, to submarines 667 project coped with their task, they will be seriously rebuilt. The outer shell of the case will be replaced by a graphene-Kevlar-polymer coating - exclusively Russian know-how, which will not even be on “Colombia”. The peculiarity of the material is, that it absorbs radiation from any detection systems, leaving subumarins invisible to enemy radars. Such pleasure is not cheap, but it is not customary to save on the safety of nuclear weapons carriers.
The system of using nuclear weapons will be improved - the place of the digital combat control system will be taken by a complex based on artificial intelligence. It will not only help to use nuclear weapons if necessary, but will also prepare the missiles for launch in advance, checking the combat codes along the way.
The use of a neural network on-board computer will significantly reduce the number of crew. from 135 officers and sailors will only 90 man - a record by naval standards. The reactor plant will also change. Instead of water-cooled nuclear reactors on board “Dolphins” a reactor with a liquid metal coolant may appear - it is much safer, more efficient and easier to maintain, and the service life can easily be 60 and even 80 years. In this form, “Dolphins” will be comparable in capabilities with the latest nuclear submarines “Colombia”, the efficiency and manufacturability of which is still unknown.
The technological readiness of promising American submarines for production is assessed by specialists at the turn 2030 of the year. In simple terms, to the “Colombia” so far full of problems - currently only design selected. Remains unknown as a type of reactor, and other systems and subsystems, thanks to which a promising submarine will compete in the oceans with Russian “Boreem” and “Dolphin”.
But a banal technological hunger could prevent the Russian Navy from radically renewing itself. The thing is, that after the launch of the nuclear submarine “Colombia” the prospects of the nuclear submarine 955 the project will be in question. Despite the fact that these submarines were designed for the following 50 years, the stealth and noise of the next generation missile carriers in the United States could affect the entire history of ships 955 in Russia.
Probable submarine design “Colombia” | Graphics from the US Navy
A multipurpose nuclear submarine could very well resist the American “Columbia” “Huskies”, which is called “submarine hunter”. However, the construction of these ships is a big question.. “Strategist hunters” current generation (submarine project 885 “Ash”) built with great difficulty, therefore the appearance “Huskies” there is no need to expect in the next two decades.
US Navy ordered not next submarine, but a fundamentally different generation, which will not look like that, what was built at American shipyards last 50 years. Will the Russian military be able to fight the new threat, time will tell. Anyway, to create technological parity, the military and the military-industrial complex have 10 years.