Thursday, January 1, 2015

Which Subs Will Be Upgraded to Carry Kalibr?

In 2014, Admiral Viktor Chirkov, head of the Russian Navy, stated:

"By 2020, 12 multipurpose nuclear-powered submarines are scheduled to undergo deep modernization: Project 949AM – four units, Project 971M – six units, Project 945M – two units. Characteristics of these submarines will not be inferior to foreign equivalents, but rather, in terms of certain criteria, such as strike missile weapon loads, they will be superior to their foreign equivalents."

In this context, "deep modernization" most certainly refers to reconfiguring the submarines to carry the Kalibr family of missiles (SS-N-27 antiship cruise missile, SS-N-30 land-attack cruise missile, and 91R antisubmarine missile) and, in most (if not all) cases, upgrading to the MGK-540M (Kizhuch) sonar system. Based on multiple statements and a review of repair contracts and annual stockholder reports, the following is a list of known candidates that fit Chirkov's "deep modernization" projections:

Class Name Age
Akula I "Bratsk" 27
Akula I "Leopard" 22
Akula I "Samara" 19
Akula I "Volk" 23
Oscar II "Chelyabinsk" 24
Oscar II "Irkutsk" 26
Oscar II "Tver" 22
Sierra I "Karp" 27
Sierra I "Kostroma" 24

There certainly are other upgrade candidates, including announced upgrades for specific units, but none of them appear to be in place for an upgrade shipyard period before 2020. Also note that Chirkov's projections do not specify upgrades to old Kilo diesel submarines or Victor III nuclear-powered submarines. Contracts for the ongoing repairs of Sierra II "Pskov" and Victor III "Tambov" provide no indications of Kalibr or major sonar system upgrades. Victor III "Obninsk" completed a repair period in 2014, which was classified by shipyard officials as a "restoration of technical readiness" and not "deep modernization." Thus, the recent launch of a probable land-attack cruise missile by "Obninsk" indicates that submarine is simply being used as a test platform.

The question still remains: can all this really be achieved by 2020? Given Zvezdochka Ship Repair Center's experience and record, it is certainly possible that the six units the shipyard was contracted to upgrade will be finished by 2020. The same cannot be said for Zvezda Far East Shipyard, which has a record of continually delayed repair schedules and a (criminal) history of not actually performing the repairs it was contracted and paid to perform. The MOD currently has at least five cases against Zvezda Far East Shipyard at various levels in the Russian arbitration court system and is seeking to receive over RUB 111.5 million in payments and fines. Factors that will impact both shipyards are continuing Western sanctions, the loss of access to Ukrainian firms that produced parts and components used in Russian submarines, and the ruble crisis.

In 2020 and beyond, the field of candidates for Kalibr/Kizhuch upgrades could include the following:

Class Name Age (in 2020)
Akula I "Kuzbass" 28
Akula I "Magadan" 31
Akula I "Nerpa" ("INS Chakra") 9
Akula I "Pantera" 30
Akula I "Tigr" 27
Akula II "Gepard" 19
Akula II "Vepr" 25
Oscar II "Omsk" 27
Oscar II "Orel" 28
Oscar II "Smolensk" 30
Oscar II "Tomsk" 24
Oscar II "Voronezh" 31
Sierra II "Nizhniy Novgorod" 30
Sierra II "Pskov" 27